Stow-on-the-Wold is a market town and civil parish in Gloucestershire, England. It is situated on top of an 800 ft (244 m) hill, at the convergence of a number of major roads through the Cotswolds, including the Fosse Way (A429). The town was founded as a planned market place by Norman lords to take advantage of trade on the converging roads. Fairs have been held by royal charter since 1330 and an annual horse fair is still held on the edge of the town.
As the fairs grew in fame and importance the town grew more prosperous. Traders who once only dealt in livestock, now dealt in many handmade goods, and the wool trade always stayed a large part of the trade Reportedly, 20,000 sheep changed hands at one 19th century fair. Many alleyways run between the buildings of Stow into the market square; these once were used in the herding of sheep into the square to be sold .
As the wool trade declined, people began to trade in horses, and these would be sold at every Fair. This practice still continues today, although the Fair has been relocated from the Square, and is currently held in the large field towards the village of Maugersbury every May and October. It is still a very popular Fair, with the roads around Stow being blocked for many hours on the day.
There has been controversy surrounding Stow Fair. The large number of visitors and traders has attracted more vendors not dealing in horses. In the past local businesses used to profit from the increased custom but in recent years most pubs and shops close for 2 or 3 miles around due to the threat of theft or vandalism.
Given its exposed spot on the top of Stow Hill, the town is often referred to with the couplet "Stow on the Wold, where the winds blow cold and the cooks can't roast their dinners", but there is no source for this. It may be a corruption of the rhyme connected with Brill in Buckinghamshire.
At Brill on the hill
The wind blows shrill
The cook no meat can dress
The wind blows cold
I know no more than this.
Stow is no longer directly served by train; the nearest railway station is Moreton-in-Marsh (approximately 4 miles from Stow). This station is on the Cotswold Line from Hereford to London Paddington. An alternative is Kingham railway station (approximately 5 miles from Stow) on the same line.
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