County full of curiosities with a story to tell
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IF curiosity killed the cat there should be a severe feline shortage in Gloucestershire as the county is home to more than its fair share of odd intrigues.
One of the tallest is the Tyndale monument, which stands on Nibley Knoll at North Nibley.
The 111-feet tower was built by Lord Ducie in 1866, who had recently acquired a new estate at Tortworth.
He was showing off to the neighbours really, but to give his structure a semblance of reason he dedicated it to William Tyndale, who translated the Bible into English and was born nearby 382 years earlier.
Rodborough Fort, which stands on Rodborough Common overlooking Stroud, was built in 1761 as an eyecatcher by Captain George Hawker.
It was extended a few years later into a spacious, though eccentric, home and has been lived in more or less continuously ever since.
A curiosity at nearby Minchinhampton Common is Tom Long’s Post.
There seems to be no definitive answer as to why this many armed sign post is so named.
One school of thought is that a notorious highwayman named Tom Long lurked about these environs in days gone by and was eventually hanged on the spot.
But a less romantic explanation is that in the 18th century the colloquial name for a haulier, someone who carted goods here and there, was a Tom Long.
So sign posts, which were obviously of importance to hauliers, became known as Tom Long posts.
Perhaps the greatest concentration of architectural curiosities in the county can be seen in Cirencester Park.
This vast landscaped undertaking was laid out in the 18th century by the Earl of Bathurst and his chum the poet Alexander Pope with a five-mile drive that stretches from the town as its centerpiece.
The grounds are punctuated by follies. One of them called Alfred’s Hall was built in 1721 and with its ivy covered walls, turrets, arched windows and castellated roofline looks as though it should be on the set of a Hammer Horror film.
Travel a mile out of Moreton-inmarsh towards Chipping Norton and you’ll see the Four Shires Stone.
This 15ft tall limestone obelisk used to mark the spot at which Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire met, though boundary changes made in 1931 meant that the limits of Worcestershire were redrawn.
Since then the Four Shires Stone should really have been called the Three Shires Stone, but never mind.
If you find yourself in Bisley churchyard you might like to ponder the Old Bone House.
This conical stone structure marks the spot of the bone hole where in former times unidentified bits of human remains that were dug up when gravediggers were going about their work were deposited.
According to a local legend the village priest, who perhaps had been making sure the communion wine was up to scratch, fell into the bone hole and died.
Sadly I couldn’t find a picture of the Orangery at Frampton Court in the delightful village of Frampton-on-severn.
But it’s worth knowing that its architect William Halfpenny was also an author.
One of his books, snappily titled Rural Architecture In The Chinese Taste, introduced the word gazebo to the English language.
The Tyndale Monument at North Nibley
Alfred’s Hall in Cirencester Park
The Old Bone House at Bisley
Four Shires Stone
Tom Long’s Post