The Arts and Crafts pioneer William Morris called Bibury ‘the most beautiful village in England’ and it is easy to see why. Honey-toned cottages of Cotswold stone line the slow-moving River Coln and an ivy-covered coaching inn stands watch by the bridge over the peaceful river. Bibury is a timeless place; the sort of place that visitors to England imagine all English villages to be like.
The origins of Bibury are unclear, but we know that in the early 8th century estates here were given by Bishop Wilfrith of Worcester to Earl Leppas and his daughter Beaga (Ad 721-743). The settlement was known as Beagan-byrig, or Beaga’s enclosure. Over time the named evolved to become Bibury.
BIBURY TROUT FARM
At the northern edge of the village is the Trout Farm, established in 1902 and one of the oldest working trout farms in the country. The fishery offers families the chance to ‘catch their own’ in a relaxed atmosphere. or you can simply buy freshly-caught fish in the shop.
Bibury’s most picturesque building is the Swann Hotel, standing opposite the east side of the bridge across the River Coln. This ivy-clad former coaching inn was built in the middle of the 18th century, though records show that an inn was recorded on this site at least as early as 1672. At one time it was used to hold manor court sessions, and the village lock-up stood immediately to the north.
ST MARY’S CHURCH
The attractive medieval church is tucked away down a lane at the eastern edge of the village. The first church on this site was probably built in the 8th century, and a church was recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 when it was owned by St Mary’s Priory in Worcester. In 1130 the church was granted to Osney Abbey, near Oxford, and Osney retained it until the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII.
Historical highlights include a Saxon gravestone set into an exterior buttress, and Saxon capitals supporting the chancel arch. The font dates to the 13th century, and there are pieces of stained glass from the same period in the sanctuary.
There are an exceptional 123 listed buildings in Bibury, an extraordinary number for a small village. Of these, 116 are listed Grade II. There are four buildings listed Grade I – the highest designation. These include the weavers’ cottages on Arlington Row, the parish church of St Mary, Ablington Manor, and Bibury Court.
Bibury Court, now a hotel, is a large Elizabethan country house. In 1633 Sir Thomas Sackville added a new range and wing. Near the house are a stable and coach house, both built in the Tudor period.
Ablington Manor is another large country house, built in 1590 for John Coxwell with 17th-century additions and Georgian alterations. adorning the ornate porch are statues of Queen Elizabeth, James I, Henry VIII, Queen Mary, and her husband Philip of Spain.
Bibury is on the B2425 between Barnsley and Aldsworth. It can also be reached by a minor road from the nearby village of Coln St Aldwyns. There is free parking along the west side of the B4425 between Church Road and the Swan Inn, and another small (and also free) parking area immediately west of the bridge, opposite the Trout Farm.
That might sound like a lot of parking – and it is – but Bibury is so popular with visitors that it can sometimes be difficult to find a parking spot, particularly during the summer months when tour buses regularly descend on the village in droves. I highly recommend getting there early or late in the day to avoid the crowds.
Bibury is perhaps the quintessential Cotswold village. Our family has lived a few miles away for over 15 years and we’ve visited more times than I can count. It truly is a beautiful village – just do yourself a favour and come when the crowds at their lowest levels.