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Wednesday, 01 January 2020

Travels to England's Cotswolds: An Architectural Tour

Written by Emily and Russ Firlik
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There is More to the Cotswolds than Rolling Hills and Grazing Sheep: 5,000 Years of History and Architecture in the Cotswolds of England

Many years ago we lived in Oxfordshire, England, and our daughter was born in a little village near Oxford. This year we revisited our old stamping grounds in and around Oxfordshire, as well as the rest of the Cotswolds region in England.

The Cotswolds have a very Beatrix Potter feel - No, they are not located in the lakes region, and you will not find Jemima, Peter, or Squirrel Nutkin. However, you will find hedgerows, Ha Ha’s, stiles and thorps that are reminiscent of her region. Pastoral villages with names like Burford, Chipping Norton, Morton on the Marsh and Great Rissington dot this storybook land.

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Buried among the warm golden-honey bedrock of Jurassic limestone are those massive areas of rolling hills, and sheep grazing in the meadows. It is the home of the most unspoilt historic and famous towns and villages in England. We discovered five thousand years of historical and architectural treasures within this fascinating central region that runs southwest to northeast through six counties.

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The Cotswolds are a vast 800 square miles that include the counties of Oxfordshire, Gloucester, Somerset, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, and the corners of Wiltshire. This 25 mile wide and 102 mile long area makes up this beautiful area.

Our first task was to hire a small vehicle, and take our time to learn to drive on the left side of the road. After a week of driving on single lanes and “B” roads, the driving experience became less of a chore and more of an adventure. For the remaining three months we drove over 4,500 miles and visited over 60 villages, towns, hamlets and cities. Churches, buildings, ancient ruins and barns from 4300 BCE to 1920 were recorded and photographed.

We learned about the architectural styles of each period and the characteristics of each one. We were overjoyed to find more than one example of each period, and in most cases we found several examples.

Some of the finest traditional barns are located in the Cotswolds. The tithe barn in Middle Littleton is particularly well preserved, and dates to the 13th century. We found more Romanesque - Norman churches and structures than any other period. More Perpendicular Gothic churches than Early English or Decorated. More Tudor sites than Elizabethan; more Jacobean than Stuart; more Georgian than Palladian; more Victorian than Regency or Edwardian.

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Romanesque - NORMAN 1066- 1190 - Charlbury village and St. Mary the Virgin Church 

We explored so much of the area that is just waiting to be discovered. Hopefully, this article will be an incentive for slow-travelers, baby boomers, and anyone who might have a curious sense of history and a keen interest in the beauty of the architectural periods. All of these inspirations are smack in the Cotswolds region.

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What follows is a more detailed explanation of the architecture of each period with some of the major sites noted. We have also tried to identify major noticeable features of each period.

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Last modified on Thursday, 02 January 2020

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