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Burford, Oxfordshire

PUBLISHED: 17:32 04 February 2010 | UPDATED: 14:35 20 February 2013

The wisteria-draped Bay Tree Hotel in Sheep Street

The wisteria-draped Bay Tree Hotel in Sheep Street

Largely unexplored within living memory, Burford is now a compelling tourist destination that gets thousands of visitors each week. Words and photography by Mark Child



The past beats you up at Burford. It comes at you in a roadside huddle that sweeps towards the River Windrush, tipsily and brazen-faced, or wearing a mask of gold in the setting sun. It is a past that loiters on street corners, or disappears suddenly through drunken archways. You hear its notes playing about the ancient fabric, like the whispers of a Siren's song, and you will want to follow them to where little courtyards are planted in rich colours, and where alleyways of retail promise beckon you forth. Burford comes clothed in a medley of the ages from which, occasionally, a ringleader emerges; a landmark building that shouts so loudly that you must stop in your tracks. Mostly though, the assault is a gentle one, and what really exhausts you is the sheer complexity of the sum of the town's parts.


To appreciate this, you must walk its streets. Most of the town's fabric was hewn from the local quarries, giving a sense of intimacy and integration to the whole place. Burford carries a legacy of the wool trade in its medieval fabric, but its architecture is a heady confusion of many centuries. It presents a panoply of English vernacular at its most appealing: seldom perpendicular, frequently timber-framed, cluttered with roofs and gables in seemingly random order, and etched with signposts to the distant past. The town is less 'the gateway to the Cotswolds' on account of its geographical position, and more because it is a concentration of the historic build fabric that is to be encountered to a lesser extent all over the area. Here, the Cotswolds seems to have set out a catalogue of its architecture, and we turn the pages as we walk its streets.


Burford's architecture and history form the backdrop for a town that really buzzes. Much of this is down to the quality of its independent and specialist traders, and the levels of resident and visitor attention they attract. Even now, not all residents approve of the degree to which the visitor market has been embraced there, even though Burford has grown into its gift shops, antique shops and galleries over several decades. In its galleries, there are old masters and contemporary artists; amongst its antique shops there are specialists in furniture, clocks, sporting antiques, ceramics and glassware, and jewellery. There are others who specialise in miscellany, where you might find fascinating postcards and prints, music and theatre ephemera, bottles, militaria ... it is an endless list.


Here too, you will find a number of shops that cater for interiors: retailers and dealers that sell fixtures and fittings for the home; carpets and textiles, soft furnishings; and the objets d'art, objets trouvs, collectables and memorabilia that add distinction. You will find too, a good many retailers of fashion, whether high couture or boutique-style; and shops that specialise in fashion accessories. Burford is also well catered for by way of tea shops and restaurants, and pub food. The town's hotels, eager to brandish their increasing number of rosettes, and trump the achievements of their chefs, display mouth-watering daily menus beside their front doors.


Much of what there is to look at is residential and can only be viewed externally. It is frustrating that the exteriors promise so much, and the promise is more than fulfilled by what is in the fabric beyond. Burford, largely refaced, follows the line of The Hill and High Street; medieval Burford - the Burford that gives us a number of hall houses, ancient timber framework and mouldings, and numerous medieval extensions - frequently runs at right angles. Some of it can be viewed from the alleys and courtyards, and from the rear of buildings. A walk around Burford will reveal absolute gems - some hidden, others on full public display.


Beginning in the car park ...



Guildenford car park. The car park lies adjacent to the mill stream, and parking is free of charge. It was built on ancient meadowland, known as Bury Orchard, which bordered the flood plain of the River Windrush, and was extended in 2002. There are spaces for 151 vehicles, and recently installed extra lighting has helped to make this a pleasant place to park, even on dark nights. From here, there are fine views of the church tower; a large population of waterfowl swim in the stream beside the car park, or sleep on the picnic tables. Bring out some food, and you will be surrounded by ducks and drakes of the most competitive variety. Cross the millstream bridge, which is possibly on the site of another river ford, and then turn left into ...


Guildenford. There are some lovely cottage gardens, packed with colour and perfume, along this little street. Turn right into ...


Witney Street. Now almost entirely residential, bordered by low, stone cottages, this narrow street was once full of Cromwell's men, stealing forward to surprise the mutineers of the Parliamentarian army. The Baptist Chapel was built here in 1700.


The Great House. The Black Boy Inn once stood where this magnificent residence was built, in Italian style, almost at the close of the 17th century. The castellated parapet is forever a reminder that it was built by Dr John Castle, who furnished his tomb with a similar arrangement. At one time, it was occupied by friends of the diarist and novelist Fanny Burney. In the town museum there is a doll's house that has been partly modelled on The Great House, and peopled and furnished in the styles of 1820.


The Royal Oak. This pub is on the site of the White Hart, through which, in 1642 during the English Civil War, a group of Parliamentarian soldiers fled after a minor skirmish with Royalist troops in pursuit. The Royal Oak has more than one thousand beer mugs and jugs hanging from the beams in its bars, collected by Gary and Sue Duffy,


The Angel. Formerly the Masons' Arms, this hostelry is believed to date from the 16th century, although the front is probably of the 18th. At that time, stage- coaches left from here for London. Now run by Paul and Sandra Swain, who have both previously been involved in The Lamb and The Bull, it is a restaurant with three bedrooms - decorated in Italian, Indian and French styles. There is a cosy visitors' lounge, and an attractive, secluded garden at the rear. Turn left into ...


