Rudolph’s nose had to shine extra brightly to lead Santa into Moreton-in-Marsh last year, as the Gloucestershire town’s Christmas lights were strangely dim and navigating in the dark was quite a challenge.

Although the town’s two main 30ft high Christmas trees were lit up, the main festive lights, which have faithfully served the town for 20 years, failed and Moreton lost its Christmas sparkle.

However, this month, thanks to generous donations and gifts, the town has an early Christmas present. Professional light fitters have lined the historic Cotswold buildings with brand new £28,000 lights which will ensure Moreton dazzles brighter than it has ever done. As for Santa, he will have to put his shades on because Moreton is going to shine!

Great British Life: Moreton's old Christmas lights. Photo: Moreton Christmas Lights CommitteeMoreton's old Christmas lights. Photo: Moreton Christmas Lights Committee

When the original lights were installed two decades ago, the equipment available to the installers at the time was not so sophisticated.

‘They used ladders at the time and could only reach so high,’ says Andy Everson, chairman of the Moreton Christmas Lights Committee, ‘so most of the lights were put up in a straight line and in some cases – especially on the tallest of buildings – they go through the middle of them because the installers couldn’t reach the top.

‘The new lights, however, have been put up using up-to-date equipment for a professional installation, which means the lights will follow the rooflines and windows of the buildings.’

The brand new two-kilometre (1.2-mile) stretch of lights, supplied, and installed by Draycott-based Blachere Illuminations, will be turned on for the first time on Saturday, November 25. It is traditionally the Christmas Market and Christmas Lights Switch-on event, and draws locals and those living further afield to this attractive Cotswold town. The new lights – along with the Christmas tree ones – will go on at 5pm, but the Christmas Market starts at 9.30am.

Great British Life: Andy Everson, owner of Marsh Sewing Machine Services and Chairman of Moreton Christmas Lights Committee. Photo: Tracy SpiersAndy Everson, owner of Marsh Sewing Machine Services and Chairman of Moreton Christmas Lights Committee. Photo: Tracy Spiers

‘This year we have over 75 traders serving an eclectic mix of Christmas goodies, including gifts, art and crafts, food, drink. Many are local crafters and businesses. Local Organisation and Charity Stalls will be in the Redesdale Hall with Father Christmas paying a visit to meet his adoring fans in his Grotto,’ says Maria Burns, who is charge of the Christmas Market.

The man in red will be arriving Moreton-style on a fire engine, thanks to the help of Moreton’s retained firefighters who also assist the committee by putting up Christmas trees on buildings purchased by the businesses on the High Street.

The reason Moreton-in-Marsh will sparkle and shine this Christmas is thanks to three years of dedicated fundraising from a small team of passionate residents who wanted Moreton to look its best.

Great British Life: Crafts on sale at Moreton Christmas Market. Photo: Moreton Christmas Lights CommitteeCrafts on sale at Moreton Christmas Market. Photo: Moreton Christmas Lights Committee

‘About five years ago we noticed that the Christmas lights were starting to go dim and the cables started breaking, so we replaced a few strips. But last year, although we put lights on the two large Christmas trees, the rest of the lights were so embarrassing, we didn’t turn them on,’ explains Andy.

‘Just before Covid, the Christmas Lights Committee decided to start fundraising to replace the lights in their entirety. A crowdfunding campaign to raise money to buy some more lights for the town was launched,’ recalls Andy.

‘A lot of generous people gave what they could, along with charitable grants, a generous donation from Moreton Town Council and a mystery benefactor helped us reach our goal. It’s lovely that the fundraisers can now see the project fulfilled. We will have to warn Santa that the town will be somewhat brighter this year and he might have to wear his shades! He certainly will be able to see his way to all the chimneys!’

But the question is, who will be the chosen one to turn on these special lights? Instead of a well-known celebrity of stage or screen, Andy and his companions have decided it should be done by a younger member of the community.

‘We have asked the children at St David’s School to host a poster competition, and the winner will get to turn the lights on

Great British Life: Emily Spiers outside the beech trees the Christmas Lights Committee want to one day wrap with lights. Photo: Tracy SpiersEmily Spiers outside the beech trees the Christmas Lights Committee want to one day wrap with lights. Photo: Tracy Spiers

Now they have fulfilled the dream of seeing Moreton lit up in time for Christmas and New Year, the Christmas Lights Committee is on to its next goal – to raise at least £18,000 to wrap the High Street’s nine large beech trees with lights.

The impact of not having the familiar Christmas lights last year has made local traders and residents even more appreciative of Moreton’s new festive look.

