Cirencester

Location.

Cirencester is uniquely located, as befits a Roman Town, at the intersection of a number of historic, and now classified A roads.

Aerial view of Cirencester
Cirencester from the Air

 

“The Capital of the Cotswolds”

  • It is on the intersection of the Fosseway and Ermin Street, the A429 & A419.
  • The motorways M4 (J 15) and M5 (J 11a) are each 15 minutes journey time.
  • Bath is 38 miles to the S.W. Cheltenham & Gloucester 14/20 miles to the NW, Oxford 29 miles due East and Swindon, with fast trains to Paddington (60mins) 23 miles South West.
  • Kemble (10mins) to the South also has direct Paddington connections (80 mins)
  • Marlborough is 27 miles (30 mins)
  • Bristol is 32 miles and Bristol Airport 47 miles (75mins)
  • Birmingham is 66 miles (60 mins) and Reading 47 miles (45mins)

In short, Cirencester is in a most attractive and wealthy catchment area at the centre of a District population of 80,000 where there are in excess of 2,000,000 residents within I hour driving time.

Cirencester Street Scene
Cirencester Street Scene

History.

Cirencester’s history is founded on two renaissances.

Firstly the Roman occupation (peaceable) in AD 43 saw it become the second largest Town in Britain ( Corinium Dobumorum) centred on the River Churn.

A large walled encampment, with 4 gates, developed on a grid system, around The Forum, with a market surrounded by colonnaded shops and a Basilica, close to the current intersection of Tower Street and The Avenue.  Further work saw the construction of Public Baths, one of the largest Amphitheatres in Europe, and roads laid to St Albans, Colchester & Lincoln, to the NE and Bath & Exeter to the SW. Until the end of the 4th Century Cirencester was the centre of the general wealth of the Cotswolds and known as the Capital of the Province of Britania Prima.

There then followed a period from the 5th Century, when Roman Rule ceased, which has been poorly chronicled.

There is Saxon evidence over the subsequent 400 years, but little until the Norman Conquest when the Royal Manor of Cirencester was granted to the Earl of Hereford, who was only a temporary custodian as it reverted to the Crown in 1075.

Henry I founded the Abbey in 1117, the biggest of 5 Augustian Houses in the Country, which dominated the Town. Its land stretched from Frome, Somerset to Winchester, and Northwards to Pulham in Northamptonshire. At some stage it is believed the lands reached Lincoln (Mercia).

The magnificent Abbey church was completed in 1176, and remains today as a most impressive edifice and tribute to the dedication, finances and craftsmen available at that time.

The Second Renaissance of Cirencester was in the 15/16 / 17th Centuries and founded largely on the proceeds of sheep rearing, wool sales, weaving and cloth making. In this the merchants of Cirencester certainly prospered and their labours were well regarded in both England and abroad with “Cirencester cloth” highly prized. This further encouraged the development of the Town with fine Cotswold Houses built in Dollar Street, Coxwell Street, Thomas Street and Dyer Street. This era of prosperity was rudely interrupted by the Civil War, with the townsfolk supporting the Parliamentarians, and the gentry and clergy the Royalist Order. The Town was first taken by the Royalists in 1643, but they were finally defeated in 1645 with the King being executed in 1649.

1660 saw the Monarchy restored (and order) and trade continued apace. Two main private estates were created around this time. Originally resulting from the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539 these lands passed into the hands of favoured Courtiers. The Oakley Estate came into the hands of the Bathurst family in 1695 and the Master family (later Chestermaster from 1742) acquiring the “Abbey Estates”

Following the decline of the Wool trade, Cirencester became the centre of a thriving Corn trade, which itself then generated demand for banking and other mercantile services. The Town as we know it today took shape in the early 1800’s with permanent shops, street layouts, drains and sewers, paving and general order with street cleaners and police employed. Gas supplies for lighting, mains water followed by the 1830’s. In 1850 the railways arrived, locomotive works were established as well as an extensive cattle yard and the new Corn Hall opened in the Market Place in 1863.

Sir Gilbert Scott built the Holy Trinity Church and Daniel Bingham gifted the Town with The Bingham Library (1905) and the Bingham Hall (1908). From 1894 the Urban District Council assumed increasing powers and was replaced 80 years later by Cotswold District Council and Cirencester Town Council in 1974. The format of the Town its layout and future evolution was thus set and has continued to this day.

Industry, retail and offices have sprung up, developed and prospered and as a result the Town has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the Country (2.5%)

There are currently 336 shops, Banks, Building Societies, Coffee Shops, Bars and Restaurants, with the vast majority (75 %) owned and run by local individuals.

The most recent survey carried out shows:

  • Banks, Building Societies &Insurance Brokers 11,
  • Private Shops 126,
  • Cafes Bars, Restaurants & Pubs 41,
  • Hairdressers 21,
  • Estate Agents & Solicitors 24,
  • Multiple Retailers 57,
  • Opticians, Dental, Health & Beauty, 14,
  • Charity Shops 15,
  • Sundry (Gyms, Library, Job Centre, Post Office, Night Club etc) 27.

There are currently only 13 Shops/ Bars available to rent in the Town representing a current occupation of 96.13%, well above the National median.