Cirencester (/ˈsaɪrənsɛstər/ ( listen), occasionally
/ˈsɪstər/ ( listen); see below for more variations) is
a market town in east Gloucestershire, England, 93 miles (150 km)
west northwest of London.
Cirencester lies on the River Churn, a
tributary of the River Thames, and is the largest town in the Cotswold
District. It is the home of the Royal Agricultural University, the
oldest agricultural college in the English-speaking world, founded in
1840. The town's
Corinium Museum is well known for its extensive Roman
collection. The Roman name for the town was Corinium, which is thought
to have been associated with the ancient British tribe of the Dobunni,
having the same root word as the River Churn. The earliest known
reference to the town was by
Ptolemy in AD 150.
Cirencester is twinned with Itzehoe, Germany.
1 Local geography
2.1 Roman Corinium
2.2 Post-Roman and Saxon times
2.3 Norman times
2.4 Tudor times
2.5 During the Civil War
2.6 Recent history
3 Local politics
5 Leisure and entertainment
5.1 Sites of interest
8 Notable people
11 External links
Cirencester lies on the lower dip slopes of the Cotswold Hills, an
outcrop of oolitic limestone. Natural drainage is into the River
Churn, which flows roughly north to south through the eastern side of
the town and joins the
Cricklade a little to the south.
Thames itself rises just a few miles west of Cirencester.
The town is split into five main areas: the town centre, the suburbs
of Chesterton, Stratton (originally villages outside the town),
Watermoor and The Beeches. The village of Siddington to the south of
the town is now almost contiguous with Watermoor. Other suburbs
include Bowling Green and New Mills.The area and population of these 5
electoral wards are identical to that quoted above. The town serves as
a centre for surrounding villages, providing employment, amenities,
shops, commerce and education, and as a commuter town for larger
centres such as Cheltenham,
Swindon and Stroud.
Cirencester is the hub of a significant road network with important
Leamington Spa (A429),
Oxford (A40 via the B4425 road),
Chippenham (A429), Bristol, Bath (A433), and
Stroud (A419). However,
only Gloucester, Cheltenham,
Swindon have slow bus
connections. These good roads bring the town passing trade. Although
the ring road and bypass take traffic away from the town centre, both
roads have busy service areas with adequate parking.
Since closure of the Kemble to
Cirencester branch line to Cirencester
Town in 1964 the town has become one of the largest in the region
without its own rail station. However Kemble railway station, 4 miles
away, serves as a railhead. It provides regular services between
Swindon and Gloucester, with peak-time direct trains to London
The nearest airports are
Cotswold Airport at Kemble,
London (Heathrow) and Birmingham.
Main article: Corinium Dobunnorum
Cirencester is known to have been an important early Roman area, along
St. Albans and Colchester, and the town includes evidence of
significant area roadworks. The Romans built a fort where the Fosse
Way crossed the Churn, to hold two quingenary alae tasked with helping
to defend the provincial frontier around AD 49, and native Dobunni
were drawn from Bagendon, a settlement 3 miles (5 km) to the
north, to create a civil settlement near the fort. When the frontier
moved to the north after the conquest of Wales, this fort was closed
and its fortifications levelled around the year 70, but the town
persisted and flourished under the name Corinium Dobunnorum.
Even in Roman times, there was a thriving wool trade and industry,
which contributed to the growth of Corinium. A large forum and
basilica were built over the site of the fort, and archaeological
evidence shows signs of further civic growth. There are many Roman
remains in the surrounding area, including several Roman villas near
the villages of
Chedworth and Withington. When a wall was built around
the Roman city in the late 2nd century, it enclosed 240 acres
(1 km²), making Corinium the second-largest city by area in
Britain. The details of the provinces of Britain following the
Diocletian Reforms around 296 remain unclear, but Corinium is now
generally thought to have been the capital of Britannia Prima. Some
historians would date to this period the pillar erected by the
governor Lucius Septimus to the god Jovian, a local sign of the pagan
reaction against Christianity during the principate of Julian the
Post-Roman and Saxon times
The Roman amphitheatre
The Roman amphitheatre still exists in an area known as the Querns to
the south-west of the town, but has only been partially excavated.
