Cirencester is an affluent and picturesque market town often known as the ‘Capital of the Cotswolds’. It lies at the crossroads of three Roman roads, which gives a clue to its importance during Roman times. Roman Cirencester, known as Corinium Dobunnorum, was second only to London. It developed from the establishment of a military fort and grew into a town with a population between 10,000 and 15,000.
During the Medieval period, Cirencester was a centre of trade and renowned for its wool. The fine Parish Church of St John the Baptist owes its existence to this wool trade and still dominates the town’s market place today. Sadly, the Augustinian Abbey of St Mary which played such an important role in the life of Cirencester’s inhabitants during the middle ages was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1539 and little remains.
At Cirencester’s award winning Corinium Museum you will discover the treasures from Cirencester’s past including stunning Roman mosaics, Anglo Saxon gold and Medieval sculptures. You can also discover the history of the town by taking part in one of the Civic Society walks from the Church which are held on Sunday and Wednesday afternoons during the summer months.
Cirencester is also a town of green open spaces including such gems as the peaceful Abbey Grounds or St Michael’s Park which is ideal for family activities. The beautiful and extensive Cirencester Park, which the poet Alexander Pope helped to design in the 18th century, surrounds the eastern side of the town. The house, of the same name, is hidden behind the impressively large yew hedge in the old part of the town and has been the seat of the Bathurst family for over three centuries.
Despite being known for the ancient honey coloured stone buildings in picturesque narrow streets and the impressive Roman amphitheatre, Cirencester is not just about history. It is a vibrant and thriving town and a shopping destination in its own right. Recent developments of the old Post Office area and the Corn Hall add to the excellent selection of shops and places to eat. Independent retailers and cafés make up a large proportion of the Cirencester’s shopping area, where you can find anything from an old fashioned chemist to a gentleman’s outfitters; from an artisan loaf to freshly roasted coffee beans.
Cirencester is also home to New Brewery Arts, an important centre for crafts. Here you can watch the various craftsmen at work, buy the articles they produce, view the latest exhibition or enjoy refreshments in the café.
Cirencester is also renowned for a wonderful selection of indoor and outdoor markets and if you visit during December, don’t miss Cirencester’s atmospheric German style Christmas market held in the beautiful and historic Market Place.
Set in the heart of the Cotswolds, Cirencester is a great town to visit and makes a delightful base for visitors wishing to explore the area. Its easy access to major road networks and mainline railway belies its charming and peaceful character.