High Street. This is the main shopping street. Here are antiques shops, gift shops, art galleries, fashion retailers and clothing boutiques, furnishings and interiors, health and beauty, craft shops, book shop, teashops and restaurants - all mixed in with the shops needed for day to day living. Burford has a justified reputation for specialist shopping, and, because the town caters so much for tourists, even the ordinary retailers often stock lines that are just that little bit different. It is a good place to look for that special present. High Street is particularly attractive during the dark evenings, when the window displays are lit up.


The Old Bull Hotel. Built in 1658, the brick faade, with stone dressings, was put up early in the 18th century. The parapet is panelled; flat pilasters run through the two upper storeys; the quoins are of brick; and the windows have keystones and aprons. The ground floor is ashlar. Inside, there is the 'market room' where market business was transacted until 1873.


London House. Now a dealership for sporting antiques and memorabilia. Built in the 15th century, this timber-framed building has a stone undercroft in two sections, divided by a wide, pointed arch; it is known as 'the crypt'. Other parts have groined vaulting; in one area, this springs from a central octagonal pillar and moulded corbels. The front elevation is three storeys, jettied, and features blocked-up timber windows with pointed, cusped lights.


W.J. Castle. Now belonging to the Cotswold butcher's group, this three-gabled house was built in the 15th century, and the oriel windows were added in the 16th. It is timber-framed, was once another of Burford's inns, and is full of interesting late medieval details.


The Highway. A hotel since 1926, and recently refurbished, this former ironmonger's and candlestick maker's premises was built c1480. It is half-timbered, has a late 15th-century doorway, and a jettied upper floor. Talitha and Scott Nelson are the new proprietors; they have nine bedrooms, an atmospheric cellar restaurant, and will be opening the patio garden this summer. Continue for a while to the north up ...


The Hill. This is a favourite spot for photographers to take a shot of the sweep of High Street, framed by the leafy limes, and taking in the hills on the other side of the Windrush valley. The lime trees were planted in 1870, and the war memorial was put up in 1920. Almost entirely residential, except for galleries and retailers of furnishings on the west side where it becomes High Street, and a restaurant and some independent traders on the east side, there are nonetheless some nice 17th-century cottages and houses should you choose to venture to the top. Many of these have Georgian doorways and decorative architectural features.


Hill House. This is a 14th-century hall house, with additional accommodation from the 16th century. To the front, beside the 15th-century doorway, is a six-light mullioned window, and, at the rear, there is a mullioned and transomed two-light window that has been dated c1320, and which has flowing tracery. Across the road ...


The Gabled House. The oldest deeds extant for this double-gabled house are dated 'the fourth year of the reign of Henry VI', and recent carbon dating place its beams at 1438, which is probably when some internal remodelling took place. The gables have finials, the square-headed windows are mullioned on each level, and the central doorway has a four-centred arch. Note too, the 16th-century house next door; it has a little single-light pointed window of that date, set deep in the wall, with a square hood, and also a fanlight of three arched lights with a square hood moulding above the depressed arch of the ancient doorway.


The Dragon Inn. Now an award-winning Chinese restaurant, in a 16th-century building that was once The Rampant Cat public house, and which has a 19th-century frontage. Some of the woodwork is medieval, and the building was a coaching inn during the 17th and 18th centuries. The archway in its 19th-century frontage is now guarded by two white Chinese lions.


The Tolsey. Built c1500, a half-timbered, double-gabled structure above a series of pillars. The present clock dates from the mid-19th century. Wool merchants once struck bargains here; it was the place where traders paid the fees that enabled them to operate in the town's markets and fairs; and it has been a reading room and a court room. Today, a selection of commodity sales take place amidst the pillars, which were closed until they were opened up in the late 1950s as part of a general programme of restoration. The town's horse-drawn, hand-pumped fire engine was kept behind the locked doors between the two left- hand pillars. Now, WI produce, home baking, plants, cut flowers, wet fish, artworks and books each have their selling days.


Burford Museum. The town's history is packed into two upper rooms of the Tolsey. There is the market charter of 1090, civic regalia, and the town's seals and maces; friendly societies' archives; country clothing, artefacts and traditional tools; and a mid-16th-century iron-bound chest; bells from the Burford foundry; and other metalware and historic memorabilia. There is also a frieze showing all the old houses in Burford, drawn in 1939 by a young architect.


Sheep Street. This was once on the main route between London and Cirencester. On one side, there is a mixture of small, gabled houses, cottages, and larger, stone town houses, built between the 15th and 18th centuries. Several of the doorways are misshapen, and some have decorative motifs in the spandrels. There are timbered overhangs, and wavy roofs whose tiles are moss- and lichen-encrusted. A number of these were once inns, in a town that still had more than sixty of them at the end of the 19th century. Cobbled pathways separate the dwellings from the wide verges, mature trees are a feature of the streetscape, and the residents pay to keep it all up together. When sheep markets were held here, the animals were penned on the grassy banks. This is a street of gables, mullioned windows with square hoods, the occasional timber-framed frontage, some old overhangs, stone doorways and Tudor archways.