Investigations in the town show that it was fortified in the 5th or
Andrew Breeze argued that
Gildas received his later
Cirencester in the early 6th century, showing that it was
still able to provide an education in Latin rhetoric and law at that
time. Possibly this was the palace of one of the British kings
defeated by Ceawlin in 577. It was later the scene of the Battle of
Cirencester, this time between the Mercian king Penda and the West
Saxon kings Cynegils and Cwichelm in 628.
The minster church of Cirencester, founded in the 9th or 10th century,
was probably a royal foundation. It was made over to Augustinian
canons in the 12th century, and replaced by the great abbey church.
At the Norman Conquest the royal manor of
Cirencester was granted to
the Earl of Hereford, William Fitz-Osbern, but by 1075 it had reverted
to the Crown. The manor was granted to
Cirencester Abbey, founded by
Henry I in 1117, and following half a century of building work during
which the minster church was demolished, the great abbey church was
finally dedicated in 1176. The manor was granted to the Abbey in 1189,
although a royal charter dated 1133 speaks of burgesses in the town.
The struggle of the townsmen to gain the rights and privileges of a
Cirencester probably began in the same year, when they
were amerced for a false presentment.[clarification needed] Four
inquisitions during the 13th century supported the abbot's claims, yet
the townspeople remained unwavering in their quest for borough status:
in 1342, they lodged a Bill of complaint in Chancery. Twenty
townspeople were ordered to Westminster, where they declared under
oath that successive abbots had bought up many burgage tenenments, and
made the borough into an appendage of the manor, depriving it of its
separate court. They claimed that the royal charter that conferred on
the men of
Cirencester the liberties of Winchester had been destroyed
50 years earlier, when the abbot had bribed the burgess who held the
charter to give it to him, whereupon the abbot had had it burned. In
reply, the abbot refuted these claims, and the case passed on to the
King's Bench. When ordered to produce the foundation charter of his
abbey the abbot refused, apparently because that document would be
fatal to his case, and instead played a winning card. In return for a
fine of £300, he obtained a new royal charter confirming his
privileges and a writ of supersedeas.
Yet the townspeople continued in their fight: in return for their aid
to the Crown against the earls of Kent and Salisbury, Henry IV in 1403
gave the townsmen a
Guild Merchant[clarification needed], although two
inquisitions reiterated the abbot's rights. The struggle between the
abbot and the townspeople continued, with the abbot's privileges
confirmed in 1408‑1409 and 1413, and in 1418 the abbot finally
removed this thorn in his side when the guild merchant was annulled,
and in 1477 parliament declared that
Cirencester was not corporate.
After several unsuccessful attempts to re-establish the guild
merchant, in 1592 the government of the town was vested in the bailiff
of the lord of the manor.
As part of the
Dissolution of the Monasteries
Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539, Henry VIII
ordered the total demolition of the Abbey buildings. Today only the
Norman Arch and parts of the precinct wall remain above ground,
forming the perimeter of a public park in the middle of town. Despite
this, the freedom of a borough continued to elude the townspeople, and
they only saw the old lord of the manor replaced by a new lord of the
manor as the King acquired the abbey's title.
Sheep rearing, wool sales, weaving and woollen broadcloth and
cloth-making were the main strengths of England's trade in the Middle
Ages, and not only the abbey but many of Cirencester's merchants and
clothiers gained wealth and prosperity from the national and
international trade. The tombs of these merchants can be seen in the
parish church, while their fine houses of
Cotswold stone still stand
in and around Coxwell Street and Dollar Street. Their wealth funded
the rebuilding of the nave of the parish church in 1515–30, to
create the large parish church, often referred to as the "Cathedral of
the Cotswolds". Other wool churches can be seen in neighbouring
Northleach and Chipping Campden.
During the Civil War
English Civil War
English Civil War came to
Cirencester in February 1643 when
Royalists and Parliamentarians came to blows in the streets. Over 300
were killed, and 1,200 prisoners were held captive in the church. The
townsfolk supported the Parliamentarians but gentry and clergy were
for the old order, so that when Charles I of
England was executed in
1649 the minister, Alexander Gregory, wrote on behalf of the gentry in
the parish register, "O
England what did'st thou do, the 30th of this
At the end of the
English Civil War
English Civil War King Charles II spent the night of
11 September 1651 in Cirencester, during his escape after the Battle
of Worcester on his way to France.
