WITH a population of just under 20,000, Cirencester is one of the biggest small towns in the country. The town is visited by thousands of tourists every single year looking to discover Cirencester’s Roman history for them.
But, like every town in the UK, Cirencester has a number of tales from its past that you may not know about.
Here are 10 facts about Cirencester that have been designed to help you out when the conversation at the pub looks like it is about to dry up.
1) Joe makes it in to the history books
Cirencester’s current mayor Joe Harris became the country’s youngest ever county councillor. At just 20-years-old, he won the most votes in the Cirencester Park ward election to take his seat in Shire Hall. He said: “It’s a sobering thought to think that people have put their faith in me.”
2) Heads or tails
When a tie occurs in an election, it is said that the two drawing candidates must toss a coin. The first time this ever happened was in a by-election in Cirencester in 1892. The Conservative Party candidate and the Liberal Party candidate received exactly the same number of votes. However, the coin toss method was shunned in favour of holding another election with the Liberals winning that one.
Former workers at Cirencester’s King’s Head Hotel have reported sightings of a number of ghoulish guests. People claim to have seen the spectre of a man tortured by the Romans walking around the site, which dates back to the 16th century. It has also been said that one member of staff resigned from her post after coming face to face with a phantom monk.
4) Tombs found in Watermoor
Cirencester is well known as the second largest town in Roman Britain. But those living in the Watermoor area of the town may be unaware that the tombs of two auxiliary cavalrymen have been discovered nearby. The tombs are said to belong to Genialis of the Thracian and Danicus of Indus’ Horse.
5) King Henry VIII leaves his mark on Cirencester
In 1549, King Henry VIII ordered that Cirencester Abbey, which at the time was 400 years old, was pulled down. The rubble from the demolition was used in the town’s new buildings. The King sold the site but kept the valuable assets such as jewels, ornaments and the lead from the roof for himself.
6) Gladiators battle it out in the Amphitheatre
One of Cirencester’s greatest Roman treasures is the near-perfect remains of an amphitheatre. The oval-shaped arena, which 2,000 years ago was known as the Bull Ring, was used for staging beast fights and gruesome and gory gladiator battles.
7) Forerunner to the Wilts and Glos
Long before the Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard was established as Cirencester residents’ favourite read, the town was covered by a different newspaper. The Cirencester Flying Post was set up at the start of the 18th century and was the only source of news for people in the area. The Standard was founded in Malmesbury in 1837 before moving to Cirencester three years later.
8) Home of the country’s tallest hedge
The 300-year-old yew hedge surrounding the Bathurst Estate is over 40 ft tall and is also the tallest one in the country. It takes around 80 man hours for a team of two to give the hedge its annual short, back and sides. The clippings are sent to a pharmaceutical factory they are used to make a cancer fighting drug.
9) World’s oldest farming university
The Royal Agricultural University was set up in 1842 and was the first agricultural college in the English speaking world. The idea for the college was born following a meeting of the Fairford and Cirencester Farmers Club, members were concerned by the lack of government funding for farming education. A prospectus was circulated and the Earl Bathurst was elected as president.
10) Cirencester in the Second World War
Like the rest of Britain, Cirencester began preparing for the Second World War in 1938, a year before fighting broke out. During the war, no less than 240 high-explosive bombs fell on Cirencester and the surrounding villages. Around 2,000 children from London and other major cities, along with many foreign refugees, were evacuated to Cirencester.
Did we miss your favourite Cirencester fact? Let us know in the comments below.