Winchcombe was once the capital of the Anglo-Saxon Mercia. Today it’s a quiet, varied town in the Cotswolds with slightly less than 5,000 residents that is definitely worth seeing. A bit too large to be called a village, it has 3 must-see attractions: St. Peter’s Church, Sudeley Castle and the town itself, which is eminently strollable. The church is on the main street, which changes names at least 4 times as it passes through town, as is a lively visitors center. The castle is up a hill but a relatively easy and delightful walk from town. There are 2 other attractions that largely depend on your interests. The town museum’s specialty is an international collection of police uniforms and equipment. The Gloucestershire and Warwickshire steam railway is less than a mile from Winchcombe and promises a 25-mile intro to The Cotswolds. Getting to Winchcombe from several nearby towns is easy. Ruth and I traveled there from Cheltenham via a local bus and returned after dinner in a historic pub.
St. Peter’s is quite ancient looking. There has been a church on this site since about the 9th century. The current one was built between 1452 an 1462 and has some unique features, like musket holes from the 1643 Civil War. A female Shakespeare relative was buried in its cemetery. They are not called gargoyles, but there are more than 3 dozen “groteques” decorating St. Peter’s exterior. Their identities are often unknown, but many appear to have been town citizens in the 15th century, like the man wearing a fetching top hat. The work of 60 different masons has been documented on the inside and outside of this church, and about 1/3 of them helped to construct Sudeley Castle.
St. Peter’s interior is worth seeing too. The most interesting stained glass window depicts a ship and was commissioned by a 19th century naval chaplain. It relates a famous biblical story from the New Testament involving Jesus Christ.
Sudeley is the only private castle in England that has a queen buried on its grounds. She was Katherine Parr, the 6th and last wife of Henry VIII. Seeing her home and Winchcome are both good ideas.