At the end of the 18th century
Cirencester was a thriving market town,
at the centre of a network of turnpike roads with easy access to
markets for its produce of grain and wool. A local grammar school
provided education for those who could afford it, and businesses
thrived in the town, which was the major urban centre for the
Cotswold stone buildings in Castle Street
In 1789 the opening of a branch of the
Thames and Severn Canal
provided access to markets further afield, by way of a link through
the River Thames. In 1841 a branch railway line was opened to Kemble
to provide a link to the
Great Western Railway
Great Western Railway at Swindon. The Midland
and South Western Junction Railway opened a station at Watermoor in
Cirencester thus was served by two railway lines until the
The loss of canal and the direct rail link encouraged dependency on
road transport. An inner ring road system was completed in 1975 in an
attempt to reduce congestion in the town centre, which has since been
augmented by an outer bypass with the expansion of the A417 road.
Coaches depart from London Road for
Victoria Bus Station
Victoria Bus Station in central
London and Heathrow Airport, taking advantage of the M4 Motorway.
Kemble Station to the west of the town, distinguished by a sheltered
garden, is served by fast trains from
Paddington station via Swindon.
In 1894 the passing of the Local Government Act brought at last into
existence Cirencester's first independent elected body, the Urban
District Council. The reorganisation of the local governments in 1974
replaced the Urban District Council with the present two-tier system
Cotswold District Council
Cotswold District Council and
Cirencester Town Council. A concerted
effort to reduce overhead wiring and roadside clutter has given the
town some picturesque streetscenes. Many shops cater to tourists and
many house family businesses.
Under the patronage of the Bathurst family, the
notably Sapperton, became a major centre for the Arts and Crafts
movement in the Cotswolds, when the furniture designer and
Ernest Gimson opened workshops in the early 20th
century, and Norman Jewson, his foremost student, practised in the
The Liberal Democrats are the dominant political party in Cirencester,
gaining all 8
Cirencester seats available on
Cotswold District Council
in May 2015; despite this, the Conservative Party still have an
overall majority on the District Council. The Liberal Democrats
also took 13 out of 15 seats on
Town Council at the 2015
local elections; rather than forming a political group, all
Councillors agreed to work apolitically. The Liberal Democrats won the
two County Council seats in the 2013 local elections. As of May 2017,
the Mayor of
Cirencester is Cllr Nigel Robbins.
Liberal Democrat candidate Joe Harris, aged 18, was elected for
Cirencester Park Ward in May 2011, and became the youngest Councillor
in the country. In 2013 he became the youngest Mayor in British
history when fellow Councillors elected him to the post at the age of
20. Harris was also elected to
Gloucestershire County Council in the
2013 local elections, winning the
Cirencester Park Division.
The name stem Corin is cognate with Churn (the modern name of the
river on which the town is built) and with the stem Cerne in the
nearby villages of North Cerney, South Cerney, and Cerney Wick; also
on the River Churn. The modern name
Cirencester is derived from the
cognate root Ciren and the standard -cester ending indicating a Roman
fortress or encampment. It seems certain that this name root goes back
to pre-Roman times and is similar to the original Brythonic name for
the river, and perhaps the settlement. An early Welsh language
ecclesiastical list from
St David's gives another form of the name
Caerceri where Caer is the Welsh for fortress and Ceri is cognate with
the other forms of the name.
The Fleece Hotel
Old Welsh the city was known as Cair Ceri (literally
"Fort Ceri"), translated Cirrenceaster, Cirneceaster, or Cyrneceaster
(dative Cirrenceastre, Cirneceastre, Cyrneceastre) in the Old English
of the Anglo-Saxons, where ceaster means "fort" or "fortress". The
Old English c was pronounced /tʃ/. The
Normans mispronounced the
/tʃ/ sound as [ts], resulting in the modern name
Cirencester /ˈsaɪrənsɛstər/. The form /ˈsɪsɪtər/, spelled
Cirencester or Ciceter, was once used locally. This pronunciation is
humorously highlighted in a 1928 limerick from Punch:
There was a young lady of Cirencester
Whose fiancé went down to virencester
By the great Western line,
Which he swore was divine,
And he couldn't have been much explirencester.
Sometimes the form Cicester /ˈsɪsɪstər/ was heard instead. These
forms are now very rarely used, while many local people abbreviate the
name to Ciren /ˈsaɪrən/.