The Greyhound. A large building on the north side, with an obvious former carriage entrance, was once the Greyhound Inn, which was, almost continuously from 1949 until this decade, the home of The Countryman magazine.


The Lamb Inn. It is likely that this hostelry, the oldest in Burford, was built in the 15th century as lodgings for wool merchants. By the 1700s, it was an established inn; farmers hired shepherds here. Cottage-like and rambling on Sheep Street, where it incorporated the weavers' cottages after c1720, its Priory Lane front has five gables and a square-headed, 15th-century window with four cinquefoil-headed lights. The courtyard is stunning, and there is a traditional-style walled country garden with lawns and ornamental borders. It is one of two hotels that dominate the south side of the street; both are partly made out of former cottages that now have tumbling roofs and are variously clothed in rambling roses, creeper and wisteria.


Tourist Information Centre. The TIC is in the former Garne & Sons brewery front office, where some 40,000 people visit each year. The archway is 19th- century, the premises were built c1750 and were thought to have been the malthouse for the Lamb Inn; the brewery opened in 1798 and kept going until 1969 - by which time it belonged to Wadworths.


The Bay Tree Hotel. This five-gabled town house was built in the late 18th century for Sir Lawrence Tanfield - MP for Woodstock, Chief Baron of the Exchequer to James I - and his wife: two people who were much disliked in Burford. It has belonged to the Cotswold Inns and Hotels group since 1998. Inside, there are original, well-worn steps and flagstones, two original stone chimneypieces, and a high gallery. At the rear, is a stone terrace, and a secluded walled garden that was allegedly laid out by Lady Tanfield. The front of the hotel in April and May positively drips with spectacular and aged wisteria.


Turn left into High Street, taking care from now on to look on both sides of the road ...


Reavley's Chemist. The oldest chemist's shop in the country has been in business since 1734. Inside, there are walls lined with Victorian chemists' rounds, old medicine bottles, and 163 drawers in two banks from c1850, which have fading labels, such as opium and antim crun.


The Red Lion Bookshop. Now a lovely little small town bookshop with an interesting stock of frequently 'different' titles. In the 16th century, the site was the house and business premises of a fish merchant, and it was once another of Burford's inns.


The George. Now a multi-dealership antiques business. This tilting, timber-framed building with an upper-floor overhang, was erected late in the 15th century, and was closed down as an inn when bought by the Bull Hotel in the early 1800s. One of the windows has the date 1666 scratched on it. Samuel Pepys was there; so was Charles I, and Charles II came with Nell Gwyn.


Huffkins. The front of this well-known bakery and teashop was added in the late 18th century; separating the two eating areas is a 14th-century stone arch with shoulder lintel. Topsy Taee's establishment has been voted amongst the top fifty tea and coffee houses in England.


Burford House. Built in the early 1600s on the corner with Witney Street, this was a private residence until the 20th century, then, variously, a drapery store and a furniture store. It has a close-studded, timber-framed upper floor, and a ground floor of Cotswold stone. The building was converted in the 1930s, and became a hotel called The Corner House.


The Golden Pheasant Inn. Here a wool merchant may have lived in the 15th century. The rebuilding of 1700 gave it a fine ashlar faade, of five bays with strong keystones to the square-headed windows. As The Golden Ball, it was another of the town's coaching inns. Internally, there are thick stone walls, flagstones in the bar, and oak beams.


Methodist Chapel. Formerly a private residence that was built c1715 in Baroque style, the premises were bought and converted by the Wesleyan Methodists in 1849, and were internally remodelled a century later. There are regular sales of antiques, arts and crafts, and memorabilia in the basement.


The Mermaid. An inn with a past and, allegedly, an upstairs ghost; it is dark, low, flagstoned, thick-walled, and riddled with a wonderfully oppressive sense of nefarious activities of the past. Part of it was once The Three Pigeons, part a butcher's shop with an alley between the two. Note the original mounting block.


The Oxford Shirt Company. This clothing emporium occupies a single run of half a dozen cottages and one exceptional town house, remodelled internally.


The Cotswold Arms. Once called The Mermaid, of which the town has had three, and, for a while, two existed at the same time. Turn left into Priory Lane ...


The Old Rectory. This can be glimpsed behind its high wall next to the school. It was built c1700, and is thought to have been the work of Christopher Kempster (1626-1715), quarry owner, builder and stone carver, who provided stone for the rebuilding of London after the Great Fire.


The Priory. Edmund Harman was granted lands here - on the site of the one-time priory of St John the Evangelist that formerly belonged to the Abbey of Keynsham - by Henry VIII. Harman built himself a mansion there, and this was later rebuilt by Sir Lawrence Tanfield after he acquired the lands in 1584. His grandson, Lucius Carey, Lord Falkland, sold it to William Lenthall, Speaker of the Long Parliament. The house has an imposing front of two wings, and, internally, includes some of the fabric of the original priory. Next to the house is the chapel, built in the second half of the 17th century. Today, it is the home of a community of Benedictine monks and nuns. The Priory is not open to the public, but concerts and other local events have sometimes been held in the grounds, which are particularly attractive at snowdrop time. The community carries out letterpress printing, makes incense, and designs icons for sale, and has open events such as a garden day in June, and a painting week later in the year. Turn back towards High Street; on the corner is ...


