The Cotswolds is a fascinating area characterised by rich natural beauty and quain`t, quintessentially English villages. As you wonder around these incredible settings, it is only natural for your inquisitive side to take over and begin to try and imagine the area as it was in its past.
Join us as we travel back in time and uncover the fascinating history of the Cotswolds.
Why is The Cotswolds Called The Cotswolds?
An obvious place to begin our inquiry is with the name of the area. There are a couple of different suggestions as to the origin of the name “The Cotswolds”.
The most commonly agreed explanation is that the name is derived from ‘Cot’ meaning ‘sheep enclosure’ and ‘wold’ meaning ‘hill’ resulting in ‘sheep enclosure in rolling hillsides’.
After all, the area has been famed for wool production since the Middle Ages!
What is The Cotswolds Famous For?
Pretty villages and wool! You can thank the wool trade for the stunning villages, large properties and historic churches you see today.
When the Romans first arrived in the Cotswold region, they discovered an area of high hilltops, chilly temperatures, and a need to keep warm. For this reason, they were the first people to bring sheep to the region for wool production – an event that changed the history of the area for the next two thousand years.
The industry quickly flourished, and by the medieval ages, it was said that half the wealth of England came from wool production.
The wool from the ancient medieval sheep, that called the Cotswolds home, was particularly famed by Italian merchants for its high quality. This reputation meant that large quantities were traded, and even bigger fortunes were made.
The Cotswold Way
Another great way to learn more about the history of the Cotswolds is to take a stroll along the Cotswold Way, which follows ancient paths that have been used for centuries.
The Cotswold way runs from the market town of Chipping Campden to Bath for a total of 102 miles. Along the way, you will pass several prehistoric sites, half a dozen hill forts, medieval churches, and the Great Witcombe Roman Villa, located a short distance off the trail.
Bath Abbey is located at the southern end of the trail and was an important medieval pilgrimage. Why not stop for food and drink as the pilgrims once did? Enjoy a pint and a bite to eat in the courtyard of the George Inn where the pilgrims once would have stabled their horses.
Belas Knap Tomb
An ancient burial tomb is located along the Cotswold Way. Belas Knap is extremely well preserved for its age dating back to 1400BC. When the tomb was excavated the skeletons of 38 people were discovered.
Although this wasn’t the first time it was opened, the tomb also contained Roman pottery, Skeletons and other contents of the tomb are on display at Winchcombe Museum.
Pretty Cotswold Villages
Pretty honey-coloured villages are often the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the Cotswolds. Even the stone in the Cotswolds has a rich history! This yellow limestone dates to the Jurassic and is peppered with fossils.
Watch out for the Dinosaurs!
To date, there have been ten dinosaurs found in Gloucestershire and a study shows that Gloucestershire is fourth on the list of counties with the most fossils found.
Another interesting fact is that the first fossil bones to be officially identified as those of a dinosaur were found near Stonesfield. It was described as a dinosaur in 1824 by pioneering palaeontologist William Buckland. After its discovery he named the dinosaur Megalosaurus.
Want to learn more during your visit to the Cotswolds? Visit Birdland in Bourton-on-the-water and embark on their Jurassic Journey.
Not only were the Romans responsible for bringing sheep to the Cotswolds, they also left behind an Amphitheatre. It’s one of the largest know examples of their occupation of Britain, and it is thought that it was first constructed at the beginning of the 2nd Century AD.
In the Middle Ages, its local name was “the Bull Ring” which suggests it may have been used for bull-baiting which is the practice of setting dogs to harass a bull for entertainment. This was finally outlawed as part of the Cruelty to Animals Act of 1835.
Did you know how tall the Gloucester Cathedral Tower is?
Finished in 1490 towards the end of the Medieval period, the final part of Gloucester Cathedrals was built. The tower is 225 feet high and has 269 steps to get to the top. We highly recommend visiting this breath-taking building, not only for its impressive historic background, but also for the view from the top of the tower as it is incredible.
You may recognise some of the incredible architecture within the cathedral from the Harry Potter franchise. For both recent and historical history, be sure to visit this magical cathedral.
King Henry III & Kind Edward II have unique history with Gloucester Cathedral
Another fact about Gloucestershire Cathedral for those who love some Royal history, King Henry III was crowned here in 1216 at just 9 years old. He was the last English monarch to be crowned outside of Westminster Abbey. In 2015, the coronation of King Henry III was re-enacted to mark the occasion’s 800th anniversary.
It is also the burial place of King Edward II, just one of the few monarch graves outside of London. He was aged 43 when he died in 1327.
Time to Explore?
If the above interests you, then there are loads of museums and information centres dotted all over the Cotswolds with employees and volunteers alike, who would love to tell you all about it.
If you’re interested in renting out a self-catering lodge in the Cotswolds Water Park on one of our gorgeous lakes whilst exploring this stunning part of the country, have a look around our website to see what we have on offer or give us a call on 01285 861839.