Imogen Fellows lives in Moreton and works at Otis & Belle, a Cotswold artisan sourdough bakery and patisserie, based on Old Market Way.

‘It’s nice to have the town looking pretty again this year, especially over the Christmas period as it cheers people up. I looked at Broadway Christmas lights last year and so wanted our town to look like that. But this year our town will look beautiful, and I am sure it will attract more visitors in. I am excited about it,’ says Imogen.

Great British Life: Rachel Holloway outside her shop, Henry's Of Moreton. Photo: Tracy SpiersRachel Holloway outside her shop, Henry's Of Moreton. Photo: Tracy Spiers

Rachel Holloway took on the ownership of Henrys of Moreton, a country clothing outfitter in Oxford Street in April this year, so November 25 will mark her first Christmas market and light switch-on event.

‘It will be my first Christmas in Moreton, and I am excited to see what the new lights will look like and how the town will come to life in the festive season.’

Debbie Gray works part-time at Jacana, a ladies’ fashion clothing and accessories boutique, having moved back to Moreton.

Great British Life: Debbie Gray from Jacana, Moreton-in-Marsh. Photo: Tracy SpiersDebbie Gray from Jacana, Moreton-in-Marsh. Photo: Tracy Spiers

‘I retired back here, and I am thrilled they have made the effort to make the town beautiful. It will be buzzing with the Christmas market, too; it is a very community-spirited town. There is something special when the lights get turned on and seeing the Christmas trees. It brings Moreton alive,’ she says.

Another landmark that has recently been giving a face-lift and looks a lot brighter is the famous Four Shires Stone. It’s an 18th-century 15ft monument just off the A44 near Moreton which commemorates the spot where Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, and Gloucestershire once met. Since 1931, when the boundaries were changed, Worcestershire's border no longer reaches here. Again, thanks to local people who formed The Four Shire Stone Restoration Committee, £20,000 was raised to repair the stonework, replace the railings, and enhance the engravings on all four sides of the pillar.

Great British Life: The Four Shires Stone. Photo: Tracy SpiersThe Four Shires Stone. Photo: Tracy Spiers

Fans of Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings will know this landmark as the Three Farthing Stone of the Shire. It’s believed this pillar inspired Tolkien, who would have travelled past it on his way to visit his brother, Hilary who lived in Evesham. They will also be familiar with The Bell Inn, which features as The Prancing Pony in The Hobbit, and continues to welcome modern-day hobbits today.

Great British Life: Landlord of The Bell Inn, John Longbottom, in Tolkien's corner. Photo: Tracy SpiersLandlord of The Bell Inn, John Longbottom, in Tolkien's corner. Photo: Tracy Spiers

John Longbottom has run The Bell Inn for eight years and is accustomed to questions asked by Tolkien enthusiasts.

They often come here as a base to explore all the local places with Tolkien connections, such as the St Edward’s church door at Stow and the Four Shire Stone,’ says John.

‘Three years ago, just before Covid, a local brewer had a licence to sell a beer called The Prancing Pony, made by a brewery of the same name in Australia. We sold it during the summer which went down well.’

As an aside, John quips about his name Longbottom, which also has a Tolkien connection.

‘Growing up my name did not do me any favours, but I have since found out that Longbottom Leaf was the tobacco used in The Lord of the Rings.’

As for the Christmas lights, he adds, ‘I am really excited to see them. It will really make the High Street stand out again. I believe we have a few Tolkien fans booked into the town for Christmas; they must have heard about the lights as well!

Great British Life: The Bell Inn, Moreton-in-Marsh. Photo: Tracy SpiersThe Bell Inn, Moreton-in-Marsh. Photo: Tracy Spiers Great British Life: Country Idyll Interiors, Moreton-in-Marsh. Photo: Tracy SpiersCountry Idyll Interiors, Moreton-in-Marsh. Photo: Tracy Spiers

A year ago, Kate Penman opened Country Idyll Interiors, a welcoming unique lifestyle emporium showcasing an eclectic mix of hot and trendy eye-catching treasures in the world of interiors. Her lovingly restored Grade II listed shop consists of two floors – the top floor recently acquired by interior designer Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen and is kitted out with all his wonderful flamboyant designs and furnishings.

‘The Christmas markets are always very good. I do believe Moreton is up and coming and will increase in popularity. I hope the new lights are symbolic for a brighter high street and more people will open retail and support it,’ says Kate.

I am sure the whole Moreton community would echo that sentiment. As the town shines brighter than ever this Christmas, I am sure Moreton-in-Marsh will regain its magical festive presence and no doubt a massive cheer will fill the air as the new lights get turned on later this month.