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About Our Town
Winchcombe is now a small and busy country town set amongst the beautiful rolling Cotswold Hills of Gloucestershire a few miles from Cheltenham. However, it was once an important seat of the Mercian kings, and the second most important town in Gloucestershire.
It has a rich history starting from when the powerful Anglo-Saxon King Kenulf of Mercia decided to build a castle here and an abbey in which he and his descendants could rest in peace. The Abbey was founded in 798 and dedicated in 806 in the presence of kings and bishops.
During the 10th Century, Winchcombe became the most important town of Winchcombeshire, which was amalgamated into Gloucestershire in 1017, and, in the Domesday Book, it was defined as a 'borough', making it the most important conurbation in Gloucestershire after Gloucester itself.
The early layout of the town, its defensive position, with its long main street flanked by the tenements of the tenants of the king and Abbey can still be seen today.
Visits from kings and pilgrims to the shrine of St Kenelm ended when the Abbey was dissolved in 1539.
The history of the town since then has had its highs and lows. The loss of the Abbey and the wool trade plunged the town into poverty. Winchcombe suffered badly in the civil wars in the Twelfth and Seventeenth Centuries, but the people who live here have always been resilient. The Abbey achieved recognition as a ‘little university’, but then it was dissolved in 1539, and the town had to find other means to survive. It was a struggle, but Winchcombe revived gradually in the Nineteenth Century with the rebuilding of Sudeley Castle, and the coming of new industry, including the world-renowned Winchcombe Pottery, situated just a mile from the town centre.