How to spend a day in Moreton-in-Marsh
- Credit: Katie B Morgan
Katie B Morgan takes us on a day trip to Moreton-in-Marsh, while also giving an insight into how she puts together her brilliant maps!
Every time I start to illustrate a town map, I find myself spending hours delving into what and who made the town. The Cotswolds are famous for their sheep, agriculture, honey-coloured stone houses, rolling hills, literary and Royal connections, and food, but each town and village has its own story.
I'm lucky to have spent most of my life in the Cotswolds; so many of the towns and villages are familiar to me. Once I start my research, I soon realise that I only know the very tip of the iceberg!
My first step is to visit the town. My initial glimpse of Moreton-in-Marsh is from the Sezincote Road: beautiful, far-reaching views with St David's steeple nestled in the valley. As I turn right into Bourton-on-the-Hill, I want to stop and spend time in three special gardens. Bourton House Garden is on my right, then the entrance to Sezincote, closely followed on the left by the entrance to Batsford Arboretum with its garden centre and nearby Cotswold Falconry Centre.
Batsford Arboretum is on the westerly edge of Moreton, 56 acres in size, and home to the country's largest private collection of trees and shrubs, with almost 3,000 labelled specimens. With spring on its way, Batsford is awakening with hellebores, aconites and carpets of snowdrops. Soon there will be daffodils and the scent of magnolia and cherry blossom. Early in the year you can buy snowdrops in the green from their garden centre. If you love garden centres like I do, you can also visit the Fosseway Centre on the Stow Road.
The history of Batsford is linked closely with the town. In 1886, Algernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford, later known as 1st Lord Redesdale, inherited the estate. He developed a love of the oriental landscape through his work, travels and links with Kew Gardens. In the 1890s he completely redeveloped the garden, employing the architect Ernest George to build a new manor house on his estate, as well as the Redesdale Market Hall, on the main High Street. Back in my car I turn left into the Main Street, driving between the prominent Redesdale Hall and The Curfew Tower.
The hall, given to The Parish Council in 1974, hosts antique and craft fairs, and can be privately hired. Although the town can have a lot of traffic, there is plenty of parking available. Once parked, you can enjoy seeing the 17th- and 18th-century buildings, and visit the shops, galleries, tea shops, hotels and pubs. Pop into the Visitor Information Centre for more local attractions… they helped me by checking if my map was up to date! Moreton-in-Marsh has a rich history, but is also very up to date with supermarkets and a lovely new hospital… perhaps I'll put my home on the market and move there.
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The following points list the little pictorial details on my map, relating to what I have found. I hope you enjoy finding them all…
River and Fosseway: Moreton-in-Marsh lies at the head of the Evenlode valley, on the cross roads of the Fosse Way (Lincoln to Exeter), and the Oxford Road (London to Worcester).
Sun and moon corners: Based on the The Redesdale Hall wooden clock tower carvings.
Six tulips: The infamous Mitford sisters, whose father, David Mitford, inherited the Batsford estate in 1916. The floriology, or Victorian flower meaning, of the tulip is 'love and passion'.
Iron in field: There were two Iron Age settlements, one near the cricket ground and another possibly on the site of St David's Church, which was once surrounded by seven springs. Nearby was St David's well, considered a holy well with the water curing eye sores.
Market stalls: Tuesday Market. From 1222 the town was the property of Westminster Abbey. Richard of Barking, the Abbot of Westminster established Moreton as a market town, building a 'new' Moreton with the wide High Street that we see today, next to the old hamlet of Moreton. In 1226, Richard of Barking obtained a charter for a weekly Tuesday market in 1226 from Henry III.
Charles I: The White Hart Royal Hotel has offered accommodation and service to travellers for over 500 years, including Charles I, who stayed in 1644 and 1648 during The English Civil War. I had heard that he hadn't paid his bill, hence him writing an IOU, but I think that might just be an old tale.
Prancing Pony sign: The Bell Inn is thought to be Middle Earth's most famous pub, 'The Prancing Pony' in the imaginary town of Bree. JRR Tolkein lived in Oxford and his brother lived in London, so The Bell was a favourite meeting place.
