Range of limestone hills in Gloucestershire, South Gloucestershire, and Bath and North East Somerset, England, 80 km/50 mi long, between Bath and Chipping Camden. They rise to 333 m/1,086 ft at Cleeve Cloud, near Cheltenham, but average about 200 m/600 ft. The area is known for its picturesque villages, built with the local honey-coloured stone. Tourism is important.
History Old tracks and evidence of early British forts and Roman camps indicate that the area was important in ancient times. It prospered in the 14th and 16th centuries when the woollen industry of Flemish weavers flourished. The decline of the area's wool industry was primarily triggered by the industrialization of the 1830s, which led to labour disputes, fluctuating markets, strikes, failing machinery, and mill closures.
The artist William Morris, founder of the Arts and Crafts Movement, spent his holidays in Broadway and lived at Kelmscott Manor, Lechlade, from 1871 until his death in 1876; he is buried in the churchyard with his wife Jane. Following his patronization of the town, Broadway quickly became a favourite venue for visiting artists; at one stage Broadway Green was so busy that easel space had to be rented.
Features The oolitic limestone ridge forming the Cotswolds is about 48 km/30 mi wide in some parts, and the range is roughly divided into two portions by the valley of the River Churn. The hills provide good grazing, and large flocks of sheep are bred in the district.
Great parish churches, imposing houses, and solidly built inns are evidence of the wealth of the area in the Middle Ages. Chipping Campden, Northleach, and Cirencester contain fine examples of wool churches, built on the prosperity of the medieval wool trade and heavily adorned with gargoyles and story pictures.
The River Thames rises on the eastern slopes the hills, 5 km/3 mi southwest of Cirencester. The Cotswold Way is a long-distance path which runs along the top of the ridge, stretching about 160 km/100 mi from Chipping Campden to Bath.
Near Winchcombe is Belas Knap, a burial chamber dating from about 3000 BC, and there are traces of a Roman camp at Battledown Knoll. Oak trees in the grounds of Ashley Manor, near Charlton Kings, are reputed to be the biggest in the country.
Principal towns and villages Among the chief towns in the region are Stroud, Cirencester, Chipping Norton, Chipping Campden, Stow-on-the-Wold, Malmesbury, Bourton-on-the-Water, Northleach, Lechlade, Burford, and Tetbury. Gloucester, Cheltenham, Tewkesbury, and Evesham are on the periphery of the Cotswolds area. The main villages are Winchcombe, Cleeve-Hill, Upper and Lower Slaughter, Sherborne, Painswick, Bibury, Sapperton, Fairford, and Broadway, which is known as the ‘gateway’ to the Cotswolds.