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Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire

PUBLISHED: 08:31 04 June 2010 | UPDATED: 15:06 20 February 2013

The Mann Institute commemorates the birthplace of John Mann in 1802

The Mann Institute commemorates the birthplace of John Mann in 1802

Moreton-in-Marsh has always believed that it exists solely to facilitate its residents. Other towns' economies rely more on visitors. Moreton may now be changing, to embrace a little more of what they fancy for itself.

Moreton-in-Marsh is a one street wonder. It clings, clothed in the deepest honey-gold, to a few hundred yards of the Fosse Way, too far beyond which it has never cared to expand. It is also a retail chameleon. Nowhere else in the Cotswolds does a weekly market so significantly take over the town on market days, or so successfully change its appearance. All other outdoor markets I visit take place in their town; that at Moreton is the town on market days. Anything up to two hundred stalls may be set up here in high season; perhaps more than a hundred coaches will turn up with their day-trippers; and Moreton will heave below its temporary confetti of striped canvas. The Tuesday market is the town's major attraction.


History has never needed Moreton to expand or urbanise. Moved away from its old settlement, it was laid out as a 13th-century market town that, in the course of time, was ultimately not as successful as the architects of its future would have wished. It was required only to accommodate travellers where the road between London and Worcester crossed the Fosse Way. This it did admirably, being possessed over time of an inordinate number of inns that flourished during the coaching era. Their relicts are still evident in the fabric of the town, although an interior inspection of such old buildings is usually necessary to find the hidden gems.


David Verey, who knew more about the buildings of the Cotswolds than almost anyone else, once described Moreton as 'a plain stone place', and said that 'it manages to look pretty because of its broad tree-lined main street and its central market hall'. Interestingly, he was writing of a building that was put up in 1887 to revive the town's flagging market interests, and his words came at a time when the market venture had failed, in the sense that the town had no market at all. Indeed, a market was always seen as being fundamental to Moreton's economy, and, when opportunities presented themselves, upon which market fortunes might capitalise, these were usually adopted. This happened again in 1826 when the Stratford & Moreton tramway was opened; Lord Redesdale, then lord of the manor and owner of the market rights, immediately reinstated a weekly market in the town, on the back of the tramway's trading potential. He also beefed-up the town's fairs to coincide with the opening of the Oxford, Worcester & Wolverhampton Railway through Moreton in 1853.


The central market hall, now the Redesdale Hall, was always intended to be a focal point of the high street, and it still is. Arguably, Moreton would be a more attractive place without it, because the building's conspicuously incongruous tower blocks from every angle what would otherwise be an infinitely preferable sweeping vista.


When David Verey wrote of the place, there were considerably fewer cars to spill over from the High Street parking area and tuck themselves in hard against the pavements. The huge blocks of stone that have lately appeared, and which inhibit their progress onto the grassy areas, have further depreciated the street scene. Sadly, they are a necessary response to the effects of thoughtless parking, but, incredulously and despite their obvious purpose, some motorists are still squeezing their vehicles between them. People who live beside these greens should not have to live with the scarred and rutted reminders of those motorists' insensitivity.


The stones at Moreton came from Stanley's Quarry on the road to Chipping Campden. They were paid for with a 500 donation, which Norwich Union made to the town when they used the greens in one of their television advertisements. Currently the golden stones stand out like the sore thumbs that are needed in order to dissuade inconsiderate parking, but, at the time of writing, the Town Council is about to paint them with cow manure and yoghurt to encourage the speedy growth of moss.


Indeed, Moreton does not present itself for inspection in the same way as other Cotswold towns. Its buildings seem to have slotted precisely into the spaces allocated for them, and have remained thus, like two facing rows of maiden aunts taking tea on the edges of their seats. They have Georgian fronts that preserve their austerity, and square lights that are as piercingly observant as they are ubiquitous. The contrast with Burford is striking, where the buildings presenting at the party wear a disreputably tipsy aspect, with arms flailing in all directions of history.