Falkland Hall. Built for clothier Edmund Sylvester in 1558, it was bought in 1906 by the newly founded Burford Recreation Society, and bought from them in 1920, as part of the town's memorial to the Great War. During the 20th century, it has been variously an institute, a public hall, the venue for a travelling cinema, a place of dancing and other entertainments, and an antiques sales room. The lion carved in the first-floor oriel window was unveiled in 2000 by HRH the Prince of Wales to celebrate the millennium. The premises are partly occupied by Burford's very comprehensive kitchen shop.


Bear Court. The Bear Inn was built adjacent to the Falkland Hall in the 17th century; it is now a prettily planted courtyard beside some of the town's art galleries. Opposite, there is a run of independent traders, including Bygones, which has been selling collectables and memorabilia for more than twenty years; and Mrs Bumble's, which is an extraordinarily extensive delicatessen and food shop.


The Old Vicarage. The faade was built in 1672, and is distinguished by three ornamental Dutch gables with enclosed blank medallions. Behind it is the result of a 19th-century remodelling; to the rear of that, it is medieval. Cobb Hall, a medieval courtyard house, stood adjacent until it was demolished - except for the arched entrance - in 1876.


Burford Bridge. The town bridge, crossing the River Windrush where it splits into the millstream, is medieval. It was probably built in the 14th-century, replacing a wooden bridge that stood near to the ford. Here, the river is shallow. Note the little stone-built and gabled weavers' cottages that were built beside the town bridge in 1576. They were once the property of Simon Wisdom, Burford's great benefactor, who used the income to part endow Burford School. Turn back into High Street, and continue along the west side, turning left into Church Lane ...


Grammar School. Founded in 1571 by Simon Wisdom, who held lands and properties around the town and endowed it with the resulting rents, the grammar school was rebuilt in 1868, incorporating some of the original fabric. The topographical writer Reginald Arkell (1872-1959) - poet, biographer, musical playwright and comic novelist - was a pupil here. The upper floor was once the town hall. Turn left towards ...


Almshouses on Church Green. One set of eight almshouses was built in 1457 by Henry Bishop, steward to Richard Nevill, Earl of Warwick - 'Warwick the King Maker' - who was sometime Lord of the Manor. These were remodelled in 1828. Adjacent, are four more almshouses, built in 1726 by Dr John Castle. Church Green is a pleasant place to sit and contemplate the almshouses, the church, and the old grammar school building.


Warwick Hall. Built as a school for infants and girls in 1863, on the site of a former merchant's house, this became a church meeting house in 1914 and was leased to the town council in the 1980s as a public meeting hall. Craft, memorabilia, or produce sales are regularly held here, and there is an occasional flea market.


Church of St John the Baptist. Built in 1175, St John's has grown aisle by aisle, chapel by chapel, remodelling by remodelling, and is now officially one of the top twenty churches in the country for historic interest. There are often guides here who are happy to talk you through the complexities that history has wrought on the fabric, and it is a fascinating journey. The Earl of Essex, Cromwell's commander-in-chief, put up part of his army in the church in 1643, and in 1644 some fifteen thousand troops were in the town. You can still read the inscription that Anthony Sedley 'prisner' scratched into the font in 1649, and learn about the 340 Levellers that Cromwell locked up here, and who are remembered in an annual pageant in the town. William Morris founded the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Buildings after seeing restoration, of which he disapproved, being undertaken at St John's. The churchyard has a number of fine bale tombs. Numerous cultural activities take place in the church.


Church Lane. Beyond the dog-leg in the road you will see how sympathetically the residential new-build has been done, in keeping with the older properties in Burford.


Tiverton Villa gardens and plant sales. Keith Davies, for nine years Mayor of Burford, sells plants for charity at the Tolsey. Here, he has the twin-gabled house that a local man, George Rose, built by the millstream in 1889 for Keith's great- great-grandfather; it is the only Victorian residence in the town. Note its front portico and pillars, and decorated bargeboards. The surrounding gardens, open to the public, are a plantsman's delight, and here Keith sells garden plants from his nursery.




