There is a free car park at the top of the High Street, come out of the car park, to the left are the gates of Fairford Park, an entrance to the Ernest Cook Trust and the Fairford schools and Leisure Centre. Next to the gates is the first land mark of the walk.
Head to the west along Mill Lane...
Fairford Mill. There has been a mill in Fairford since Medieval times. In the Domesday Book there were actually three mills belonging to the Fairford Manor, one of which was on the site of the current mill. In 1296 the manor included a fulling mill, but by 1307 there were only corn mills. One corn mill was connected with Milton End farm and the other two mills were in demesne (that is, land retained by the lord of the manor for his own use).
In the 17th Century a mill was recorded where Mill Lane crossed the Coln. This is the main part of the mill that we see today. A wing was added in 1827 and further alterations were made in 1841 and 1857.
The Mill Pond and Bridge were landscaped in 1787 when improvements were made to the grounds of Fairford Park by the landscape gardener William Eames for Esther Lambe. The iron railings on the Mill Bridge over the River Coln were wrought by E. Chew in the 1860s – a fine example of a local blacksmith's skills.
Continue along Mill Lane – to the south is 'The Green' part of which were the water meadows before the River Coln was deepened and which still floods. To the south a bund is part of the flood alleviation scheme.
The Oxpens. There is an early 17th Century document which mentions 'wurmstalls [animal shelters] near the Great Greene', this may well have been the Oxpens, they are marked on early 19th Century maps of Fairford. Oxen were used for ploughing on into the 20th Century. The hitching rings of the wooden stalls to accommodate pairs of oxen can been seen. Ernest Cook Trust has renovated the Oxpens and provided the picnic area.
The twisty lane called Mill Lane is a well known feature of Fairford. There used to be cottages on the north side. To the north west of the lane, Saxon burials were found in the 1850s containing important artefacts, many of which are in the Ashmolean Museum. There is no trace of the site now. The tower in the centre of the field north of the lane is a 20th Century water tower.
At the junction turn left down Coronation Street (named at the coronation of Edward VII, the area had previously been known as Milton End) and head towards the crossroads.
A house on the west of Coronation Street 'Hilary Cottage' was once the 'Ebenezer' Chapel, a particular Baptist denomination (1860-1919). A Mr Brown was pastor at the Congregational chapel in the Croft until he defected to the 'High Doctrine Baptists' at the Ebenezer Chapel.
Further down Coronation Street to the west is...
In Milton Place is a plaque on a house which marks the site of the Primitive Methodist Chapel. The Primitive Methodists split from the mainstream Methodists in the early 19th Century. It was later used as a Scout meeting hall. At the crossroads note the patch of green at the corner. This was Milton End Corner Green, a precious patch of green forming a junction from the ancient Welsh Way droving route to the busy main thoroughfare – a convenient grazing plot for the animals while the drovers refreshed themselves at a nearby hostelry.
Opposite is Coln House School which opened as a lunatic asylum in 1821 by Alexander Iles and continued in the Iles family until the early 20th Century and was also known as the Retreat when it was run by Dr King-Turner until 1945. The buildings became a riding school until 1949 when they were bought by Gloucestershire County Council as a boarding school for children with emotional and behavioural difficulties.
Horcott Road to the south leads to RAF Fairford and the St Thomas of Canterbury Roman Catholic Church and presbytery which opened in 1845. A school next to the Church was also built but closed in 1888.
Continue east towards the town...
Fairford United Church. Built as a Baptist Meeting House in 1724. In the early 20th Century increasing co-operation between the Baptists and Congregationalists from the Croft Chapel led to their amalgamation. Mid-20th Century there were dwindling congregations, and eventually the Congregationalists joined the Methodists in sharing the building. In 1980 the Chapel became Fairford United Church.
A little further on...
Opposite Waterloo Lane notice a lovely old stone used as a stile leading on to The Green – where the flat meadowland indicates the site of the original ford from which Fairford got its name in Saxon times as Fagranforda i.e. fair or clear water to cross the river. The river was previously wide and shallow with water meadows before the main channel was dug out. The name has been through various spellings as Fareford, Fayreforde and Faireforde.
Here you can turn down Waterloo Lane, as far as the bridge across the Coln. Waterloo Lane might have been named after Waterloo but it could be a path by a stream as in Cirencester.
Or continue eastwards to the Town Bridge (10) and resume the walk in the Market Place.
The Town Bridge. Originating in the 13th Century, the river marks the boundary between the town borough and Mill Town End (corrupted over the years to Milton) tithing.
Dilly's Bridge was named after a favourite dog. This bridge has only been in place since the 1990s. The path continues south to The Roman Catholic Church.
Cross the bridge and turn north towards the town...
Where the path widens is Retort House which was the site of the old Gasworks of Fairford Gas and Coke Company from 1853-1972. More on the Gas Works.