The place has had an inferiority complex for as long as I have known it. It is generally felt, people there tell me, that if Moreton-in-Marsh has a valid purpose for tourism, it is merely to supply the railway station by which means more visitor-oriented Cotswold towns may be readily accessed from London. Certainly, there was an early expectation on the part of speculative developers that Moreton would grow as a result of its railway, but this was only partially rewarded. For a while in the 19th century, the town did expand, but ultimately the challenge could not be sustained by the potential, and Moreton remained small.


Many residents tell me that Moreton is somewhere that knows its place. That place is one for passing through, either along the Fosse Way by those who are interested in Stratford-upon-Avon and the Midlands towns beyond, or as the station buffet for those railway travellers whose ultimate destinations are Stow-on-the-Wold or Broadway. Moreton does not even consider itself worthy of a printed guide book, which would make the most of such interesting places as are hereabouts, and might give visitors a better reason to linger. Yet the place has more to offer than anyone seems prepared to publicise.


Certainly, Moreton-in-Marsh is an honest workaday little town, wherein the butcher, the bakery, the chemist, the grocer and the clothes shop remain to supply its residents with the staples of life. They are there, alongside such perceived necessities of modern living as the beauty salons, acupuncturist, aromatherapist, complementary therapists, masseurs and nutritionist who inspire what their clients wish to be, or ameliorate what their clients have become.


This is by no means a tourist destination, but it has sufficient antiques dealers, art dealers and galleries to enable interested visitors to make a day of it. There are enough hotel and private restaurants, and coffee shops to feed all-comers and, on market days, some of these put on market day specials. In their own way, Moreton's hotels and historic public houses are fascinating places to explore. It is therefore frustrating that some owners seem not to have noticed any sense of the added marketing value that might result from knowing about the history and architecture of the buildings in which they reside.


Heavy rain in July 2007 caused sufficient surface flooding to seriously affect residential properties and businesses in the lower part of Moreton-in-Marsh. It knocked out the Manor House Hotel, initially not because of external flooding, but due to the water which seeped through the flagstones on the ground floor, ultimately rising to a height of three feet within half an hour. Then, as staff worked to carry as much upstairs as possible, they were frustrated by heavy lorries that continued to drive through the High Street, sending huge waves against the Manor House. At this point, attempts at salvage became useless; the flood outside met the seepage inside, and the whole area ended up four feet under water. Cotswold Inns & Hotels have taken the opportunity to refurbish generally and add more public accommodation at the rear. They aim to reopen in May 2008.


Over the last few years, I have described in some detail most of the buildings likely to interest visitors to Moreton-in-Marsh, written about the Moreton-in-Marsh Show, given a prcis of the town's history, written an extended piece on the market, and toured Batsford Arboretum. If the town would only gather descriptions of all its assets and publish them in a cohesive and comprehensive way, it might realise that it is not quite the Cinderella it thinks it is.


This time, I will concentrate on a few of the areas that have not been covered before. For example, one of the most interesting businesses in the town is Cox's Architectural Salvage, close to the railway bridge by the station. Its owner is Peter Watson, who used to own a factory making luxury wooden toilet seats at Stratford-upon-Avon. When, in the recession, the bottom fell out of the business, he went to help out at James Cox and Sons, timber merchants - now Cox's Yard - by Stratford's Clopton Bridge. That was in 1992; Peter eventually took over this business and diversified, firstly into cutting up old beams for local builders, then buying old beams and floorboards, and finally establishing a general reclamation yard.


The Council, which owned the area, later condemned the structure at Cox's Yard as unsafe. Peter was forced to move and brought his reclamation business to the vaguely art deco building - now occupied by the John Davies Gallery - at Moreton. As the business grew, Peter moved across the yard into a building that had latterly been used by a manufacturer of foam, where he now has a large timber department. Cox's Architectural Salvage specialises in recycling reclaimed timber items, floorboards, joists, etc, and has a lot of the other kinds of artefacts, such as chimney pots, which you would expect of a reclamation yard. It is a well organised, browser's delight.