Burford in print


Burford is exceptionally fortunate in having two resident historians, Raymond and Joan Moody. For more than forty years, they have been carrying out original research on the town and publishing the results in a series of very readable books and booklets under their imprint HindSight of Burford. These publications can be bought at The Red Lion Bookshop, the Tourist Information Centre, and Burford Museum in the Tolsey. Titles include:


A Thousand Years of Burford


Burford: An Introduction and Guide


Burford: The Civil War and the Levellers


The Great Burford Smallpox Outbreak, 1758


The Inns of Burford: The High Street


The Inns of Burford: Beyond the High Street


Burford's Roads and Rogues: Turnpikes, Traffic and Travellers Before 1800


Burford's Roads and Rogues: Vagabonds, Villains and Highwaymen


The Burford Year: Markets, Fairs and Festivals


History from the Minutes: Burford, the Running of a Town


The Burford and Bibury Racecourses (by Jessica Stawell)




The past beats you up at Burford. It comes at you in a roadside huddle that sweeps towards the River Windrush, tipsily and brazen-faced, or wearing a mask of gold in the setting sun. It is a past that loiters on street corners, or disappears suddenly through drunken archways. You hear its notes playing about the ancient fabric, like the whispers of a Siren's song, and you will want to follow them to where little courtyards are planted in rich colours, and where alleyways of retail promise beckon you forth. Burford comes clothed in a medley of the ages from which, occasionally, a ringleader emerges; a landmark building that shouts so loudly that you must stop in your tracks. Mostly though, the assault is a gentle one, and what really exhausts you is the sheer complexity of the sum of the town's parts.


To appreciate this, you must walk its streets. Most of the town's fabric was hewn from the local quarries, giving a sense of intimacy and integration to the whole place. Burford carries a legacy of the wool trade in its medieval fabric, but its architecture is a heady confusion of many centuries. It presents a panoply of English vernacular at its most appealing: seldom perpendicular, frequently timber-framed, cluttered with roofs and gables in seemingly random order, and etched with signposts to the distant past. The town is less 'the gateway to the Cotswolds' on account of its geographical position, and more because it is a concentration of the historic build fabric that is to be encountered to a lesser extent all over the area. Here, the Cotswolds seems to have set out a catalogue of its architecture, and we turn the pages as we walk its streets.


Burford's architecture and history form the backdrop for a town that really buzzes. Much of this is down to the quality of its independent and specialist traders, and the levels of resident and visitor attention they attract. Even now, not all residents approve of the degree to which the visitor market has been embraced there, even though Burford has grown into its gift shops, antique shops and galleries over several decades. In its galleries, there are old masters and contemporary artists; amongst its antique shops there are specialists in furniture, clocks, sporting antiques, ceramics and glassware, and jewellery. There are others who specialise in miscellany, where you might find fascinating postcards and prints, music and theatre ephemera, bottles, militaria ... it is an endless list.


Here too, you will find a number of shops that cater for interiors: retailers and dealers that sell fixtures and fittings for the home; carpets and textiles, soft furnishings; and the objets d'art, objets trouvs, collectables and memorabilia that add distinction. You will find too, a good many retailers of fashion, whether high couture or boutique-style; and shops that specialise in fashion accessories. Burford is also well catered for by way of tea shops and restaurants, and pub food. The town's hotels, eager to brandish their increasing number of rosettes, and trump the achievements of their chefs, display mouth-watering daily menus beside their front doors.


Much of what there is to look at is residential and can only be viewed externally. It is frustrating that the exteriors promise so much, and the promise is more than fulfilled by what is in the fabric beyond. Burford, largely refaced, follows the line of The Hill and High Street; medieval Burford - the Burford that gives us a number of hall houses, ancient timber framework and mouldings, and numerous medieval extensions - frequently runs at right angles. Some of it can be viewed from the alleys and courtyards, and from the rear of buildings. A walk around Burford will reveal absolute gems - some hidden, others on full public display.


Beginning in the car park ...



Guildenford car park. The car park lies adjacent to the mill stream, and parking is free of charge. It was built on ancient meadowland, known as Bury Orchard, which bordered the flood plain of the River Windrush, and was extended in 2002. There are spaces for 151 vehicles, and recently installed extra lighting has helped to make this a pleasant place to park, even on dark nights. From here, there are fine views of the church tower; a large population of waterfowl swim in the stream beside the car park, or sleep on the picnic tables. Bring out some food, and you will be surrounded by ducks and drakes of the most competitive variety. Cross the millstream bridge, which is possibly on the site of another river ford, and then turn left into ...


Guildenford. There are some lovely cottage gardens, packed with colour and perfume, along this little street. Turn right into ...


Witney Street. Now almost entirely residential, bordered by low, stone cottages, this narrow street was once full of Cromwell's men, stealing forward to surprise the mutineers of the Parliamentarian army. The Baptist Chapel was built here in 1700.


The Great House. The Black Boy Inn once stood where this magnificent residence was built, in Italian style, almost at the close of the 17th century. The castellated parapet is forever a reminder that it was built by Dr John Castle, who furnished his tomb with a similar arrangement. At one time, it was occupied by friends of the diarist and novelist Fanny Burney. In the town museum there is a doll's house that has been partly modelled on The Great House, and peopled and furnished in the styles of 1820.


The Royal Oak. This pub is on the site of the White Hart, through which, in 1642 during the English Civil War, a group of Parliamentarian soldiers fled after a minor skirmish with Royalist troops in pursuit. The Royal Oak has more than one thousand beer mugs and jugs hanging from the beams in its bars, collected by Gary and Sue Duffy,


The Angel. Formerly the Masons' Arms, this hostelry is believed to date from the 16th century, although the front is probably of the 18th. At that time, stage- coaches left from here for London. Now run by Paul and Sandra Swain, who have both previously been involved in The Lamb and The Bull, it is a restaurant with three bedrooms - decorated in Italian, Indian and French styles. There is a cosy visitors' lounge, and an attractive, secluded garden at the rear. Turn left into ...


