Cirencester (GL7), located in Gloucestershire, is the largest town in the Cotswolds. The town dates back to the Roman period, and during the 2nd Century it was the second largest town in Britain (behind London), covering 240 acres.
Shortly after the Romans settled in England, a fort was built next to the River Churn. It wasn’t long before a civilian settlement grew up near the fort, with the soldiers in the fort providing a market for goods made by the townspeople until the fort was dismantled.
In the late 1st Century, the town was rebuilt and enlarged. The streets were laid out in a grid pattern and a marketplace was built. The Romans also built an amphitheatre at Cirencester where people could watch wrestling and Roman sports like cock fighting and bear baiting.
However, when Roman rule was coming to an end, civilians left the town meaning that by 577AD, when the Saxons had captured Cirencester, the town became a small village of wooden huts. Little is known about the town during the Saxon era, but it is believed that the village grew in importance over the Saxon period.
Sometime before 1086 a popular local market began being held in Cirencester. In 1117, King Henry I founded Cirencester Abbey and building work began to build a new church and monastery at Cirencester. The work took several years, with the Abbey being completed in 1176. Although the Abbey was not completed until 1176, the buildings were so far advanced that in 1131 the first Abbot was installed and became Lord of the Manor of Cirencester, controlling much of life in the town.
At the beginning of the Middle Ages, the church also ran ‘hospitals’, where monks would look after the poor and sick. This was the only ‘hospital’ in the town until the 12th Century, when the Hospital of St Lawrence was built.
Cirencester was an important town, with a prosperous wool industry. At one stage, the very best cloth to be found in Europe was from Cirencester. In 1215 and 1253 the abbot was given the right to hold wool fairs, with many foreign merchants coming to the town to buy wool at the fairs. As the town became wealthier, the community began to benefit with money available to expand the local parish church and a grammar school being founded in the mid-1400s.
In 1539, as part of the dissolution of the monasteries, Henry VIII closed Cirencester Abbey. The buildings of the Abbey were destroyed and today only the Norman arch remains.
The 17th Century saw the development of two private estates around the town, the Oakley estate and Abbey House. The Abbey House estate has since been demolished and is now a parkland for the town. However, the Oakley estate still exists to this day.
The 18th Century saw the decline of the wool trade. The Cirencester Branch of the Thames and Severn Canal opened in 1789, followed by the railway reaching the town in 1841.
By the 19th Century, the main industries in Cirencester included making farm tools, a bacon curing industry and flour milling, with the Royal Agricultural College being founded in 1845 by Henry 4th Earl Bathurst. During the 19th Century several improvements were made to the town, with the Lord of the Manor, the Earl of Bathurst and Miss Jane Master, owner of the Abbey Estate, setting up a Commission to improve the living and working conditions of people in the town.
Over the 20th Century, the town continued to grow rapidly. From a population of around 8,000 in 1901, the town had grown to 15,000 in 1971.
Today Cirencester is home to around 19,000 people, with tourism being the town’s most important industry.
Cirencester’s Roman amphitheatre is one of the largest known surviving amphitheatres in Britain.
The amphitheatre is oval and has an entrance at each end of the long axis. There was tiered seating as well as an area for standing spectators, and it is estimated that the capacity was around 8,000 people.
Originally built in the 2nd Century AD, when games used to be held in the amphitheatre, when the Roman rule of Britain came to an end, it became a fortress for the local community. The entrances were narrowed, and a ditch was dug around the southern side. However, the town did eventually fall to the Saxons leading to the amphitheatre being abandoned for several centuries.
Today, only part of the amphitheatre (by the Eastern entrance) has been excavated. The park on Cotswold Avenue also retains the shape of part of the amphitheatre buried beneath it.
Cirencester Park Country House
The Country House mansion at Cirencester Park was built by the 1st Earl Bathurst in the early 1700s, with both the poet Alexander Pope and author Jonathan Swift having been visitors.
The Grade II* listed mansion, which remains in the family today, was built on the foundations of the original Tudor-Jacobean house, known as Oakley Grove.
Sir Robert Smirke made some later additions and alterations to the house in around 1830, including extending part of the ground floor of the house.
Rodmarton Manor is a large country house, built in the Arts and Crafts architectural style. It was built in the early 20th Century, between 1909 and 1929 for the Biddulph family.
The Grade I listed building was designed by Ernest Barnsley and is made up of three wings, with casement windows, which are angled around a central courtyard.
During World War II, the house was used as an evacuation point for a London Catholic school, and as a maternity house. In 1954, the east wing was then converted into flats.
Timber Windows in Cirencester (GL7)
Cirencester is home to several period properties built using Cotswold stone and with traditional wooden windows. Both sash windows and casement windows can be found across the town, with multiple conversation areas covering many of the town’s historic buildings.
Cirencester is home to over 400 listed buildings, with the Cirencester Town Centre Conservation Area in particular being home to a large number of listed buildings.
At The Sash Window Workshop, we have extensive experience manufacturing, installing and draught proofing traditional timber windows in period properties. We have carried out various work to windows and doors in and around Cirencester (GL7) and, when required, we can comply with conservation area and listed building regulations.