I do not know why it is surprising that little Moreton should be the venue for organisations of national significance, but it is. Here you will find, in the town and its environs, the headquarters of the Porsche Club of Great Britain, the Fire Service College, and the wonderful Batsford Arboretum. The Porsche Club of Great Britain was founded in 1961, and from 1986 had its first office in Northleach. The club held some of its meetings at the Redesdale Arms at Moreton, on which days there was always much interest in the line-up of vehicles in the hotel's car park. It relocated to Cornbury House at Moreton-in-Marsh in 1995, and, in 2007, took part in the annual Moreton-in-Marsh Show for the first time - displaying a Porsche tractor and two cars.


Moreton also has, in keeping with several other Cotswold towns of its type, an arts bias that sometimes tends to be passed over for the greater similar concentrations at Broadway, Stow-on-the-Wold, and Chipping Campden. But Moreton-in-Marsh should not, in this regard, be overlooked.


There is, for example, Astley House Fine Art that focuses on oil paintings from the 19th century to the present day. David Glaisyer started the business from his home in 1973. He opened his High Street gallery the following year, which now majors on traditional-style Victorian pictures, and added another - which specialises in contemporary works - in London Road, towards the end of the 1980s. Five years ago, he was joined by his son, Caradoc, and they also specialise in restoration and traditional bespoke picture framing.


Benton Fine Art almost exclusively sells Victorian oil paintings. The business, which was established in Cheltenham in 1972, is owned by Jeff and Matthew Benton. It relocated to Moreton in 2001 and uses the premises here as a base from which to service its well-known activities at the antiques and art fairs throughout the country.


Grimes House was opened in High Street by Steve and Val Farnsworth in 1978. The walls of their business are hung with a large selection of paintings in all styles and media by an equally lengthy list of contemporary artists. The paintings share the space with 'probably the largest selection of antique Cranberry glass for sale anywhere'. One of the artists they represent is the internationally renowned Sean Bolan - painter of painstakingly representational historical watercolours depicting landscapes, buildings and social scenes exactly as they were in the past. His 'Christmas Deliveries' - picturing Moreton-in-Marsh - is unique to Grimes, as a limited edition print. For many years, Sean lived and worked in the town, before relocating to Chipping Campden, historically one of the prime centres for arts and crafts in the Cotswolds.


In 2005, Ella and Kit Havelock-Davies brought their Wold Galleries from Bourton-on-the-Water to the old saddlery in Moreton's Oxford Street. The business was established in 1966, and the Havelock-Davieses took it on just over thirty years later. They came to Moreton because "we looked at all the usual suspects in the region and really thought that Moreton was on the up; it has a good residential population and has lately acquired some quite exceptional traders like the Cotswold Cheese Company and the quality furniture maker Arbor Vetum".


Their gallery offers work by contemporary British and international artists, but specialises in that of graduates from the St Petersburg Academy of Fine Art. They are this country's main outlet under Julian and Lottie Ravest's 'Artists in Russia' programme, which was set up to represent upwards of forty contemporary Russian artists in the UK. Wold Galleries also undertakes picture framing, and printing on canvas.


In 1977, John Davies opened his art gallery in Church Street, Stow-on-the-Wold. In 2007, it relocated to a three-gallery, purpose-developed interior, housed in the former milk pasteurisation and bottling plant that was built in the 1920s by United Dairies, beside the railway line at Moreton-in-Marsh. The catalyst for this approach was, the gallery asserts, 'the opening of institutions such as Tate Modern, which set the stage for commercial galleries to follow suit by turning former industrial buildings into exhibition spaces'. It is a pleasing spot; the station building dates from 1872, and nearby there is a 'gallant survivor' - a low, stone building, near the up line on the south side of the road bridge at the north end of the station, dates from the time of the Stratford & Moreton tramway.