Today it is usually /ˈsaɪrənsɛstər/ (as it is spelt) or
/ˈsaɪrənstər/, although occasionally it is /ˈsɪsɪstər/,
/ˈsɪsɪtər/ or /ˈsɪstər/.
Leisure and entertainment
Cirencester has an important tourist trade as well as providing
shopping, entertainment, and sports facilities for the inhabitants of
the town and the surrounding area.
Sites of interest
St John the Baptist parish church
Church of St. John the Baptist, Cirencester
Church of St. John the Baptist, Cirencester is renowned for its
Perpendicular Gothic porch, fan vaults and merchants' tombs.
The town also has a
Roman Catholic Church of St Peter's; the
foundation stone was laid on 20 June 1895. Coxwell Street to the north
of Market Square is home to the
Baptist Church that was founded in
1651 – making it one of the oldest Baptist churches in England. Its
current building was started in 1856.
To the west of the town is
Cirencester House, the seat of Earl
Bathurst and the site of one of the finest landscape gardens in
England, laid out by the first
Earl Bathurst after 1714.
Abbey House, Cirencester
Abbey House, Cirencester was a country house built on the site of the
Cirencester Abbey following its dissolution and demolition at
English Reformation in the 1530s. The site was granted in 1564 to
Richard Master, physician to Queen Elizabeth I. The house was rebuilt
and altered at several dates by the Master family, who still own the
agricultural estate. By 1897 the house was let, and it remained in the
occupation of tenants until shortly after the Second World War. It was
finally demolished in 1964.
On Cotswold Avenue is the site of a Roman amphitheatre which, while
buried, retains its shape in the earthen topography of the small park
Cirencester was one of the most substantial cities of
In April 2006 the Cotswold
Leisure Centre moved to its new site, the
centre is run by the local district council. It includes a swimming
pool, sauna, steam room, showers, relaxation area, a large sports
hall, gym and fitness centre. The centre was closed for eight months
to be repaired after the flooding in July 2007. The town also has
an open-air swimming pool, dating back to 1870, this is run by a
charity and local volunteers and is only open during the summer
months. It also hosts Cotswold Gymnastics Club, which has a
British 2nd place Veteran as a coach, as well as having won
approximately 63 medals from between 2005 and 2009. It is at Deer Park
The local football club,
Cirencester Town F.C., are currently in the
Southern League Premier Division
Southern League Premier Division as of 2011. The team is known as The
Centurions, and moved in 2002 from their former ground at Smithsfield
Tetbury Road to a purpose-built sports complex known as the
Corinium Stadium. The club is designated by The Football Association
as a Community Club because each week it provides football awareness,
coaching, and competition, for over 300 children, ranging from age 6+
to 18. As well as the main pitch, there are six additional football
pitches, mainly used by the junior football teams. The club has also
developed a full-size indoor training area, known as The Arena, which
is used for training, for social events, and for 5-a-side leagues
throughout the year.
Cirencester is served by two active athletics clubs, Cirencester
Athletics and Triathlon Club and Running Somewhere Else.
Netball Club has three squads. The A team play in
the 1st division of the
Gloucestershire League. The B team in the 3rd
Division and the C team in the 5th Division.
The Rugby Club are based at the Whiteway. They have four main teams, a
colts, a Youth and Mini sections.
Polo Club, founded in 1896, is the oldest polo club
in the UK. Its main grounds are located in Earl Bathurst's
Cirencester Park. It is frequently used by The Prince of
Wales and his
sons The Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry.
The town and the surrounding area have several primary schools and two
Cirencester Deer Park School located on the Stroud
Cirencester Kingshill School off the London Road. It also
offers an independent school, catering for 3- to 18-year-olds,
Rendcomb College. The town used to have a 500-year-old grammar school,
which in 1966 joined with the secondary modern to form Cirencester
Deer Park School. In 1991
Cirencester College was created, taking over
the joint sixth form of
Cirencester Deer Park and Cirencester
Kingshill schools and the
Cirencester site of
Stroud College; it is
located adjacent to Deer Park School on the
Until 1994 the town hosted a privately run Preparatory school named
Oakley Hall. Run in its later years by the Letts family it closed in
1994 shortly after the retirement of R F B Letts who had led the
school since 1962. The grounds of the school are now mostly occupied
The town also hosts the
Royal Agricultural University
Royal Agricultural University which is located
The Sundial Theatre, part of
Cirencester College, and the Bingham
Hall host drama and musical events by community groups and
professional touring companies.
