Northleach

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Northleach is a small Cotswold market town in Gloucestershire, England. It constitutes the major part of the civil parish of Northleach with Eastington. Northleach is in the Cotswolds AONB.

The town is close to the A40 main road, and the Fosseway, now the A429, The brook “the Leach” runs part-way through. The town was made wealthy by the medieval wool trade of the 15th century, and the main church is of impressive size and quality in reflection of this fact. The road which became the A40 ran through the town, and as the main road between Oxford and Cheltenham it contributed greatly to the town’s development. The town was bypassed in the mid 1980s, only after vibration damage had been detected in some of the fine 15th – 18th century houses on the main road.

The town has three pubs: The Sherborne Arms, The Red Lion Inn, and The Wheatsheaf Inn. There is also a Sports and Social Club, a Snooker and Billiards club, a Mechanical Music museum, art and antique shops, a butchers, a bakers, a takeaway, a wine bar and other retail shops.

The Church of St Peter and St Paul in Northleach is known as The Cathedral of the Cotswolds and is a wool church. The church dates from the early 12th century, and was built on the foundations of on an earlier building, also believed to have been a church. The church was built with stone dug from the quarry in the town itself and what is now the Market Square. The 12th century version was simple, consisting little more than an aisle. That the chancels were a later addition is immediately apparent from the south eastern quoins visible in the Bicknell Chapel. Other changes have also left their mark. The scar on the steeply pitched roof of the tower wall indicates that the south aisle was widened twice. The overall style of the present church is known as the Late Medieval “Glass Cage” type in which the structure of the church is of less importance than the large, traceried stained-glass windows.

The present chancel was built in the 14th century, followed by the nave, aisles and sacristy in the 15th century. The finely decorated two-storey south porch, with a pinnacled bell-cote surmounting it, was added circa 1480. The overall style of the present church is known as the Late Medieval Glass Cage type in which the structure of the church is of less importance than the large, traceried stained glass windows. The church features an array of brasses commemorating the wool merchants and benefactors whose wealth was derived from the local wool industry and invested in the church.

The modest size of the town of Northleach belies its former importance. The Abbey of Gloucester owned the area from AD 800, granting the town a charter in 1220 to hold a weekly market. The town was transformed by the wool trade and in 1340 to 1540 it flourished as the centre of a large sheep-rearing area.

The town celebrates “St Peterstide” every year.

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