For those of you who are looking for a holiday or a day out with an historic theme then look no further than the stunning Cotswolds. With so many historic sites to choose from you really will be spoilt for choice. There’s Broadway Tower, Woodchester Mansion, Hailes Abbey, Horton Court and far too many to name. We decided to pick two of our favourite Cotswolds attractions and look at them in a bit more detail!
Situated in the town of Berkeley between Gloucester and Bristol, Berkeley castle is a Norman fortress which was modernised during the medieval era and turned into a large family dwelling. The traditional motte-and-bailey castle was constructed in 1067 by William FitzOsbern, who many will recognise as some of the famous normal castle builders. The castle passed to the Berkeley family in the 12th Century after they carried out restoration work on the original building. It was intended that the castle be used for the defence of the Bristol-Gloucester road as well as the Severn estuary and the welsh border.
The castle became famous during the 1320’s when Edward II was held captive there by Thomas de Berkeley after the king had been deposed by Queen Isabella. It is rumoured that some of Edwards II’s supporters broke into the castle and rescued him. However, he was apprehended very soon after and murdered at the Castle. If you visit the castle you can still see the cell in which this royal prisoner came to his gory end.
The castle was later captured during the English civil war but the Berkeley family managed to retain ownership of it, something that they still hold today. It is the oldest castle to be ‘continuously owned and occupied’ by the same family. The castle opened to the public in 1997. As well as dungeons and cells, the castle also had beautifully landscaped Elizabethan gardens, a butterfly house and a delicious tea room!
Built in phases between the 2nd and 4th Century, Chedworth Roman Villa is one of the largest examples of roman villa in the UK. Situated in Chedworth in Gloucestershire, the villa overlooks the River Coln and is one of approximately 50 villas in the Cotswolds. The villa started out in a fairly modest way as three separate buildings, this is known as phase 1. Phase 2 came as a result of fire when the original buildings had to be rebuilt and new rooms added to its eastern side. In phase 3 the villa saw Portico’s added and all of the buildings being enclosed around a courtyard. This somewhat increased the status of the villa.
Built in the northwest corner of the complex there is what is known as an apsidal shrine which pays homage to the water nymphs. There are also the remains of a temple close to the villa from which a number of alters and coins are believed to have come.
Rather hilariously the villa was discovered by a game keeper in 1864 who was digging around for his lost ferret. During his dig he found pieces of pottery and paving stones. Excavations were financed by the Lord of the estate until the land was bought by the National Trust in the 1920’s.
For today’s visitor there is over a mile of wall to be seen, 2 bathhouses, a shrine and some superb examples of Roman mosaics. There is also a museum which houses all the artefacts discovered in the complex.
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