Cirencester Operatic Society,
Cirencester Philharmonia Orchestra,
Cirencester Male Voice Choir and
Cirencester Creative Dance
Academy are also based in the town.
Pam Ayres, poet, actor, broadcaster
Elizabeth Brown, astronomer
Willie Carson retired jockey
John Clinch clergyman-physician, the first man to practice
vaccination in North America
Jacquie de Creed, stunt woman
Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, composer (Director of Music at Cirencester
Grammar School from 1959 to 1962
Dom Joly, comedian, journalist, broadcaster
Cozy Powell, drummer
John Woolrich, composer
^ "Parish population 2011". Retrieved 23 March 2015.
^ The website of Geoffrey Clifton Brown – Current MP for the
^ Room, Adrian, The Pronunciation of Placenames: A Worldwide
Dictionary, McFarland, 2007, Pages 6 & 51
Cirencester History Summary". Cirencester.co.uk. Retrieved 3 March
Town Council – Twinning with Itzehoe". Cirencester.gov.uk.
Archived from the original on 30 July 2012. Retrieved 3 March
^ Andrew Breeze, '
Gildas and the Schools of Cirencester', The
Antiquaries Journal, 90 (2010), p. 135
^ "Reaction to local election results". Archived from the original on
25 June 2013. Retrieved 1 February 2012. ,
^ Article in Wilts & Glos Standard Retrieved 5 June 2015
Gloucestershire local council election results: Conservatives forge
ahead". Archived from the original on 15 January 2012. Retrieved 31
^ "Conservatives beat UKIP into second place or worse in the
Cotswolds". Retrieved 31 January 2012.
^ Seyer, Samuel (1821). "The Saxon Period". Memoirs Historical and
Bristol and Its Neighborhood. 1. Bristol.
p. 229. Asser in his life of Alfred A.D. 879, speaks of
'Cirrenceaster, § which is called in the British language Cair Ceri,
which is in the southern part of the Wiccii.' (In Latin:
Cirrenceastre adiit, qui Britannice Cairceri nominatur, quae est in
meridiana parte Huicciorum.)
^ Reed, Langford (1934). "Irreverent Radios". Mr. Punch's Limerick
Book. London: R. Cobden–Sanderson Ltd. pp. 65–66.
Baptist Church Website Archived 27 January 2015 at the
^ "Re-Opening Press Release". Cotswold.gov.uk. 6 December 2007.
Retrieved 3 March 2011.
^ "History of Open Air Pool". Cirenopenair.co.uk. Retrieved 3 March
Cirencester Open Air Pool, situated on the edge of Cirencester
Park, uses local spring water which is heated to an average of
27 °C (80 °F). It is open to the public from July to
September and is one of the oldest outdoor pools in the country". BBC.
3 June 2009. Retrieved 19 September 2009.
^ Social Season – Warwickshire Cup Archived 18 April 2011 at the
Wayback Machine., Debrett's, accessed 31 January 2012
^ The young royals: Prince William (21 June 1982). "BBC Prince William
Article". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 3 March 2011.
^ "Bingham Hall". binghamhall.co.uk. 24 April 2013. Retrieved 24 April
Cirencester Operatic Society".
Cirencester Operatic Society.
Retrieved 3 March 2011.
Cirencester Philharmonia". www.cirencesterphil.co.uk. Retrieved 3
Cirencester Band". www.cirencesterband.org.uk. Retrieved 24 April
Cirencester Male Voice Choir". www.cirencestermvc.co.uk. Retrieved
9 December 2016.
Cirencester Creative Dance Academy". www.ccda.co.uk. Retrieved 24
H. P. R. Finberg. "The Origin of
Gloucestershire Towns" in
Gloucestershire Studies, edited by H.P.R. Finberg. Leicester:
University Press, 1957
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Cirencester.
Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Cirencester.
Read a detailed historical record about
Cirencester Roman Amphitheatre
Cirencester at Curlie (based on DMOZ)
BBC archive film of
Cirencester from 1979
This article incorporates text from a publication now in
the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Cirencester".
Encyclopædia Britannica. 6 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
Ceremonial county of Gloucestershire
Boroughs or districts
Forest of Dean
See also: List of civil parishes in Gloucestershire
Population of major settlements
Grade I listed buildings
Grade II* listed buildings