This was potentially a good move for John Davies, and a most suitable venue with the site's landmark chimney stack acting as an obvious point of reference. The gallery might well share, with Cox's Architectural salvage across the car park, such clientele as interior house designers, home stagers and consultants, and even residential and corporate project developers. It also has direct access from the railway line at the Moreton-in-Marsh train station, thus facilitating its own clients from London, the contemporary style of whose galleries it has sought to emulate in the Cotswolds.


The gallery's marketing phrase is 'country contemporary', in which it recognises by definition that: 'People who live in the country want contemporary art that reflects themes that matter to them - the land, animals, etc. This is distinctly different from some of the contemporary art sought by people who live and work in cities'. Thus, the new John Davies Gallery majors on museum-quality post-Impressionist and modern paintings, sold alongside contemporary artwork. The gallery's off-high street location will not hinder the keen art lover.


If something more traditional is to your taste, you will find that Moreton is not lacking in artists-in-residence who may well suit. Ann Blockley is well known for her fine flower paintings, and, in more recent times, for landscapes at home and abroad, and buildings and animals. Her work can be viewed at her studio in nearby Todenham, where she also holds workshops in the village hall. It is a mark of her popularity that her latest book, Watercolour Textures, published only last year by Harper Collins, is currently being reprinted for the third time. This has meant that she is continually being e-mailed from artists all over the world who want to attend her workshops.


Ann lives in a 17th-century house with a lovely cottage garden. She is fundamentally a traditional watercolourist, whose later work involves unconventional watercolour or mixed media techniques. As I write, she has just completed her invitations to an exhibition of her work to be held in the New Gallery at the Royal West of England Academy in Bristol (2-27 May). On this she explains how she 'looks for the rich textural qualities within each subject and pushes the boundaries of watercolour ... vigorous surfaces sit alongside more gentle interpretations, but each one departs from the traditional approach to the medium'. Her books include Flower Painting Through the Seasons, Learn To Paint, and Country Flowers, and she is a contributor to Leisure Painter magazine.


Lesley Holmes is another exceptional artist who lives and works in Moreton-in-Marsh. You will find her next to Grimes gallery and antiques in High Street. Born in central Africa, she has been a professional artist in the Cotswolds since 1982, selling work privately from annual exhibitions, which are held at either her town centre studio, or at Lower Slaughter. Her favourite subjects are the Cotswolds, animals and interiors, and she paints and draws the everyday things she sees around her from life, not from photographs. She is particularly good at drawing and painting sheep.


Lesley works in watercolour, using handmade paper and the St Petersburger Russian paints. She illustrated three books by James Herriot - Favourite Cat Stories, Dog Stories and Animal Stories - and has published A Cotswold Sketchbook and Venice Sketchbook. Later this year, Lesley Holmes, A Sketchbook will be published, featuring her favourite subjects, including a number of scenes from her smallholding, and many of the animals there.


So art is flourishing in Moreton-in-Marsh, and so too is the town generally. Like all Cotswold towns, it has its weekenders - in the way of things, an increasing number of them - who are buying up the old cottages as they come up for sale. And, at the time of writing, several have recently come on the market. The town's traders in the staple goods of life, as well as those making more esoteric offerings, generally feel that these newcomers are supportive of local shops and services; they are looking to them to infuse new lifeblood into the town, and to help raise both its status and profile.


Moreton-in-Marsh is a one street wonder. It clings, clothed in the deepest honey-gold, to a few hundred yards of the Fosse Way, too far beyond which it has never cared to expand. It is also a retail chameleon. Nowhere else in the Cotswolds does a weekly market so significantly take over the town on market days, or so successfully change its appearance. All other outdoor markets I visit take place in their town; that at Moreton is the town on market days. Anything up to two hundred stalls may be set up here in high season; perhaps more than a hundred coaches will turn up with their day-trippers; and Moreton will heave below its temporary confetti of striped canvas. The Tuesday market is the town's major attraction.


