Shipston On StourCornerstone of the Cotswolds


© Rob Banfield

Our woolly history

To say that sheep were, are and always will be important to Shipston is like saying a beat is important to good music. Our beautiful little market town always was convenient for everywhere, so understandably in medieval times drovers herded their sheep here to be washed in the River Stour before going on to market.

No surprise, then, that we were called Scepwaeisctune – Sheep Wash Town – in Old English.

And so started an association with the cute, unpredictable, lovable animals that lasts to this day. From the shampoo and set they were given in the early days, on to the unique Barcheston tapestries, through the importance of the pre-Industrial Revolution wool trade, the vital part sheep played in agriculture in both world wars, to our present-day celebration of our fluffy friend with the annual Shipston Wool Fair – all now brought together in our unique Heritage Centre.

The Heritage Centre, to be found in the Post Office on Shipston High Street, was opened at the Wool Fair on May 26, 2014 by TV Historian Bryan McNerney, who talked about how important it was for communities to remember their heritage.


© Rob Banfield

Its centrepiece is the Shipston Tapestry, which took 200 people more than 4,000 hours to complete. Designed by Ros Lobb of the Stratford Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers, the weaving was supervised by her and Ann Howells over two years. Started in 2012 to celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee, it was finished at 2am on the morning of the May 26 – just in time to be unveiled at the Wool Fair! When you visit Shipston, do take the time to come and have a look – words can’t do it justice.

Also spend time looking at the items we’ve got on display, such as:

  • An Ilmington smock
  • Hand-powered shearing machines
  • Lots of wool-related artefacts
  • Hand shears
  • Old sheep sale posters

© Rob Banfield

There are also some lovely wool products on display, from local wool to 100% British wool throws, scarves and ties from Filkins, Cotswold Woollen Weavers, with some items for sale. What better memento to take back with you from Shipston than a woolly one?

Do pop in – we are always happy to have a chat and can also point you to other useful places to visit, eat, drink, shop and stay. You’ll find us in the Post Office on High Street in the centre of Shipston.

The Shipston Heritage Centre was set up with support from the Shipston Wool Fair Committee and funding from Warwickshire County Council’s Operation Footfall scheme.

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