Cirencester (Roman Corinium Dobunorum) was founded by the Romans in AD 75 as an administrative centre for local British tribes from the Cotswolds and Mendips, known as the Dobunni. Corinium Dobunorum later grew to become the second largest Roman town in Britain after Londinium (London). The town stands on an important intersection of the old Roman Fosse Way, on the eastern slops of the Cotswold hills.
Church of St John the Baptist © TAB
Very little of the original Roman town now remains, except for a grass covered amphitheatre, located to the south-east of the town (open to the public). Today Cirencester enables visitors to experience the richness of the Cotswolds at its very best, and never more so than in 'Arlington Row' in nearby Bilbury.
The town's shining glory is its cathedral-like parish church of St John the Baptist, built on the wealth of the wool trade in the 15/16th centuries. Its mellow gold and grey stonework is elaborately carved and topped with splendid pinnacles, above which rises a spectacular 120-foot square tower with massive supporting buttresses.
The centre of Cirencester is a maze of fascinating streets, lined with quaint old houses, workmen's cottages, alms houses and 17th century bow fronted shops. In particular, the town centre (around Market Place, Dyer St and Castle St) contains some of the finest 17/18th century buildings, constructed of richly coloured time mellowed stonework, making Cirencester a complete joy to amble around, for both the historian and layman alike.
The traditional open-air town market has been trading from as far back as 1086 (as mentioned in the Domesday Book). Located in the centre of the town, opposite the church, it still runs regular weekly markets. The town also has excellent shopping facilities, with many antique shops, lovely tea shops and restaurants. Adequate parking is within easy walking distance and there is also a good selection of Hotels and Guest Houses.
The town also lies near the village of Kemble, where the mighty Thames (the longest river in England) begins its long journey to London.
Tourist Information Centre:
|Corinium Museum, Park Street, Cirencester GL7 2BX - Tel: 01285 654180|
This award-winning museum (purpose built in 1938) contains an impressive collection of Roman relics found in Cirencester and the surrounding areas; set in modern well-lit galleries. The museum's prize exhibits are two exquisite mosaics, one depicting the Four Seasons which was found in Dyer Street in 1849 and another bearing the motif of Orpheus and the Beasts, discovered in Beeches Road in 1971. A life-size replica of a Roman stone-cutter's shop explains how such mosaics were created and maintained.
The museum also contains fine examples of provincial Roman sculpture, inscriptions, glass, metalwork, pottery and samian-ware. In fact the collection of Roman artifacts is one of the most important in Britain, ranking with those found in Silchester and St Albans. The museum also provides a range of hands-on activities for children.
Opening times: Mon-Sat 10am to 5pm , Sun 2 to 5 (4pm winter) (closed Xmas). Admission Charge
Location: Park St, Cirencester GL7 2BX - Tel: 01285 655611 - Website
Facilities: shop and café, disabled access and toilets, baby changing facilities.
Excavated remains of one of the Britain's largest Roman amphitheatres, yet discovered. Constructed around 200 AD, it was large enough to seat 8,000 spectators. The mound was later used as a defensive fortification against the invading Saxons. Managed by English Heritage and open to the public.
Opening times: any reasonable
time Free Access
Location: Access via Cotswold Avenue
A fine Norman arch is all that remains of the once magnificent abbey, built during the reign of Henry II. The old abbey grounds, now a public park located to the rear of the parish church, provides a tranquil and attractive setting, with the river Churn winding through its well kept lawns into a large lake populated by swans and wildfowl.