History has never needed Moreton to expand or urbanise. Moved away from its old settlement, it was laid out as a 13th-century market town that, in the course of time, was ultimately not as successful as the architects of its future would have wished. It was required only to accommodate travellers where the road between London and Worcester crossed the Fosse Way. This it did admirably, being possessed over time of an inordinate number of inns that flourished during the coaching era. Their relicts are still evident in the fabric of the town, although an interior inspection of such old buildings is usually necessary to find the hidden gems.


David Verey, who knew more about the buildings of the Cotswolds than almost anyone else, once described Moreton as 'a plain stone place', and said that 'it manages to look pretty because of its broad tree-lined main street and its central market hall'. Interestingly, he was writing of a building that was put up in 1887 to revive the town's flagging market interests, and his words came at a time when the market venture had failed, in the sense that the town had no market at all. Indeed, a market was always seen as being fundamental to Moreton's economy, and, when opportunities presented themselves, upon which market fortunes might capitalise, these were usually adopted. This happened again in 1826 when the Stratford & Moreton tramway was opened; Lord Redesdale, then lord of the manor and owner of the market rights, immediately reinstated a weekly market in the town, on the back of the tramway's trading potential. He also beefed-up the town's fairs to coincide with the opening of the Oxford, Worcester & Wolverhampton Railway through Moreton in 1853.


The central market hall, now the Redesdale Hall, was always intended to be a focal point of the high street, and it still is. Arguably, Moreton would be a more attractive place without it, because the building's conspicuously incongruous tower blocks from every angle what would otherwise be an infinitely preferable sweeping vista.


When David Verey wrote of the place, there were considerably fewer cars to spill over from the High Street parking area and tuck themselves in hard against the pavements. The huge blocks of stone that have lately appeared, and which inhibit their progress onto the grassy areas, have further depreciated the street scene. Sadly, they are a necessary response to the effects of thoughtless parking, but, incredulously and despite their obvious purpose, some motorists are still squeezing their vehicles between them. People who live beside these greens should not have to live with the scarred and rutted reminders of those motorists' insensitivity.


The stones at Moreton came from Stanley's Quarry on the road to Chipping Campden. They were paid for with a 500 donation, which Norwich Union made to the town when they used the greens in one of their television advertisements. Currently the golden stones stand out like the sore thumbs that are needed in order to dissuade inconsiderate parking, but, at the time of writing, the Town Council is about to paint them with cow manure and yoghurt to encourage the speedy growth of moss.


Indeed, Moreton does not present itself for inspection in the same way as other Cotswold towns. Its buildings seem to have slotted precisely into the spaces allocated for them, and have remained thus, like two facing rows of maiden aunts taking tea on the edges of their seats. They have Georgian fronts that preserve their austerity, and square lights that are as piercingly observant as they are ubiquitous. The contrast with Burford is striking, where the buildings presenting at the party wear a disreputably tipsy aspect, with arms flailing in all directions of history.


The place has had an inferiority complex for as long as I have known it. It is generally felt, people there tell me, that if Moreton-in-Marsh has a valid purpose for tourism, it is merely to supply the railway station by which means more visitor-oriented Cotswold towns may be readily accessed from London. Certainly, there was an early expectation on the part of speculative developers that Moreton would grow as a result of its railway, but this was only partially rewarded. For a while in the 19th century, the town did expand, but ultimately the challenge could not be sustained by the potential, and Moreton remained small.


Many residents tell me that Moreton is somewhere that knows its place. That place is one for passing through, either along the Fosse Way by those who are interested in Stratford-upon-Avon and the Midlands towns beyond, or as the station buffet for those railway travellers whose ultimate destinations are Stow-on-the-Wold or Broadway. Moreton does not even consider itself worthy of a printed guide book, which would make the most of such interesting places as are hereabouts, and might give visitors a better reason to linger. Yet the place has more to offer than anyone seems prepared to publicise.


Certainly, Moreton-in-Marsh is an honest workaday little town, wherein the butcher, the bakery, the chemist, the grocer and the clothes shop remain to supply its residents with the staples of life. They are there, alongside such perceived necessities of modern living as the beauty salons, acupuncturist, aromatherapist, complementary therapists, masseurs and nutritionist who inspire what their clients wish to be, or ameliorate what their clients have become.