Four Shires Stone: Possibly the 'Three Farthing Stone' in the Hobbit. The stone monument marks the point where the four counties of Gloucestershire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire and Oxfordshire once met.
Cars: William Towns (1936-1993) was designer known for angular-shaped car bodies. Some of the cars he designed are the Aston Martin Bulldog, Jensen Healey, Reliant SS2 and his own Hustler kit cars.
Cricketer: John Currill (1944-2018) was a footballer, cricketer, groundsman and Moreton resident.
The Cricket Club: Cricket has been played on the land donated in 1856, by The Batsford Estate for over 150 years. Many famous cricketers from WG Grace to Jack Russell have played here.
Bear wearing stripy scar: Jim Steele, Southampton Cup winning goalkeeper and sometime landlord of The Black Bear.
Dart & Board: James 'Hill Billy' Hurrell, international darts player.
Man on zebra crossing: John Betjemen. While at Oxford in the 1930s, John Dugdale, the son of the owners of Sezincote, became friends with Betjemen, Hugh Gaitskell and Clement Attlee, inviting them to many social events at Sezincote. John Betjemen dedicated his first book of poetry to John's mother, Mrs Arthur Dugdale.
Sezincote House and Gardens: Open in May.
A white rose by the war memorial: Diana Hope Rowden (1915-1944) was posted to Moreton-in-Marsh in 1942,working as a section officer for intelligence duties in the WAAF. Diana worked as an Acrobat SOE Agent in occupied France. Sadly, she was arrested and executed in Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp, aged only 29. There are so many courageous and extraordinary stories linked with the men and women listed on memorials, so much more than just a name. It was only after adding a white rose that I discovered there had been a White Rose Society, a non-violent resistance group, in Munich during WW2.
Fox: Jon Fox Antiques. He taught at Cheltenham Art College while I completed my foundation course.
Me walking my dog Jet: It's a dog-friendly town.
Mermaid: Mermaid Fish Bar.
The Inn on the Marsh: Formally a bakery before becoming the White Horse in 1870.
Hobbit holding a pole: The pole is from the Redesdale Hall's weather vane. The top has a boar's head which derives from the family crest where there are two hands holding a sword with the point going into a boar's head. I should have drawn some little mole hills because of the little black moles on the shield.
Car and caravan: Heading towards the Caravan and Motorhome Club Site.
Bubbles: The Laundrette on New Road.
Person walking with a tin of paint and a watering can: Ideal Home Supplies on The High Street.
Three books: The Library.
Railway: The Cotswold line between London and Hereford opened in 1853. Imagine being able to leave the hustle and bustle of London, hop on a train and be in Moreton for market day!
Falcon: The Cotswold Falconry Centre is home to over 130 native and endangered birds.
Two black moorhens: Marsh could mean 'a marsh' or could be from the old 'march' meaning 'boundary'.
Wellington Bomber: In 1939 RAF Moreton-in-Marsh was constructed for the training of Wellington Bomber crews. The old airbase closed in 1959 and became a Fire Service College in 1962. It was the inspiration for the long-running radio show 'Much Binding in the Marsh' (1944-54). The Wellington on my map is heading towards the small but extremely full aviation museum on the Broadway Road. This independent museum is dedicated to all the people who served at RAF Moreton-in-Marsh. Check their website for opening times.
Beagle: Beagle Bar and Brasserie.
Man with no money: Outside The Old Bank.
Cycling: Two national cycle routes run through Moreton. Route 48 and 442.
Unicorn: The Redesdale Arms used to be called The Unicorn.
Stocks and Curfew Tower: A short walk from the stocks is the ground-floor lock-up in the 16th-century Curfew Tower. It still has the original 1633 bell which rang daily until 1860. The 1648 clock faces onto what would have been the medieval marketplace.
Picture frames: John Davies Gallery. There are some gorgeous galleries, antique shops and emporiums along the High Street.
Queen Victoria's Garden: Given to the town by Lord Redesdale in 1897.
Sheep: Moreton hosts one of the UK's largest one-day agricultural and horse shows on the first Saturday in September. u