Sharp-eyed travellers can find an historical gem when visiting the village of Painswick, in the Cotswolds Hills of west-central England.
In 1644, Painswick was occupied by Parliamentarian forces during the English civil war.
It was later recaptured by Royalists, but the fighting was so severe that bullet and cannon shot marks remain to this day on the tower of the parish church of Saint Mary.
The marks are one of the highlights of the historic Gloucestershire village, which is built mainly of mellow, honey-coloured Cotswold stone and features quaint, narrow streets.
We visited Painswick to see friends who live nearby, but couldn’t pass up the chance to first spend time in the beautiful village that is promoted as the ‘Queen of the Cotswolds’.
Sitting quietly in the Cotswolds Hills and surrounded by lovely Gloucestershire countryside, Painswick is about two-and-a-quarter hours from London via the M4 motorway or two hours by train from Paddington Station.
Our first stop was the church, which is known world-wide for the yew trees planted in its grounds and an unusual ceremony held each September.
The church yard is famous because it boasts 99 yew trees. According to local folklore, many attempts to grow the 100th tree have never succeeded.
While no one seems willing to swear that the 100th tree story is correct, it certainly gets plenty of publicity and draws large numbers of visitors to the village.
Each September, the church is also the scene of a ‘Clypping’ ceremony that apparently comes from the old Saxon word ‘ycleping’ that means embracing. It involves local children carrying ‘nosegays’ or a small bunch of flowers, joining hands around the church to form an unbroken chain.
The children sing the Clypping Hymn as part of a re-dedication of the church. The custom is apparently thought to date to 1321.
While checking out the yew trees, we were impressed by the collection of chest tombs and monuments standing in the church yard.
Dating from the early 17th century onwards, the tombs were apparently carved in local stone by local craftsmen.
Church officials told us that the oldest tomb is dated 1623.
Behind the church, near the Painswick courthouse, are a set of 17th Century stocks and we wandered to the Falcon Hotel, said to have the oldest bowling green in England.
After a quick look at Painswick’s former post office, which is the only example of exposed timber framing in the village and the striking Georgian frontage of a building known as Beacon House, we took to the road to visit our friends.
Like most of the Cotswolds settlements, Painswick is a picture-postcard example of a traditional English village.
However the area’s historic gems like the civil war reminders, yew trees and the Clypping ceremony make this slice of heaven stand out from the crowd.
We wholeheartedly recommend a visit.