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Bourton on the Water.jpg
Footbridge over the Windrush
Grid reference: SP167209
Location: 51°53’10"N, 1°45’32"W
Population: 3,296
Post town: Cheltenham
Postcode: GL54
Local Government
Council: Cotswold
The Cotswolds

Bourton-on-the-Water is a village and parish in Gloucestershire that lies on a wide flat vale within the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The village had a population of 3,296 inhabitants at the 2011 census[1] making it a rather large village as its population actually exceeds those of nearby Stow-on-the-Wold and Burford, both of which are considered small market towns.


The village of Bourton-on-the-Water is known for its picturesque High Street, flanked by long wide greens and the River Windrush that runs through them. The river is crossed by several low, arched stone bridges. These arched bridges have led to Bourton-on-the-Water being called the "Venice of the Cotswolds". Bourton-on-the-Water often has more visitors than residents during peak times of the tourist season.[2]

Bourton-on-the-Water parish is bounded by the Fosse Way along the northwest, while the eastern boundary is defined by a series of brooks, namely: Slaughter Brook, the River Dikler and the River Windrush; the southern boundary is associated with a watercourse that runs between Bourton Hill and Broadwater Bottom.[3]


The earliest evidence of human activity within the Bourton-on-the-Water area was found in the Slaughter Bridge gravel-spread, where Neolithic pottery (dated c. 4000 B.C.) was discovered. Moreover, excavations of the Salmonsbury Camp give evidence of almost continuous habitation through the Neolithic period, the Bronze Age and throughout the Roman period (c. AD 43 to 410). Ancient Roman pottery and coins discovered in the village itself give clear evidence of extended Roman occupation. By the 11th century a Christian church was established and the village had developed along the River Windrush much as it is today. Despite the long history of habitation almost every building is now of 17th century origin. The houses and shops in the village are constructed of the yellow limestone characteristic of the Cotswolds and they have the embellishments that make Cotswold architecture so picturesque: projecting gables, string-courses, windows with stone mullions and dripmoulds and stone hoodmoulds over the doors.[4]

Special designations

The small historic core of Bourton-on-the-Water along with associated areas along the River Windrush have been designated a UK Conservation Area.[5]

Salmonsbury Camp, a nearby Iron-Age habitation, is designated a UK National scheduled monument (SAM 32392).[6]

English Heritage designates 117 buildings within Bourton-on-the-Water as having Grade II or higher listed status.[7]


Bourton has a number of tourist attractions:

  • During the summer, a game of mediæval football is played with goalposts set up in the River Windrush itself. Two teams play with a standard football, and a referee attempts to keep order. Crowds line the banks of the river, and the aim is to score as many goals as possible (while getting everyone else as wet as possible)
  • The model village is a 1:9 replica of the village and includes a model of the model village itself (a model within a model). It was built by local craftsmen in the 1930s, and opened in 1937.[8]
  • The model railway
  • The Cotswold Motoring Museum
  • Birdland Park and Gardens, which has a collection of birds, from penguins through parrots to passerine (perching) birds and a large pond full of salmon which can be fed by the public. There are bird-of-prey displays and a penguin feeding demonstration
  • The Dragonfly Maze, designed by Kit Williams
  • On the fourth Sunday of each month, there is a farmers' market

Long-distance footpaths and local walks start, finish or pass through Bourton-on-the-Water. One such route that begins its 100-mile route north is the Heart of England Way.

Bourton is also home to Bourton-on-the-Water Primary School and the Cotswold School, a co-educational comprehensive school.


Bourton-on-the-Water was first served by rail with the opening of the Bourton-on-the-Water Railway in 1862; this was a branch line from Kingham on the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway (OWWR). The station was situated just to the north of the village. The OWWR (and its branch) later amalgamated with the Great Western Railway (GWR), and in 1881, the branch was extended westwards, and formed part of the GWR's Banbury and Cheltenham Direct Railway. The station closed to passengers in 1962, and to goods in 1964.

Notable people

Actor Wilfrid Hyde-White was born in Bourton-on-the-Water in 1903, and is buried in the village's Water Cemetery.[9]


Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Bourton-on-the-Water)