Stow on the Wold, located in Gloucestershire in east England, was our favorite Cotswold town on our family vacation (Why Visit the Cotswolds). Sitting atop Stow Hill along the route of the ancient Roman Fosse Way, Stow on the Wold blends beauty, history, charm, and friendly locals for the traveller to enjoy.
Driving in from our hotel, Dormy House Hotel, over the lush, green countryside and up Stow Hill, we were able to find a parking place conveniently on the town square. Trying to get our bearings, we headed to a large, church-like building in the center of the square. It was actually the town hall.
St. Edward’s Hall
The town hall, St. Edward’s Hall, was having a special display of medieval artifacts. The wonderful ladies hosting the event were warm, jolly, and obviously very proud of their town. The art and artifacts were impressive. We were not only allowed to view the artifacts, but were allowed to hold 500 year old swords and even try on battle helmets. We received a great, hands-on history lesson from our hosts.
Stow on the Wold and Appomattox, Virginia we learned are sister-cities. Just as Appomattox was where the American Civil War began and ended, Stow on the Wold was where the English Civil War began and ended. We were told stories, some quite gory, about the town’s part in the war including the final battle. Being Americans, they were eager to show a gift they were sending to Appomattox for the 150th anniversary of the end of the American Civil War.
St. Edward’s Church
We left the town hall delighted by the kindness of our hosts and with a wonderful history lesson. We headed for St. Edward’s Church, which was the biggest draw for us to visit Stow on the Wold. Our favorite author, J.R.R. Tolkien, who wrote The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, was said to have been a frequent visitor and to have based the drawing for the Gates of Moria on the churches rear doors. (Walking in Tolkien’s Footsteps)
We eagerly found the church and explored. St. Edward’s is beautiful The current church was built in the 1100s by the Normans on the site of a Saxon church. Being from a “young” country, standing in a church site with over a 100o years of continuous Christian worship made me pause and try to soak it all in. My ancestors, the Normans, had yet to cross the English Channel with William of Normandy when this church was founded!
Moving outside to the rear of the church, we saw the door and the flanking Yew trees. It was as if the Doors to Moria from Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring had jumped off the page. These Tolkien fans were thrilled!
While at the town hall, we had asked the nice ladies for recommendations for an English tearoom in which to have lunch. We decided to try Treebus Tearoom on Digbeth Street. We again were not disappointed. To us, sipping tea and munching in a tearoom was a stereotypical British experience that we did not want to miss. We had visited other tearooms on our journeys, but Treebus was our favorite. I think that the charm of the people and the exhilaration from the church and town hall carried into Treebus, giving it an edge; but, the food, tea, service, and atmosphere were all top notch.
With appetites whetted and spirits high, we set out to explore the rest of the town. Stow on the Wold was a sheep market town in the middle ages. Some of the very narrow streets, now lined with shops and restaurants, were then used to make corralling sheep easier. The stone buildings, some with thatched roofs, and cobblestoned streets were both quaint and beautiful. We were impressed with the variety of shops and enjoyed browsing through them: cheese shops, bakeries, candy makers, butcher shops, toy stores, clothing, you name it. We thoroughly enjoyed leisurely strolling through the streets, taking time to try the old stocks from the 15th century on for size.
We absolutely love Stow on the Wold. The Cotswolds of England take you back to a simpler time with a slower pace. Stow on the Wold embodies this feeling. If you ever want to experience a taste of the pre-industrial England of Chaucer and Shakespeare, then head to Stow on the Wold in the Cotswolds. I guarantee that you will feel the same.