Bourton on the Water is one of the more popular villages in the Cotswolds.
Sometimes called “the Venice of the Cotswolds” because of the bridges over the river Windrush that flows through the village centre.
There is many reason it is so popular;
It has a large village green next to the river, that people can just picnic or relax on without having to spend too much.
It has many more attractions than other villages in the area, The Cotswold Motoring Museum, Birdland, The Model village, Model Railway, The Dragonfly Maze, Pottery, Perfumery, The Cotswold Brewing Company, Greystones Farm, Horse Riding Tours, Shooting Range as well as great gift shops & plenty of places to eat & drink (some locals think too many).
Many visitors think the whole village was built as a tourist attraction, how wrong can they be, people do live in the village, sometimes going back many generations.
Bourton on the Water is one of the oldest settlements in the area, going back to Neolithic times.
It was an iron age camp as well as a iron age village.
It was an important place for the Romans, with a Roman settlement & a Roman military camp, also the A429 that skirts the village is the old Roman Fosseway.
The Saxons settled here & gave us a lot of place names, Bourton translates as settlement by the camp, they called the river “Wenrisc” after the sound of the wind blowing through the rushes, Wen= wind, Risc= rushes, which is why today the river is still called the “windrush”.
The Norman’s built a manor house in the village after they invaded & divided the country among the barons.
Records mention a manor house in the year 11oo, although a manor still stands on the site it has been altered so many times over the years (it was practically rebuilt in the 1950’s).
Next to the Manor House is the old dovecote, I think must be the oldest still standing structure in the village.
It is very difficult to date the buildings in the Cotswolds as the same style has been used for century’s & even the stone itself is often reused, but the buildings of Bourton date from around 1100 to present day.
Records from the 1100’s also show that a wooden Saxon Church was demolished & the 1st stone Christian church built on the same site the Church stands today.
The same records also show the 1st time ” Bourton ” nearly took on its full name of Bourton on the Water, it was written in Latin & a slight error was made, the village was named Bourton sub aquam , meaning Bourton under the Water, it should have read Bourton super aquam, Bourton on the Water.
It would have been about this time the centre of the village moved, (sometime between Saxon times & 1500).
Sherbourne street became the high street, & still many of the oldest buildings can be found along this street, including the 1st stage of Harrington House, a Tudor Hall house & Sherbourne Terrace, C1600.
The next big change to the village happened in the early 1600, this was when the river was diverted, it used to flow farther south on the edge of the village.
About the same time the high street moved from Sherbourne street to where it is now.
In 1654 the first bridge was built in the village, originally called Broad Bridge but most locals know it as “Mill Bridge” because its near the Lower Mill ( now the Cotswold Motoring Museum).
The Cotswold played a large part in the English civil war (1640’s), not too far from Bourton on the Water is Edge Hill, the first battle, & only 4 miles up the Fosseway is Stow on the Wold, the finale conflict.
During the siege of Oxford King Charles I fled with his cavalry, he reached Bourton on the Water & his army camped in what is now know as the school field, its not known if the king stayed at the vicarage or the manor house, both owners of the time were royalist supporters.
In 1756 two foot bridges were added, High Bridge in the centre of the village, probably the most photographed bridge in the village & Payne’s Bridge at the end of the village green, this ran alongside a ford.
In 1806 Bourton Bridge was built at where the Fosseway crosses the Windrush, this replaced a ford, it was widened in 1959. On the side of the bridge is an inscription that reads The Fosseway has passed here since Roman times. Here is Buruhford of Salmonsbury. 8th century AD.
Village benefactor George Fredrick Moore had New Bridge built in 1911, this replaced the ford that Payne’s Bridge ran along side.
In 1920 the War Memorial was erected to commemorate the men from the village who died in the 1st world war. At the same time Moore road was connected to the High Street, to do this part of Vine House was demolished & a builders yard next to it.
Another footbridge was erected further downriver in 1953, next to the only ford that is still in use today, named Coronation bridge after the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, this replaced an 18th century wooden bridge that collapsed.
Another foot bridge that rarely gets mentioned crosses the river at Upper Mill, this can only be reached by a footpath.