Stonehouse

First published in Town Guides

Stonehouse must have been a fair sight when William the Conqueror's Domesday Book was written in 1086. For there, surrounded by lovely countryside, was a manor house built in stone - quite different from the many wattle and daub buildings that were normally found. And so the area was named "Stanhus" in the great book. Today, that name has little changed: from Stanhus to Stonehouse.

William De Ow, a cousin of William the Conqueror, owned the manor. And he was a man who made good use of his property. On site, there were two mills - where still industry continues to this day - and a vineyard. Perhaps the Romans, who introduced the grape into England, had planted the vineyard.

That old manor saw some life over the many years it stood, a symbol for the town. One of its masters, John Maltravers, was found guilty of involvement in the brutal murder of Edward II in Berkeley Castle in 1327. He had to flee abroad where he remained for many years.

Sadly, the grand house burned down in 1908. Today, on the same site stands Stonehouse Court Hotel.

Stonehouse is a town with many stories to tell, and many people have passed through. In 1779, the Stroudwater Canal was cut, and relics of the canal can still be seen. Ocean Bridge used was an iron swing bridge where canal boats would turn. Once there was a repair yard here.

Business increased further when the land was prepared for the opening of the Midland Railway Station in 1844, and the Great Western Railway Station a year later.

The town's church is St Cyr's, after St Cyriac or St Cyril. George Whitefield, the famous Gloucester-born evangelist, preached here. While he was delivering one of his moving sermons, a dreadful thunderstorm blew up, and the congregation went running from St Cyr's in fear of the church collapsing and burying them. Undaunted, the great speaker continued outside in the churchyard. He later referred to the town as "the pleasantest place I was ever in".

The last of the stone to be quarried from Doverow Hill, one of Stonehouse's most lovely areas, was used to rebuild the church. There are wonderful views to be had from the six-acres of woodland on top of the hill, which are now preserved and managed by a charitable trust.

The stone to which the town owes its name was replaced by red brick as the builder's material of choice. Many of the bricks were made locally by the Stonehouse Brick and Tile Company. Once a big employer in the town, the company closed in the 1960s. The Rosedale housing estate now sits where their bricks were once made.

Perhaps one of the most pleasing aspects of Stonehouse is its diversity. It has an interesting mixture of styles and materials, easy on the eye, and on the feet. The town is remarkably pleasant to wander round, with the various shops in and around the High Street offering almost anything you could wish for.

There's plenty going on at the town's playing field at Oldend Lane, too. Here, football, cricket and basketball are all enjoyed. Maidenhill School adds to the facilities in the evenings at weekends and holidays, with a recreation centre packed with sporting activities.

One of the most well known sights in the area has to be Wycliffe College, now a public school. Starting life in 1882, it incorporates Haywardsend, an old Tudor farmhouse. Many families, local and from distant parts of the globe, choose to send their children here to be educated.

Countless people drive past Stonehouse on their way to the motorway. How much more they would enjoy their journey if they stopped for a while, and saw the sights of this Cotswold town, which has so much to offer.

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