This is by no means a tourist destination, but it has sufficient antiques dealers, art dealers and galleries to enable interested visitors to make a day of it. There are enough hotel and private restaurants, and coffee shops to feed all-comers and, on market days, some of these put on market day specials. In their own way, Moreton's hotels and historic public houses are fascinating places to explore. It is therefore frustrating that some owners seem not to have noticed any sense of the added marketing value that might result from knowing about the history and architecture of the buildings in which they reside.


Heavy rain in July 2007 caused sufficient surface flooding to seriously affect residential properties and businesses in the lower part of Moreton-in-Marsh. It knocked out the Manor House Hotel, initially not because of external flooding, but due to the water which seeped through the flagstones on the ground floor, ultimately rising to a height of three feet within half an hour. Then, as staff worked to carry as much upstairs as possible, they were frustrated by heavy lorries that continued to drive through the High Street, sending huge waves against the Manor House. At this point, attempts at salvage became useless; the flood outside met the seepage inside, and the whole area ended up four feet under water. Cotswold Inns & Hotels have taken the opportunity to refurbish generally and add more public accommodation at the rear. They aim to reopen in May 2008.


Over the last few years, I have described in some detail most of the buildings likely to interest visitors to Moreton-in-Marsh, written about the Moreton-in-Marsh Show, given a prcis of the town's history, written an extended piece on the market, and toured Batsford Arboretum. If the town would only gather descriptions of all its assets and publish them in a cohesive and comprehensive way, it might realise that it is not quite the Cinderella it thinks it is.


This time, I will concentrate on a few of the areas that have not been covered before. For example, one of the most interesting businesses in the town is Cox's Architectural Salvage, close to the railway bridge by the station. Its owner is Peter Watson, who used to own a factory making luxury wooden toilet seats at Stratford-upon-Avon. When, in the recession, the bottom fell out of the business, he went to help out at James Cox and Sons, timber merchants - now Cox's Yard - by Stratford's Clopton Bridge. That was in 1992; Peter eventually took over this business and diversified, firstly into cutting up old beams for local builders, then buying old beams and floorboards, and finally establishing a general reclamation yard.


The Council, which owned the area, later condemned the structure at Cox's Yard as unsafe. Peter was forced to move and brought his reclamation business to the vaguely art deco building - now occupied by the John Davies Gallery - at Moreton. As the business grew, Peter moved across the yard into a building that had latterly been used by a manufacturer of foam, where he now has a large timber department. Cox's Architectural Salvage specialises in recycling reclaimed timber items, floorboards, joists, etc, and has a lot of the other kinds of artefacts, such as chimney pots, which you would expect of a reclamation yard. It is a well organised, browser's delight.


I do not know why it is surprising that little Moreton should be the venue for organisations of national significance, but it is. Here you will find, in the town and its environs, the headquarters of the Porsche Club of Great Britain, the Fire Service College, and the wonderful Batsford Arboretum. The Porsche Club of Great Britain was founded in 1961, and from 1986 had its first office in Northleach. The club held some of its meetings at the Redesdale Arms at Moreton, on which days there was always much interest in the line-up of vehicles in the hotel's car park. It relocated to Cornbury House at Moreton-in-Marsh in 1995, and, in 2007, took part in the annual Moreton-in-Marsh Show for the first time - displaying a Porsche tractor and two cars.


Moreton also has, in keeping with several other Cotswold towns of its type, an arts bias that sometimes tends to be passed over for the greater similar concentrations at Broadway, Stow-on-the-Wold, and Chipping Campden. But Moreton-in-Marsh should not, in this regard, be overlooked.


There is, for example, Astley House Fine Art that focuses on oil paintings from the 19th century to the present day. David Glaisyer started the business from his home in 1973. He opened his High Street gallery the following year, which now majors on traditional-style Victorian pictures, and added another - which specialises in contemporary works - in London Road, towards the end of the 1980s. Five years ago, he was joined by his son, Caradoc, and they also specialise in restoration and traditional bespoke picture framing.