High Street. This is the main shopping street. Here are antiques shops, gift shops, art galleries, fashion retailers and clothing boutiques, furnishings and interiors, health and beauty, craft shops, book shop, teashops and restaurants - all mixed in with the shops needed for day to day living. Burford has a justified reputation for specialist shopping, and, because the town caters so much for tourists, even the ordinary retailers often stock lines that are just that little bit different. It is a good place to look for that special present. High Street is particularly attractive during the dark evenings, when the window displays are lit up.


The Old Bull Hotel. Built in 1658, the brick faade, with stone dressings, was put up early in the 18th century. The parapet is panelled; flat pilasters run through the two upper storeys; the quoins are of brick; and the windows have keystones and aprons. The ground floor is ashlar. Inside, there is the 'market room' where market business was transacted until 1873.


London House. Now a dealership for sporting antiques and memorabilia. Built in the 15th century, this timber-framed building has a stone undercroft in two sections, divided by a wide, pointed arch; it is known as 'the crypt'. Other parts have groined vaulting; in one area, this springs from a central octagonal pillar and moulded corbels. The front elevation is three storeys, jettied, and features blocked-up timber windows with pointed, cusped lights.


W.J. Castle. Now belonging to the Cotswold butcher's group, this three-gabled house was built in the 15th century, and the oriel windows were added in the 16th. It is timber-framed, was once another of Burford's inns, and is full of interesting late medieval details.


The Highway. A hotel since 1926, and recently refurbished, this former ironmonger's and candlestick maker's premises was built c1480. It is half-timbered, has a late 15th-century doorway, and a jettied upper floor. Talitha and Scott Nelson are the new proprietors; they have nine bedrooms, an atmospheric cellar restaurant, and will be opening the patio garden this summer. Continue for a while to the north up ...


The Hill. This is a favourite spot for photographers to take a shot of the sweep of High Street, framed by the leafy limes, and taking in the hills on the other side of the Windrush valley. The lime trees were planted in 1870, and the war memorial was put up in 1920. Almost entirely residential, except for galleries and retailers of furnishings on the west side where it becomes High Street, and a restaurant and some independent traders on the east side, there are nonetheless some nice 17th-century cottages and houses should you choose to venture to the top. Many of these have Georgian doorways and decorative architectural features.


Hill House. This is a 14th-century hall house, with additional accommodation from the 16th century. To the front, beside the 15th-century doorway, is a six-light mullioned window, and, at the rear, there is a mullioned and transomed two-light window that has been dated c1320, and which has flowing tracery. Across the road ...


The Gabled House. The oldest deeds extant for this double-gabled house are dated 'the fourth year of the reign of Henry VI', and recent carbon dating place its beams at 1438, which is probably when some internal remodelling took place. The gables have finials, the square-headed windows are mullioned on each level, and the central doorway has a four-centred arch. Note too, the 16th-century house next door; it has a little single-light pointed window of that date, set deep in the wall, with a square hood, and also a fanlight of three arched lights with a square hood moulding above the depressed arch of the ancient doorway.


The Dragon Inn. Now an award-winning Chinese restaurant, in a 16th-century building that was once The Rampant Cat public house, and which has a 19th-century frontage. Some of the woodwork is medieval, and the building was a coaching inn during the 17th and 18th centuries. The archway in its 19th-century frontage is now guarded by two white Chinese lions.


The Tolsey. Built c1500, a half-timbered, double-gabled structure above a series of pillars. The present clock dates from the mid-19th century. Wool merchants once struck bargains here; it was the place where traders paid the fees that enabled them to operate in the town's markets and fairs; and it has been a reading room and a court room. Today, a selection of commodity sales take place amidst the pillars, which were closed until they were opened up in the late 1950s as part of a general programme of restoration. The town's horse-drawn, hand-pumped fire engine was kept behind the locked doors between the two left- hand pillars. Now, WI produce, home baking, plants, cut flowers, wet fish, artworks and books each have their selling days.


Burford Museum. The town's history is packed into two upper rooms of the Tolsey. There is the market charter of 1090, civic regalia, and the town's seals and maces; friendly societies' archives; country clothing, artefacts and traditional tools; and a mid-16th-century iron-bound chest; bells from the Burford foundry; and other metalware and historic memorabilia. There is also a frieze showing all the old houses in Burford, drawn in 1939 by a young architect.


Sheep Street. This was once on the main route between London and Cirencester. On one side, there is a mixture of small, gabled houses, cottages, and larger, stone town houses, built between the 15th and 18th centuries. Several of the doorways are misshapen, and some have decorative motifs in the spandrels. There are timbered overhangs, and wavy roofs whose tiles are moss- and lichen-encrusted. A number of these were once inns, in a town that still had more than sixty of them at the end of the 19th century. Cobbled pathways separate the dwellings from the wide verges, mature trees are a feature of the streetscape, and the residents pay to keep it all up together. When sheep markets were held here, the animals were penned on the grassy banks. This is a street of gables, mullioned windows with square hoods, the occasional timber-framed frontage, some old overhangs, stone doorways and Tudor archways.


