John Hannavy wonders what Cricklade did to upset William Cobbett
PUBLISHED: 11:48 26 April 2010 | UPDATED: 17:05 20 February 2013
William Cobbett, writing in his Rural Rides in 1821 was not impressed by Cricklade! 'I passed through that villainous hole Cricklade about two hours ago', he wrote, 'and certainly a more rascally looking place I never set my eyes on'.
William Cobbett, writing in his Rural Rides in 1821 was not impressed by Cricklade! I passed through that villainous hole Cricklade about two hours ago, he wrote, and certainly a more rascally looking place I never set my eyes on. One wonders why! Wiltshires most northerly town is a charming little place. It is nothing like as heavily overrun by tourists as some of its more popular neighbours and a lot less overwhelmed by traffic.
1 Town Centre
The town centre is dominated by buildings from the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the finest at the southern end of the High Street. Robert Jenners School signposted as Jenner Hall and now the Parish Hall was founded by a London goldsmith in 1651. A Saxon town in origin, historians have noted that the Saxon measurement of 33 feet for a house frontage is still evident in many of the surviving 18th- and 19th-century buildings.
2 Eating, Drinking and Sleeping
With an assortment of lively pubs and restaurants, visitors to Cricklade have an enviable choice of places to eat, from good quality conventional pub food to Indian and Thai. For overnight stays, the Cricklade Hotel and Country Club is just outside the town, while the White Hart Hotel is in the High Street. A little further afield is the 4-star Best Western Blunsdon House Hotel.
3 The Church of St Sampson
The magnificent tower of St Sampsons dominates the countryside. Built on the site of a Saxon church, the present building dates predominantly from the 13th century, with the addition of the stunning 16th-century tower, whose elegant carved stonework inside takes the breath away.
4 St Marys Church
The towns other medieval church, at the opposite end of the High Street, was much modified in the 19th century, but its 13th-century origins are still visible.
5 The Jubilee Clock
Horribly obscured by road signs and lamp posts, Cricklades Jubilee Clock was erected in 1898 to commemorate Queen Victorias Diamond Jubilee. Once a common sight in British and Empire towns, these clocks are now something of a rarity.
6 Cricklade Historical Museum
An interesting little museum, just a short walk from the town centre and run by the Cricklade Historical Society, it chronicles the towns history from the Romans to more recent times.
7 Cotswold Water Park
Covering 40 square miles of Wiltshire and Gloucestershire, the Cotswold Water Park offers a wide range of sporting and leisure activities, as well as the chance to see many species of bird and plant life.
8 The Swindon and Cricklade Railway
This is the only standard-gauge steam railway in Wiltshire, but it doesnt go to either Swindon or Cricklade, although the northern terminus of the track is tantalisingly close! A further mile and a quarter of track needs to be relaid before Cricklade can boast a railway station once again. The railway starts from Blunsdon Station, which just to confuse everyone, isnt actually in Blunsdon! Once there and the signage is poor the railway is a delight. The track has already been laid south towards Swindon, and it is hoped to open part of that section next year to mark the 175th anniversary of the Great Western Railway.
Roman Cricklade was protected by earthworks, which archaeologists have traced around the perimeter of the old town, but are invisible to the likes of us. Roman Ermine Street from Calleva (Silchester) to Corinium (Cirencester) took a bit of a detour to include the river crossing in the flood plain just north of Cricklade. The site of a Roman villa (not excavated) has been identified to the right of the A419 just south-east of the town. Further information is available in the museum.
10 Britain in Bloom
Even the large signs which welcome drivers to the town celebrate its successes in the annual Britain in Bloom competitions, and the Town Councils office windows display its most recent successes, including the overall winner in the 2008 Small Town category. The town is a riot of colour when judging is due.