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Fairford Indeed!

 

Fairford is such an unexpectedly beautiful place – well, ‘fair’ means pleasant or beautiful, so it’s aptly named.

 

 

We turned left into the town at Milton End Farm (#1) – coming from the right in the picture & towards the camera.  We wanted to follow the footsteps of one John Lewis, drover, who had brought 100 sheep down from West Wales to Marlowe in 1783 and had stopped at “Burfoot Mill” (#2)1.  Nothing to do with Burford, because the previous stop had been Cirencester (‘Cicester’) & the next was Lechlade.  There was a good view of the mill early on, but something far more arresting grabbed our attention first: the Fairford Oxpens (#3,4,5).

 

Far too luxurious for cattle, one would have thought, but they were for working oxen in hot weather, to keep the flies off.  How humane is that!  A quick question to the Fairford Hist. Soc. revealed that they had been called “wurmstalls” in the 17C and Ann Cole affirmed that the word went back to the early 14C…

 

Next question: why “wurm-”?  Another expert, Edmund Weiner of the OED, dragged into the discussion, told us that the word is a corruption of oumbre meaning shade.  (We get the word ‘umber’ from it – anyone remember ‘burnt umber’ in their watercolour paintbox or on Nigerian stamps?)

 

So they were not for itinerant cattle, officially.  But I’m not sure: a fireplace built into the wall at one end made me wonder…(#4)

 

The Oxpens have been lovingly restored by the Ernest Cook (grandson of Thomas) Trust, which owns Fairford Mill and a lot of land around Barnsley too.  They seem to be exceptionally conscientious stewards of rural England.

 

And that’s not the end: a perfect millpond, a unique church with all its medieval stained glass intact and a thriving market square outside The Bull, a splendid pub.  “Fair ford” indeed.

1 2 shillings & one penny (see toll charge in #2) = 25 old pence = 100 sheep @ a farthing each.

Fairford Indeed! image 1
Milton End
Fairford Indeed! image 2
The Clayton Accounts
Fairford Indeed! image 3
The Oxpens...
Fairford Indeed! image 4
...with Fireplace...
Fairford Indeed! image 5
...and Mill