The Greyhound. A large building on the north side, with an obvious former carriage entrance, was once the Greyhound Inn, which was, almost continuously from 1949 until this decade, the home of The Countryman magazine.


The Lamb Inn. It is likely that this hostelry, the oldest in Burford, was built in the 15th century as lodgings for wool merchants. By the 1700s, it was an established inn; farmers hired shepherds here. Cottage-like and rambling on Sheep Street, where it incorporated the weavers' cottages after c1720, its Priory Lane front has five gables and a square-headed, 15th-century window with four cinquefoil-headed lights. The courtyard is stunning, and there is a traditional-style walled country garden with lawns and ornamental borders. It is one of two hotels that dominate the south side of the street; both are partly made out of former cottages that now have tumbling roofs and are variously clothed in rambling roses, creeper and wisteria.


Tourist Information Centre. The TIC is in the former Garne & Sons brewery front office, where some 40,000 people visit each year. The archway is 19th- century, the premises were built c1750 and were thought to have been the malthouse for the Lamb Inn; the brewery opened in 1798 and kept going until 1969 - by which time it belonged to Wadworths.


The Bay Tree Hotel. This five-gabled town house was built in the late 18th century for Sir Lawrence Tanfield - MP for Woodstock, Chief Baron of the Exchequer to James I - and his wife: two people who were much disliked in Burford. It has belonged to the Cotswold Inns and Hotels group since 1998. Inside, there are original, well-worn steps and flagstones, two original stone chimneypieces, and a high gallery. At the rear, is a stone terrace, and a secluded walled garden that was allegedly laid out by Lady Tanfield. The front of the hotel in April and May positively drips with spectacular and aged wisteria.


Turn left into High Street, taking care from now on to look on both sides of the road ...


Reavley's Chemist. The oldest chemist's shop in the country has been in business since 1734. Inside, there are walls lined with Victorian chemists' rounds, old medicine bottles, and 163 drawers in two banks from c1850, which have fading labels, such as opium and antim crun.


The Red Lion Bookshop. Now a lovely little small town bookshop with an interesting stock of frequently 'different' titles. In the 16th century, the site was the house and business premises of a fish merchant, and it was once another of Burford's inns.


The George. Now a multi-dealership antiques business. This tilting, timber-framed building with an upper-floor overhang, was erected late in the 15th century, and was closed down as an inn when bought by the Bull Hotel in the early 1800s. One of the windows has the date 1666 scratched on it. Samuel Pepys was there; so was Charles I, and Charles II came with Nell Gwyn.


Huffkins. The front of this well-known bakery and teashop was added in the late 18th century; separating the two eating areas is a 14th-century stone arch with shoulder lintel. Topsy Taee's establishment has been voted amongst the top fifty tea and coffee houses in England.


Burford House. Built in the early 1600s on the corner with Witney Street, this was a private residence until the 20th century, then, variously, a drapery store and a furniture store. It has a close-studded, timber-framed upper floor, and a ground floor of Cotswold stone. The building was converted in the 1930s, and became a hotel called The Corner House.


The Golden Pheasant Inn. Here a wool merchant may have lived in the 15th century. The rebuilding of 1700 gave it a fine ashlar faade, of five bays with strong keystones to the square-headed windows. As The Golden Ball, it was another of the town's coaching inns. Internally, there are thick stone walls, flagstones in the bar, and oak beams.


Methodist Chapel. Formerly a private residence that was built c1715 in Baroque style, the premises were bought and converted by the Wesleyan Methodists in 1849, and were internally remodelled a century later. There are regular sales of antiques, arts and crafts, and memorabilia in the basement.


The Mermaid. An inn with a past and, allegedly, an upstairs ghost; it is dark, low, flagstoned, thick-walled, and riddled with a wonderfully oppressive sense of nefarious activities of the past. Part of it was once The Three Pigeons, part a butcher's shop with an alley between the two. Note the original mounting block.


The Oxford Shirt Company. This clothing emporium occupies a single run of half a dozen cottages and one exceptional town house, remodelled internally.


The Cotswold Arms. Once called The Mermaid, of which the town has had three, and, for a while, two existed at the same time. Turn left into Priory Lane ...


The Old Rectory. This can be glimpsed behind its high wall next to the school. It was built c1700, and is thought to have been the work of Christopher Kempster (1626-1715), quarry owner, builder and stone carver, who provided stone for the rebuilding of London after the Great Fire.


The Priory. Edmund Harman was granted lands here - on the site of the one-time priory of St John the Evangelist that formerly belonged to the Abbey of Keynsham - by Henry VIII. Harman built himself a mansion there, and this was later rebuilt by Sir Lawrence Tanfield after he acquired the lands in 1584. His grandson, Lucius Carey, Lord Falkland, sold it to William Lenthall, Speaker of the Long Parliament. The house has an imposing front of two wings, and, internally, includes some of the fabric of the original priory. Next to the house is the chapel, built in the second half of the 17th century. Today, it is the home of a community of Benedictine monks and nuns. The Priory is not open to the public, but concerts and other local events have sometimes been held in the grounds, which are particularly attractive at snowdrop time. The community carries out letterpress printing, makes incense, and designs icons for sale, and has open events such as a garden day in June, and a painting week later in the year. Turn back towards High Street; on the corner is ...


