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Cirencester in 1837

CIRENCESTER, colloquially called Ciceter, is an ancient market town and parliamentary borough in the south-east part of the county of Gloucester, and in the hundreds of Crowthorn and Minety. The town includes five hamlets or tythings, Oakley, Wiggold, Spiringate, Barton, and Chisterton, and is about 84 miles west-north-west from London in a straight line, and 17 miles south-east from Gloucester. It is pleasantly situated on the river Churn, anciently the Corin, which joins the Thames at Cricklade ; and hence, as a Roman military station, the place was called Corinium or Cornovium, and Corin Castra. Three Roman roads, the Foss-way, the Ermin Street, and the Icknield Way, all met at Cirencester. A branch of the Thames and Severn Canal comes to the town. It was a place of considerable importance during the Roman occupation of Britain, when its walls, of which partial traces still exist, were two miles in circumference. During the Heptarchy it was successively included in the kingdoms of Wessex and of Mercia. A great number of Roman and Saxon antiquities have been, and continue to be, found in and near the town. In 879 it was stormed and taken by the Danes, and was the seat of a great council held by Canute. It was again stormed and completely dismantled in the civil war of Henry III with the barons. Lords Surrey and Salisbury, in the reign of Henry IV, having promoted an insurrection for the restoration of Richard II, these noblemen, with several of their accomplices, were killed at a public-house in the town by the bailiff and a party of the inhabitants. Their heads were sent to London as a present to King Henry. A magnificent abbey for black canons was built in 1117 by Henry I, on the foundation of a college for prebendaries, which was established by the Saxons long before the Conquest. The revenue of this abbey at the dissolution of monasteries under Henry VIII was £1,051, 7 shillings, 1 penny, and its mitred abbot had a seat in parliament.

The town government is vested in two constables and fourteen wardsmen, elected annually. It has returned two representatives to parliament since the reign of Elizabeth. The borough is not incorporated : it is a polling place for the east division on of the county. The living is a perpetual curacy, in the diocese of Gloucester. Cirencester had once three churches : that which still exists is a fine old structure of the fifteenth century, very elaborately ornamented externally and in the interior. Its embattled tower contains a peal of twelve bells. Cirencester is not a place of much trade ; it has however an extensive clothing and a small carpet manufactory. Its appearance is that of a very respectable and opulent country town. Several streets of houses have been recently built, and others are in progress. The town is paved and lighted, and well supplied with water. It has a grammar-school, three endowed hospitals or almshouses, and several charitable institutions for education and other purposes : the total income of these charities is considerable. It has also an agricultural association, and annual races. The Baptists, Friends, Methodists, and Unitarians have chapels. Population of the parliamentary borough in 1831, 5,240.

Market-days are Monday and Friday. Fairs are on Easter Tuesday, on July 18, on Monday before and after Michaelmas, and on November 8, chiefly for agricultural stock and produce. In the vicinity is the handsome mansion of Oakley Park, the seat of Earl Bathurst.