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Burford High Street
Burford ( ) is a town on the River Windrush in the Cotswoldmarker hills in Oxfordshire, Englandmarker, about west of Oxfordmarker. The name derives from the Old English words burh meaning fortified town or hilltown and ford meaning ford .


Burford Priory
Burford Priory is a country house that stands on the site of a 13th century Augustinian hospital. In the 1580s an Elizabethan house was built incorporating remnants of the priory hospital. In the 17th century it was remodelled in Jacobean style, probably after 1637 when the estate had been bought by William Lenthall, Speaker of the House of Commons in the Long Parliament. The house and later the chapel were restored for the philanthropist E.J. Horniman, M.P., after 1912 by the architect Walter Godfrey.

From 1949, Burford Priory housed The Society of the Salutation of Our Lady, a community of Church of England nuns. In the 1980s, its numbers dwindled so in 1987 it became a mixed community including Church of England Benedictine monks. In 2008, the community sold the property and it has now returned to being a private house.

Burford is home to the Blue Cross National Animal Welfare Charity. 'The Cotswold Wildlife Parkmarker' is also located near Burford, approximately South down the A361 towards Lechlademarker.

Burford County Primary School is the town's primary school and is located in Priory Lane, and Burford Schoolmarker, a mixed comprehensive school / secondary school, is also found in the town. The primary school fete, held every summer, includes a procession (including a dragon) down the high street to the school, where there are stalls and games.

Burford was recently twinnedmarker with Potenza Picenamarker, a small town in the Marche, on the East Adriaticmarker coast of Italymarker. Links are growing with many groups in the town including the school, football team and church.

In April 2009 Burford was ranked sixth in US business magazine Forbes magazine's list of "Europe's Most Idyllic Places To Live".


The Burford town seal
1649, the church was used as a prison (during the English Civil War) , when the New Model Army Banbury mutineers were held there. Some of the 340 prisoners left carvings and graffiti, which can still be found in the church.

Between the 14th century and the 17th century Burford was important for its wool . The Tolsey is located in the centre of Burford's High Street; this was once the centre of the local wool trade. Today, the Tolsey is home to a museum.

The town centre features some houses dating from the 15th century. Its most notable building, however, is the parish church dedicated to St. John the Baptist, which is known for its merchants' guild chapel, memorial to Henry VIII's barber-surgeon, Edmund Harman, featuring South American Indians, and Kempe glass. The parish church is located at Ordnance Surveymarker mapping six-figure grid reference SP 253124

The Easter Synod

The Burford Belfry
many years before the 7th century a strife had raged between the ancient British Church and the Roman Catholic Church respecting the question "When should Easter Day be kept?" The Britons adhered to the rule laid at the Council of Arlesmarker, A.D. 314, that Easter Day should be the 14th day of the Paschal moon, even if it were on a Sunday. The Roman Church had decided that when the 14th day of the Paschal moon was a Sunday, Easter Day should be the Sunday after; Computus. Various Synods were held in different parts of the kingdom with the object of settling this controversy, and one was held for this object at Burford in A.D. 685. We may deduce from the fact of the Synod being held at Burford, that the Britons in some numbers had settled in the town and neighbourhood. This Synod was attended by Æthelred, King of Merciamarker, and his nephew Berthwald (who had been granted the Southern part of his uncle's kingdom); Theodore, Archbishop of Canterbury; Borel, Bishop of Worcester; Sexwulph, Bishop of Lichfield; Aldhelm, Abbot of Malmsbury; and many others.

Aldhelm was ordered at this conference to write a book against the error of the Britons in the observance of Easter. At this Synod Berthwald gave 40 cassates of land to Aldhelm who afterwards became Bishop of Shereborne. According to Spelman, the notes of the Synod were published in A.D. 705.

The Golden Dragon

Malmesbury and other chroniclers give accounts of a battle fought in Burford in 752 AD. The battle waged long and bloody. All day the arrows strewed the ground with wounded and dying men, while the Saxon battle-axe and the spiked mace played their terrible part in the conflict. The slaughter was enormous and in the end Æthelhum the mighty standard-bearer who carried the flag with the golden dragon emblazoned upon it was killed by the lance of his Saxon rival. As noted in the Anglo Saxon Chronicles "A.D 752. This year Cuthred, king of the West Saxonsmarker, in the 12th year of his reign, fought at Burford, against Æthelbald king of the Mercians, and put him to flight." Camden thus tells the tale, "Isis now and then overflowing, the lower grounds receives its first addition from the Windrush, which, flowing out of the Cotteswold, salutes Burford standing on the banks of it, in Saxon Beorgford, where Cuthred, king of the West Saxons, then tributary to the Mercians, not being able to endure any longer the cruelty and base exactions of king Æthelbald, met him in the open field with an army and beat him, taking his standard, which was a portraiture of a golden dragon." The origin of the golden dragon standard is most likely that of Uther Pendragon, the father of King Arthur of which Geoffrey of Monmouth says "Mindful of the explanation given by Merlin of the star about which I have told you, he ordered two Dragons to be fashioned in gold, in the likeness of the one which he had seen in the ray which shone from that star. As soon as the Dragons had been completed this with the most marvellous craftsmanship - he made a present of one of them to the congregation of the cathedral church of the see of Winchester. The second one he kept for himself, so that he could carry it around to his wars."

It would appear that the anniversary of this battle was annually celebrated by the good folk of Burford, to keep alive wholesome remembrance of the glorious tradition of the golden dragon of the Britons, for William Camden, in describing other festivals, says, "There has been a custom in the town of making a great dragon yearly, and carrying it up and down the streets in great jollity on midsummer eve". In addition to the dragon they also carried a giant. The field of engagement is called Battle Edgemarker to this day.

On 21 November, 1814, a large freestone sarcophagus was discovered near to Battle Edge below the surface, weighing 16 cwt (800 Kg) with the feet pointing almost due South. The cavity is in length and in breadth. On examination it was found to contain the remains of a human body, possibly the mighty Æthelhum, and portions of a leathern cuirass studded with metal nails. The skeleton was found in near perfect state due to the exclusion of air from the sarcophagus. The coffin is now preserved in Burford Church Yard, near the West gate.

"Whose fame is in that dark green tomb? Four stones with their heads of moss stand there. They mark the narrow house of death. Some chief of fame is here! Raise the songs of old! Awake their memory in the tomb." Ossian



  1. Sherwood & Pevsner, 1974, page 510
  2. Sherwood & Pevsner, 1974, pages 510-511
  3. The Oxford Mail, 27th May 2008: "Monks on the Move"
  4. Monk, 1891, page not cited
  5. The History of the Kings of Britain, Geoffrey of Monmouth, c. 1136
  6. Gardener's Directory of Oxfordshire, 1852

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