Benton Fine Art almost exclusively sells Victorian oil paintings. The business, which was established in Cheltenham in 1972, is owned by Jeff and Matthew Benton. It relocated to Moreton in 2001 and uses the premises here as a base from which to service its well-known activities at the antiques and art fairs throughout the country.


Grimes House was opened in High Street by Steve and Val Farnsworth in 1978. The walls of their business are hung with a large selection of paintings in all styles and media by an equally lengthy list of contemporary artists. The paintings share the space with 'probably the largest selection of antique Cranberry glass for sale anywhere'. One of the artists they represent is the internationally renowned Sean Bolan - painter of painstakingly representational historical watercolours depicting landscapes, buildings and social scenes exactly as they were in the past. His 'Christmas Deliveries' - picturing Moreton-in-Marsh - is unique to Grimes, as a limited edition print. For many years, Sean lived and worked in the town, before relocating to Chipping Campden, historically one of the prime centres for arts and crafts in the Cotswolds.


In 2005, Ella and Kit Havelock-Davies brought their Wold Galleries from Bourton-on-the-Water to the old saddlery in Moreton's Oxford Street. The business was established in 1966, and the Havelock-Davieses took it on just over thirty years later. They came to Moreton because "we looked at all the usual suspects in the region and really thought that Moreton was on the up; it has a good residential population and has lately acquired some quite exceptional traders like the Cotswold Cheese Company and the quality furniture maker Arbor Vetum".


Their gallery offers work by contemporary British and international artists, but specialises in that of graduates from the St Petersburg Academy of Fine Art. They are this country's main outlet under Julian and Lottie Ravest's 'Artists in Russia' programme, which was set up to represent upwards of forty contemporary Russian artists in the UK. Wold Galleries also undertakes picture framing, and printing on canvas.


In 1977, John Davies opened his art gallery in Church Street, Stow-on-the-Wold. In 2007, it relocated to a three-gallery, purpose-developed interior, housed in the former milk pasteurisation and bottling plant that was built in the 1920s by United Dairies, beside the railway line at Moreton-in-Marsh. The catalyst for this approach was, the gallery asserts, 'the opening of institutions such as Tate Modern, which set the stage for commercial galleries to follow suit by turning former industrial buildings into exhibition spaces'. It is a pleasing spot; the station building dates from 1872, and nearby there is a 'gallant survivor' - a low, stone building, near the up line on the south side of the road bridge at the north end of the station, dates from the time of the Stratford & Moreton tramway.


This was potentially a good move for John Davies, and a most suitable venue with the site's landmark chimney stack acting as an obvious point of reference. The gallery might well share, with Cox's Architectural salvage across the car park, such clientele as interior house designers, home stagers and consultants, and even residential and corporate project developers. It also has direct access from the railway line at the Moreton-in-Marsh train station, thus facilitating its own clients from London, the contemporary style of whose galleries it has sought to emulate in the Cotswolds.


The gallery's marketing phrase is 'country contemporary', in which it recognises by definition that: 'People who live in the country want contemporary art that reflects themes that matter to them - the land, animals, etc. This is distinctly different from some of the contemporary art sought by people who live and work in cities'. Thus, the new John Davies Gallery majors on museum-quality post-Impressionist and modern paintings, sold alongside contemporary artwork. The gallery's off-high street location will not hinder the keen art lover.


If something more traditional is to your taste, you will find that Moreton is not lacking in artists-in-residence who may well suit. Ann Blockley is well known for her fine flower paintings, and, in more recent times, for landscapes at home and abroad, and buildings and animals. Her work can be viewed at her studio in nearby Todenham, where she also holds workshops in the village hall. It is a mark of her popularity that her latest book, Watercolour Textures, published only last year by Harper Collins, is currently being reprinted for the third time. This has meant that she is continually being e-mailed from artists all over the world who want to attend her workshops.