At Back Lane turn left then right to the Market Place...
To the left is White Hart Court, the site of the one of the oldest pubs in Fairford from around 1475, it may have housed the masons and men building the Church. It closed in 1990.
Ahead of you can be seen the half timbered...
Post Office which was once the George Hotel. The hotel also served the town as a pub for several hundred years. It is said to have been built as a chantry chapel for the monks to say prayers for the souls of the Tame family. Between the George Hotel and the Bull was a Reading Room.
Next to it is the...
Bull Hotel, from the 15th Century – the centre building was probably a medieval wool guild hall. It was formerly a 'coaching inn' which was a stopping place for the coaches from London to Gloucester and had stabling for over the 30 horses. It was also well known as a centre for fly fishing along the River Coln.
Opposite the Bull Hotel, where the Co-op is now, was a large pub called 'The Swan' also a coaching inn.
Continue along London Street. Notice the very old houses, Tudor cottage is said to be the oldest dwelling in the town, These were burgage plots.
After the Plough is the Palmer Hall. The land was given by Arkells who own the Plough next door and the hall funded by Colonel Palmer of Fairford Park House in 1936. It was built on the site of the old Assembly Rooms. The b floor is said to have come from Huntley and Palmers' building in Reading Colonel Palmer was a director. Many a dance and theatrical production has been held there.
Further along London Street to the left set back is...
Fairford Library, this was originally the Infants' School and Primary School until 1989. The school was built near to the site of the Fairford workhouse (1773-1870) and opened in 1873 and the north wing served as the school until 1989. The extension that forms the main room of the Library echoes the Victorian school architecture. If the library is open call in and see the local history display and peruse the local information.
Hyperion House, a residential care home to the right was the former Vicarage from the 16h Century until 1946. It then became a hotel 'The Ivy Hotel' and later the house was named after the 1933 Derby winner – Hyperion which had proved very lucky for the owner.
Continuing along London Street towards and nearly opposite the Eight Bells pub is...
Keble House. Here was born John Keble, author of 'The Christian Year' and one of the founders of the Oxford Movement. Keble College, Oxford was named in his honour after his death. His father John Keble was Vicar of Coln St Aldwyns from 1782 -1835 and son John assisted his father in his duties while he was in failing health up to his death. John Keble's great great nephew Edward Keble, was Vicar of Fairford from 1946 until 1976 and lived in this house.
Turn up the narrow alley beside Keble House which comes out in...
'The Croft', The Croft was an area of 'common fields' where animals were grazed and kept before they went to the Market in the High Street.
Continue along the Croft, to the north was the site of the Congregational Church demolished in the 1960s.
Fairford Cottage Hospital is on your left, This was built by public subscription in 1887 to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria. The red brick came from Waiten Hill quarry. From the end of the 19th Century an annual Carnival was held in the town to raise money for the Cottage Hospital. At its peak this was a huge event and special trains and buses were run for visitors. It included a 'Cycle carnival' and 'Brass Band Contest.
On the north side of the Croft is Walnut Tree Field owned by the Ernest Cook Trust and run by Fairford Town Council for leisure activities. It was originally called 'Pigeon House Ground'.
The Dovecote can be seen to the north west of Walnut Tree Field. It is reputed to be medieval, and was an important food supply for the Fairford Park estate. It belongs to the Ernest Cook Trust and still has the original central column and nesting holes.
Continue along the Croft through the archway - a quaint feature of the town linking the commercial High Street to the ancient crofts - former cattle grazing area, reflecting the importance of the coaching era in the market town.
Opposite to the right is the...
Community Centre which was originally Farmor's School, established in 1738 at a cost of £543.8s 0d. It was named after one of the benefactresses, Elizabeth Farmor. In 1962 a new school was opened in Fairford Park. The old school subsequently became a library and Youth Centre until 2002 when it was bought jointly by Fairford Town Council and Parochial Church Council and was refurbished with the help of a Heritage Lottery grant. Notice the plaques on the side wall to two former headteachers.
Opposite the Community Centre is a Victorian building, the former Police Station and Magistrates Court. It was built in 1860 and functioned as a police station until the 1990s. It is now privately owned.
The Church of St Mary the Virgin was rebuilt on the site of an older church by John Tame, a medieval wool merchant. The Church was consecrated in 1497. It has the only complete set of medieval stained glass widows in Britain and are sometimes known as the poor man’s bible and also a wonderful set of misericords. More information can be found inside the Church. More on the Church windows.
As you walk around note the dry stone walls, which are typical of small Cotswold market towns. Built of local limestone using the skills of the ancient Romans they embody the very heart of the Cotswold landscape in simple beauty and construction, and a natural habitat of a whole world of plant and small wildlife.
© 2013 Fairford History Society