Falkland Hall. Built for clothier Edmund Sylvester in 1558, it was bought in 1906 by the newly founded Burford Recreation Society, and bought from them in 1920, as part of the town's memorial to the Great War. During the 20th century, it has been variously an institute, a public hall, the venue for a travelling cinema, a place of dancing and other entertainments, and an antiques sales room. The lion carved in the first-floor oriel window was unveiled in 2000 by HRH the Prince of Wales to celebrate the millennium. The premises are partly occupied by Burford's very comprehensive kitchen shop.


Bear Court. The Bear Inn was built adjacent to the Falkland Hall in the 17th century; it is now a prettily planted courtyard beside some of the town's art galleries. Opposite, there is a run of independent traders, including Bygones, which has been selling collectables and memorabilia for more than twenty years; and Mrs Bumble's, which is an extraordinarily extensive delicatessen and food shop.


The Old Vicarage. The faade was built in 1672, and is distinguished by three ornamental Dutch gables with enclosed blank medallions. Behind it is the result of a 19th-century remodelling; to the rear of that, it is medieval. Cobb Hall, a medieval courtyard house, stood adjacent until it was demolished - except for the arched entrance - in 1876.


Burford Bridge. The town bridge, crossing the River Windrush where it splits into the millstream, is medieval. It was probably built in the 14th-century, replacing a wooden bridge that stood near to the ford. Here, the river is shallow. Note the little stone-built and gabled weavers' cottages that were built beside the town bridge in 1576. They were once the property of Simon Wisdom, Burford's great benefactor, who used the income to part endow Burford School. Turn back into High Street, and continue along the west side, turning left into Church Lane ...


Grammar School. Founded in 1571 by Simon Wisdom, who held lands and properties around the town and endowed it with the resulting rents, the grammar school was rebuilt in 1868, incorporating some of the original fabric. The topographical writer Reginald Arkell (1872-1959) - poet, biographer, musical playwright and comic novelist - was a pupil here. The upper floor was once the town hall. Turn left towards ...


Almshouses on Church Green. One set of eight almshouses was built in 1457 by Henry Bishop, steward to Richard Nevill, Earl of Warwick - 'Warwick the King Maker' - who was sometime Lord of the Manor. These were remodelled in 1828. Adjacent, are four more almshouses, built in 1726 by Dr John Castle. Church Green is a pleasant place to sit and contemplate the almshouses, the church, and the old grammar school building.


Warwick Hall. Built as a school for infants and girls in 1863, on the site of a former merchant's house, this became a church meeting house in 1914 and was leased to the town council in the 1980s as a public meeting hall. Craft, memorabilia, or produce sales are regularly held here, and there is an occasional flea market.


Church of St John the Baptist. Built in 1175, St John's has grown aisle by aisle, chapel by chapel, remodelling by remodelling, and is now officially one of the top twenty churches in the country for historic interest. There are often guides here who are happy to talk you through the complexities that history has wrought on the fabric, and it is a fascinating journey. The Earl of Essex, Cromwell's commander-in-chief, put up part of his army in the church in 1643, and in 1644 some fifteen thousand troops were in the town. You can still read the inscription that Anthony Sedley 'prisner' scratched into the font in 1649, and learn about the 340 Levellers that Cromwell locked up here, and who are remembered in an annual pageant in the town. William Morris founded the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Buildings after seeing restoration, of which he disapproved, being undertaken at St John's. The churchyard has a number of fine bale tombs. Numerous cultural activities take place in the church.


Church Lane. Beyond the dog-leg in the road you will see how sympathetically the residential new-build has been done, in keeping with the older properties in Burford.


Tiverton Villa gardens and plant sales. Keith Davies, for nine years Mayor of Burford, sells plants for charity at the Tolsey. Here, he has the twin-gabled house that a local man, George Rose, built by the millstream in 1889 for Keith's great- great-grandfather; it is the only Victorian residence in the town. Note its front portico and pillars, and decorated bargeboards. The surrounding gardens, open to the public, are a plantsman's delight, and here Keith sells garden plants from his nursery.




Burford in print


Burford is exceptionally fortunate in having two resident historians, Raymond and Joan Moody. For more than forty years, they have been carrying out original research on the town and publishing the results in a series of very readable books and booklets under their imprint HindSight of Burford. These publications can be bought at The Red Lion Bookshop, the Tourist Information Centre, and Burford Museum in the Tolsey. Titles include:


A Thousand Years of Burford


Burford: An Introduction and Guide


Burford: The Civil War and the Levellers


The Great Burford Smallpox Outbreak, 1758


The Inns of Burford: The High Street


The Inns of Burford: Beyond the High Street


Burford's Roads and Rogues: Turnpikes, Traffic and Travellers Before 1800


Burford's Roads and Rogues: Vagabonds, Villains and Highwaymen


The Burford Year: Markets, Fairs and Festivals


History from the Minutes: Burford, the Running of a Town


The Burford and Bibury Racecourses (by Jessica Stawell)

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