“The Queen of The Cotswolds”
Painswick was at one time an important centre – situated on the East-West route between Cirencester and Gloucester. It now relies for its transport links more on the North-South Bath to Cheltenham trunk road built in the early 19th century. This now the A46 passing through ‘New Street’ (built in 1428). The town, which nestles in the Painswick valley, is the centre of its Parish that at one time incorporated some of what is now Stroud.
Sometimes called, “The Queen of the Cotswolds,” Painswick was one of the most prosperous of the Cotswold wool towns during the medieval period, leaving a legacy of the many period buildings built of the creamy Cotswold stone from the quarry at Painswick Beacon, above the town.
Walking around Painswick reveals that there is no discernible centre of town, just streets wandering here and there along the hillside. By contrast, the open space of the famous churchyard, with its famous clipped yews, is a surprise amid the closely packed houses.
The parish church of St. Mary’s is worth visiting. It dates back to the early Norman period, though much of what we can see today was added in the 15th century. Look closely at the striking tower and you’ll see the scars of cannonballs sustained during the Civil War when Parliamentary troops took refuge in the church. They were forced out by a combination of cannon fire and burning torches wielded by Royalist soldiers.
Enter the churchyard through the half-timbered lych-gate, built using timbers salvaged from the belfry and decorated with bells. The graveyard contains many pedestal tombs of rich wool merchants, but it is the 99 yew trees that draw most attention. There is a legend about the yews, that, if a hundredth were to be planted, the devil would shrivel it.
St. Mary’s is also well known for its annual “Clypping ceremony.” You might justifiably surmise that this September ceremony had to do with trimming the yew trees, but you’d be wrong. The ceremony involves the children of the parish embracing the church, singing hymns, and carrying nosegays of flowers.
Beside the churchyard there is an unusual set of iron stocks.
The half-timbered former Old Post Office on New Street was said to be the oldest post office building in England until it was recently closed. Further along the street is the Falcon Inn, with the oldest Bowling Green in the country. These greens were once a common feature of inns and pubs.
Above the town is Painswick Beacon, 250 acres of common land, with excellent views across the Severn Valley. On the top of the beacon (283m / 928ft) are the outlines of a large Iron Age hill fort. The fort covers 7 acres and is triangular in shape. Double banks and ditches on three sides provided defences to the fort, while the steep slope on the northeast side meant that a single ditch sufficed there.
There are good restaurants, pubs and B&B’s as well as shops serving the community and visitors.
Painswick is a lively community with many clubs, societies and sporting activities which is apparent when one peruses our community newspaper ‘The Beacon‘. It is an excellent centre for walking and two long distance paths, the Cotswold Way and the Wysis Way, meet at the Beacon. Painswick golf course, established in 1891, is also situated on the Beacon.
On the outskirts of the village is the local manor, Painswick House. Surrounding the manor are 6 acres of formal and informal gardens known as The Rococo Gardens. The garden is a rare survivor of the very brief rococo period in English garden design.
The Painswick Valley
In addition to the town of Painswick, a number of picturesque villages including Cranham, Sheepscombe, Edge and Pitchcombe are located in the valley. These villages share with us the community and the beautiful Cotswold countryside of which we are justly proud.