Fairford is a small town in Gloucestershire, England. The town lies in the Cotswolds on the River Coln, about 6 miles (9.7 km) east of Cirencester, 4 miles (6.4 km) west of Lechlade and 9 miles (14 km) north of Swindon. Nearby are RAF Fairford and the Cotswold Water Park.
Fairford has been a market town since 1135 when Henry I granted permission for a market on Tuesdays and Fridays. By 1260 a corn market had been well established. Charles II granted a revised charter in 1668 for a weekly market on Thursdays selling mainly cheese, milk, corn and livestock.
The market had become a monthly affair by the 19th century. In February 1873 a monthly corn and cattle market took place. This coincided with the opening of the railway at Fairford. In May of that year some 1,500 head of prime fat and store sheep were sold at market. Cattle, sheep and pigs continued to be sold until the First World War.
Fairford’s broad High Street and Town square are typical of an old market town. The streets are wide enough for sheep pens and tethered animals. The remains of iron rings can be seen in Park street where horses and bulls were tethered. The weighbridge was to be found in the road opposite the present War Memorial.
The market had declined by the mid 1930′s and came to an end. Today there is a popular Wednesday traders’ market which opened in 1986.
The centre of the town, excluding the estates to the East, is a Conservation Area.
Each year, RAF Fairford hosts the world’s largest military air show the Royal International Air Tattoo. The event brings a large boost to economy of the town and surrounding areas.
The town has a football club Fairford Town F.C., whose ground is at Cinder Lane.
The Ernest Cook Trust has its headquarters in Fairford Park, which also hosts the annual Fairford Steam Rally and Show.
In July 2007 Fairford suffered unseasonably high rainfall which led to major flooding of 64 homes on Milton Street and London Street as well as some other surrounding areas.
Fairford was formerly linked to Oxford by the Witney Railway and its extension the East Gloucestershire Railway.
The Church of England parish church of Saint Mary is renowned for its complete set of medieval stained glass, stone carvings and misericords. Built in the early 1490s, the church is an example of late Perpendicular Gothic architecture that is characterised by slim stone window mullions and light but strong buttresses. The style enabled larger windows than previously, allowing much more light into the building. Grade I listed , St. Mary’s is of national historical and architectural importance because it houses the most complete set of mediaeval stained glass windows in the country and its structure and details remains unaltered since originally built.
Fairford also has a 19th-century Catholic church of St Thomas of Canterbury. Following the closure of the recusant chapel at Hatherop Castle in 1844, a church was built at Horcott (Fairford) the following year at a cost of £700. The first Mass was celebrated in 1845, five years before the Restoration of the Hierarchy in England and before the creation of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Clifton. The stained glass window behind the altar depicts St. Thomas of Canterbury in the centre panel, showing the date 1845. The adjoining Presbytery was built 20 years later to designs by Benjamin Bucknall,the architect of Woodchester Mansion. The church contains an organ by Hill and stained glass by William Wailes, Hardman and Geoffrey Robinson. The two windows in the porch were added to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the first Mass. The left window depicts the crest of the de Mauley family; that on the right depicts the Eucharist.
The churchyard includes a stone memorial to Tiddles, the church cat who fell off the church roof. There is also a stone gargoyle to commemorate a young boy who climbed up the walls of the church and jumped, falling to his death.