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Things to do in Stow-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire

Stow-on-the-Wold is the highest of the Cotswold towns, situated at the meeting place of eight roads.

Stow was the most important market town in the north Cotswolds when the sale of the sheep and wool was at its height.

In 1476 King Edward IV gave Stow the right to hold two fairs; on the 12th May and the 24th October each year, and Stow Fair was for centuries one of the biggest livestock markets in Britain.

Daniel Defoe visited the town years before writing Robinson Crusoe; he recorded that 20,000 sheep were sold at the fair.

Stow Fair later became better known as a horse fair, but due to disagreements over revenues the official fair was moved to Andoversford.

However, there are still two Gypsy horse fairs held on the Thursdays nearest the original dates, which take place in fields between Stow and the nearby village of Maugesbury.

The 'Tures' or ancient narrow alleyways leading into Market Square were used for driving sheep in to market.

The Market Cross dates from the Middle Ages, although the lantern head was restored in the late 19th Century. St. Edward's Hall in the Square was built in 1878, and contains paintings of notable figures of the Civil War.

Stow-on-the-Wold was the site of the last battle in the Civil War, when Sir Jacob Astley's Royalist army were soundly defeated in 1645.

Most of the houses grouped around the Market Square are from the 17th Century and 18th Century, the 'Crooked House' on the west side of the Square dates from around 1450. The King's Arms Hotel, an old coaching inn, was where King Charles I stayed on the 8th May 1645 prior to the Battle of Naseby.

The Unicorn Hotel built in the 17th century, still retains the huge stone fireplaces and low oak beamed ceilings of the period. The hotel is situated on the Roman road, the Fosse Way, which runs from Lincoln in the east to Bath in the west.

The Church of St. Edward, dates from the 13th century to the 15th century, but much restored in the 17th century, it was used to house prisoners during the Civil War. One of the church bells (which still ring), is inscribed "God save King James - 1606". In the south isle there is a fine 17th century Flemish painting of the Crucifixion by de Craeyer, a pupil of Rubens.

Today Stow-on-the-Wold is well known as an antique centre, with over 70 antique dealers, picture galleries and antiquarian book-sellers in the town.

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