Moreton-in-Marsh

The famous Fosse Way is a good starting point for Moreton-in-Marsh. This long, straight road is one of the great relics of the Roman occupation of Britain, and it's still a wonderful way to follow. And where the Fosse Way and the A44 meet, you will discover Moreton-in-Marsh - and it's one of the prettiest sights that you will find, among many attractive vistas.

Of course, any tourists who've cast half an eye on the past fortunes of the Cotswolds, will already have guessed it to be one of the ubiquitous wool towns. But this town had another string to its bow - it was also a famous linen-weaving centre.

Many a stagecoach would stop here, on its way, perhaps, to London. Certainly any traders arriving in the town were made quickly aware of the charges such a stop would incur. The old toll board details the cost of every activity imaginable: "The Undermentioned Tolls Will be charged in the Market Town of Moreton-in-Marsh on all market, fair and other days on and after this date. Roundabouts driven by steam prohibited".

It then goes on, "For every Roundabout driven by a pony, 5's to 6's per day" down to a hand cart at 3d. You can still see the board on the High Street wall of the Curfew Tower, probably the town's oldest building. It dates back to the 16th Century.

Once upon a time, trade must indeed have been brisk, and many would have got more than their money back with the custom they would find here. For it was once the meeting point for four counties - two miles away to the east, on the A44, there is still to be found the Four Shires Stone. In fact, the word "marsh" relates to the old word, "march", meaning boundary.

Like Stow-on-the-Wold, Moreton-in-Marsh has not been a stranger to royalty. It was an important town during the English Civil War, and King Charles I was said to have rested, briefly, at the town's White Hart Inn. This is in spite of the fact that the inn bears the inscription, "T Rache facit 1782" - long after the King's head left his shoulders. But the tradition is a strong one, and even the date of the overnight stop is written in lore - July 2, 1644.

Whatever the truth of the matter, the beleagured King was not sight-seeing at the time, for sure; but he couldn't have picked a better place, if he had been. It's a lovely town from which to explore the rest of the Cotswolds, and it still has a choice of accommodation for tourists.

The town centre, full of 18th and 19th Century buildings, is a treat - you couldn't wish for much more from Gloucestershire. And tucked away, there are some much older structures too. The bell in the Curfew Tower is dated 1633 and, once, its far-sounding peals would have been used to summon the local fire brigade.

Luckily, they would mostly have been called upon to put out the odd chimney fire for, as with many of these fire-fighting teams, they needed a fair amount of notice before they actually managed to arrive at the scene of the "conflagration". As one local said, "Most people with a fire needed to keep it going themselves if they wanted the local fire fighters to deal with it."

The bell also used to be rung every morning and evening until 1860. This was because its one-time benefactor, Sir Robert Fry, announced that its ringing helped him to get home during the fog.

The "curfew" after which the tower is named, dates back to Norman times when a bell announced to residents that it was time to "cover fire" for the night. Another historic building worth looking out for is the town goal.

There are two unusual museums in the town. One, at Aston Magna, specialises in farm equipment and folk memorabilia, and the other, at Broadway Road, is the Wellington Aviation Art museum.

This is a haven for World War II enthusiasts, offering paintings, prints and models, and aircraft history, with proceeds to the RAF Benevolent Fund.

Moreton-in-Marsh is a town that has grown quite considerably over fairly recent times, but, unlike many other similar centres, its planners have guided it with a rare wisdom. They have kept at the heart of any new buildings the old Cotswold style that has made it, truly, as pretty as a picture

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