VISITORS to Stroud will now be able to step back in time as the long-awaited history boards have been installed in key spots throughout the town centre.

The colourful boards each show a map of the town centre and outline tales of yesteryear, from the serious to the hilarious.

The 12 boards form an easily-followed trail around the town's landmarks, and give details of important dates and events, as well as describing some of the architecture, and the people who helped make Stroud the vibrant town it is today.

Vicky Hancock, town centre manager, said: "The Stroud 700 celebrations have awakened a lot of interest in the town's history.

"Nearly 3,000 people came to the recent exhibition in the Subscription Rooms to enjoy old photos and find out more about Stroud's past.

"The history trail introduces new stories on a street by street basis, and enables you to compare previous street scenes with what exists now."

The trail begins in St Laurence churchyard, and proceeds through the Shambles, up and down the High Street before visiting Kendrick Street, the Subscription Rooms, the railway station, Rowcroft, King Street, and Lansdown.

The history boards are designed not only to appeal to tourists, but to locals too as they are far from being a series of dry dates.

They mix serious past events with quirky stories that bring the characters of yesteryear vividly to life.

There's the sobering tale of the drunken farmer, whose market day celebrations nearly cost him his life.

And then there's the near-hanging of a nine-year-old who went on to become one of Nelson's bravest naval officers.

Ian Mackintosh is the local historian whose years of research have provided the material for the boards.

"Part of the pleasure of researching Stroud's history was to give a human context to the past life of the town," he said. "I particularly enjoyed stories such as King George III's visit in 1788.

"When the King lifted his arm to greet the people, he revealed his coat was torn and showed the shirt beneath."

The boards have been partially funded by a grant from the Local Heritage Initiative, which is a partnership between the Heritage Lottery Fund, Nationwide Building Society and the Countryside Agency.