Ann lives in a 17th-century house with a lovely cottage garden. She is fundamentally a traditional watercolourist, whose later work involves unconventional watercolour or mixed media techniques. As I write, she has just completed her invitations to an exhibition of her work to be held in the New Gallery at the Royal West of England Academy in Bristol (2-27 May). On this she explains how she 'looks for the rich textural qualities within each subject and pushes the boundaries of watercolour ... vigorous surfaces sit alongside more gentle interpretations, but each one departs from the traditional approach to the medium'. Her books include Flower Painting Through the Seasons, Learn To Paint, and Country Flowers, and she is a contributor to Leisure Painter magazine.


Lesley Holmes is another exceptional artist who lives and works in Moreton-in-Marsh. You will find her next to Grimes gallery and antiques in High Street. Born in central Africa, she has been a professional artist in the Cotswolds since 1982, selling work privately from annual exhibitions, which are held at either her town centre studio, or at Lower Slaughter. Her favourite subjects are the Cotswolds, animals and interiors, and she paints and draws the everyday things she sees around her from life, not from photographs. She is particularly good at drawing and painting sheep.


Lesley works in watercolour, using handmade paper and the St Petersburger Russian paints. She illustrated three books by James Herriot - Favourite Cat Stories, Dog Stories and Animal Stories - and has published A Cotswold Sketchbook and Venice Sketchbook. Later this year, Lesley Holmes, A Sketchbook will be published, featuring her favourite subjects, including a number of scenes from her smallholding, and many of the animals there.


So art is flourishing in Moreton-in-Marsh, and so too is the town generally. Like all Cotswold towns, it has its weekenders - in the way of things, an increasing number of them - who are buying up the old cottages as they come up for sale. And, at the time of writing, several have recently come on the market. The town's traders in the staple goods of life, as well as those making more esoteric offerings, generally feel that these newcomers are supportive of local shops and services; they are looking to them to infuse new lifeblood into the town, and to help raise both its status and profile.


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Mon, 12:23

Get out and enjoy seasonal celebrations with a Cotswold twist

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Tuesday, December 4, 2018

If you’re looking for things to do in the Cotswolds this month, we have gathered plenty of events for you to pop in your diary

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Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Hundreds of participating National Lottery-funded visitor attractions across the UK are saying ‘thanks’ to people who have raised money for good causes by buying a lottery ticket, including a number of venues in the Cotswolds

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Monday, December 3, 2018

“We’re looking forward to lots of festive fun this Christmas festival and hope to welcome lots of people to our town.”

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Monday, November 26, 2018

“Faringdon upholds old-fashioned values through its traditional shops, personal service and shop owners who go the extra mile to make their customers feel at home.”

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Friday, November 23, 2018

Home to some of the country’s most breathtaking architecture and picturesque gardens, the Cotswolds boasts plenty of beautiful stately homes you need to visit. We pick eight special locations that are made even more magical during Christmas time

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Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Taking the classroom outdoors is fun, inspires fresh ideas, broadens horizons – and encourages a new generation to enjoy and care for the Cotswolds

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Monday, November 19, 2018

Chipping Campden – once the meeting place for a council of Saxon kings – now offers the warmest of welcomes to all its visitors, from the humble shopper to the seasonal shin-kicker

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Thursday, November 15, 2018

As well as three days of action-packed racing and tradition, there’s plenty to do away from the course at this year’s November Meeting. Neil Phillips, The Wine Tipster, shares his 14 suggestions on how to make the most of your time at Cheltenham Racecourse

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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Warwickshire town of Alcester is considered one of the best understood Roman settlements in the country. Tracy Spiers digs below the surface to discover its hidden jewels

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Thanks to the impact of ground-breaking comedy This Country, the quiet market town of Northleach has become one of the Cotswolds’ hottest film locations. Katie Jarvis is sent to investigate

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Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Stephen Roberts walks in the footsteps of the Oxford scholar who enjoyed attending parties dressed as a polar bear, and once chased a neighbour while dressed as an axe-wielding Anglo-Saxon

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