Winchcombe - Travel Guide
Winchcombe is set 6 miles North East of Cheltenham. This town seems relatively untouched by tourism, lying in the fold of the surrounding hills & sheltered on three sides by woodland .Originally it's own 'shire' it was incorporated into Gloucestershire in the 11thC. Like most Cotswolds towns it prospered greatly in the medieval period, largely thanks to the Abbey located here which was founded in AD798 by King Kenulf & dedicated to his son St Kenelm. Pilgrims would flock here during the medieval period, which ensured the town (& it's monks) had a steady income.
The parish church St Peter's, is well worth a visit, with it's 15thC wooden screens, a 17thC holy table, floor tiles from the original Abbey & an Altar frontal stitched by Queen Catherine of Aragon (The first wife of Henry VIII). Sadly but unsurprisingly Winchcombe's great Abbey did not survive the dissolution of the monasteries, it was in fact so thoroughly destroyed that Lord Seymour of Sudeley Castle, claimed that no single trace of the monastery remained above ground! Winchcombe town has a mixture of pleasant properties, some half timber, all jutting out at old angles over the footpaths. Just outside the town you will find the historic Sudeley Castle, with it's impressive gatehouse leading you into the estate.
Sudeley Castle has a history spiralling back over 1000 years & is well worth a visit, during the summer months you can wander & admire the 80 varieties of roses within the gardens & you may even spot one of the 16 breeds of rare pheasants. The Castle itself was once the home of Royalty, discover more about the secret Queen of England, Eleanor Boteler, the links to Henry VIII and many more! It still remains the only private castle in England to have a queen buried within the grounds - Queen Katherine Parr, who lived, loved & died at the castle.
The small river that runs through the town, dividing the main population from Sudeley Castel is known as the River Isbourne.
This was originally known as Vineyard Street & yes you've guessed it there were once Vineyard here, however the street subsequently had it's name changed to Duck Street. This was to do with the fact that local villagers, including witches were once 'ducked' on a ducking stool into the river. Unfortunately no good came from this, if you survived the ducking then it was assumed you were in league with the devil. If you drown, which was often the case then your innocence was proven (!?) Another street in the town was aptly named Tobacco Street, is seems had to imagine now, but tobacco was indeed grown in Winchcombe. However it was banned in 1619, as the production threatened the Elizabethan colonies in the Americas. Troops visited Winchcombe & destroyed all the crops, however the name remains & provides clues to the past.
Having explored all on offer within Winchcombe then why not take a walk out (& up!) to Belas Knap, a Neolithic long barrow, probably constructed around 3000 BC. The site & it's burial chambers have been excavated numerous times between 1860-1930s. With finds including Roman pottery along with skeletons believed to date back to the early Bronze Age (2500-800BC) Alternatively if you need to rest your feet, then why not head out on the Great Western Steam Railway, that will transport you in vintage style throughout the undulating Cotswolds countryside. You can hop on the train at Winchcombe Station (Greet) after enjoying a snack at The Coffee Pot Cafe located in the 1950’s style railway tea rooms.
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