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Stow-on-the-Wold, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

PUBLISHED: 11:47 16 December 2010 | UPDATED: 16:08 20 February 2013

The Square, Stow on the Wold.

The Square, Stow on the Wold.

Residents of Stow-on-the-Wold should raise a glass, every now and then, to Mr Joseph Chamberlayne-Chamberlayne Esquire. A glass of water, that is.

Residents of Stow-on-the-Wold should raise a glass, every now and then, to Mr Joseph Chamberlayne-Chamberlayne Esquire. A glass of water, that is.

For this great Victorian donated 2,000 towards the digging of a deep well in the town so its people could be supplied with fresh water. Bearing in mind that a chambermaid, for example, might expect to receive 20 per year, that was a mindboggling amount of money: his gift is commemorated on the cross in the town's market square.

If you were to visit his one-time family home, you'd find his spirit of generosity persists. For today, it's better known as the Fosse Manor Hotel where the general manager, Chris Gear, continues that tradition of supporting the community. "For us, it's a question of getting right behind other local businesses by using suppliers from around the area," he says. "We use local food producers wherever we can, and we make sure our diners know where those ingredients come from.


"We also try to make sure we benefit local charities. Raffle proceeds from our monthly ladies' lunch club are currently going to Kate's Home Nursing, which helps people who are ill to stay in their own homes throughout the last stages of their lives."

It's the town's insistence on sticking to traditional values that helps give it a unique identity. And that's true of all aspects of its business community. When Herrings Shoes went up for sale, for example, it was the store's adherence to old-fashioned qualities - in the best possible sense - that attracted new owners. It was exactly what the Humphries family were looking for.

"It's rare in this day and age to find this sort of independent business becoming available," explains Nicholas Humphries, whose family began their shoe-making business back in 1862.

Stow, which they took over last year, is now the Humphries' third shop, alongside branches in Redditch and Alcester. What's interesting is this: when businesses are taken over, new owners often make a play of how much they're going to change. In this case, it's the opposite. Yes, there are some new ranges - Merrell joins the quality gentlemen's footwear alongside favourites such as Loke, Barker and Church; while the ladies can enjoy Italian Riva, as well as those synonyms for quality, Van Dal, Gabor and Ecco, among others. But why make significant changes when Herrings already offered the very best?

And don't forget: 'the best' is as important in the 21st century as it was 100 years ago - perhaps even more so. The clothing and lifestyle shop Foundation - owned by designers James and Gemma Wiseman - has been celebrated by magazines such as Vogue for offering service, individuality and attention to detail along with a contemporary sense of flair and style: "pretty dresses, quirky jewellery, lovely cards and notebooks, elegant bags and shoes" was how Conde Nast Traveller described it in April this year.

Jenni Turner, editor of the Stow Times and the Moreton Times, and secretary of Stow-on-the-Wold Business Association, agrees. "The wonderful thing about Stow is the fact that pretty much all the businesses are privately-owned," she says.

"It shows in their window displays, the way they display their clothes, and the way they buy their stock with their customers in mind. They retain traditional values, but they're up-to-the-minute, too, and delighted to be so. I love the fact that you can go into a glorious honey-coloured building with a wonky roof and inside find a beautiful oak floor and 21st century lighting. It doesn't matter where you go in the Cotswolds: Stow stands out."

Exactly. Mr Joseph Chamberlayne-Chamberlayne Esquire would be proud

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