Burford, Oxfordshire: 2002

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My tea towel describes Burford as the ‘Gateway to the Cotswolds’ and I suppose that is what it is.  It is a stereotypical small Cotswold town on the River Windrush, in the Cotswolds Hills, with records dating back to the Domesday Book.  Burford was granted a Charter in 1090 which was the foundation for its success; the Charter gave Burford the right to hold a market and an annual fair.  This enabled Burford to take a central place in the Cotswolds wool industry; if you trade in wool then you need feed for animals, carding and weaving industries, industries to support the population…and so forth.  Thus business expanded.  The Tolsey Building was the hub of the wool trade; this early Tudor building, on the High Street, is now a museum of local life.

I visited Burford in 2002, with the sole purpose of having a cup of tea in the Copper Kettle Tea Room on the High Street, which I had heard was really nice. I was even more excited when I saw this tea towel pinned on the wall; this was obviously one of their ‘advertising’ features with the phone number in the centre of the tea towel. It is a blue and white tea towel, reflecting the theme of the Copper Kettle with its Willow Pattern china.  It was a delightful traditional tea room with hand-embrodiered table cloths and waitress service.  Actually it was too small a tea room to have customers getting up to order their food, compact is probably a good word to describe it; it was always full to the brim, often meaning you either had to wait or come back in a quarter of an hour.  My recent visits to Burford have shown that the Copper Kettle Tea Room has now closed down.  A great loss, but the way of many businesses.

However, Burford, without the Copper Kettle, still has a lot to offer.  It is a splendid place for shopping because it has not been invaded by the ‘High Street Chains’ so the very long High Street is full of interesting local independent shops.  It has a great traditional Sweet Shop and Huffkins does a wonderful breakfast (with loose leaf tea) and also runs an amazing bakery with local speciality cakes and biscuits.  Burford has the oldest pharmacy in the country.  It also has a great Cook Shop and I can’t resist a Cook Shop – you never know, there may be tea towels that I haven’t come across yet!  One year, I visited Burford just before Christmas, only to find a Christmas Craft stall under the shelter of the Tolsey Museum.  There were handmade wooden Christmas tree decorations – tiny trees, Angels, baubles and doves; they were unpainted so that I could use them as Christmas present tags, writing the persons name in felt tip pen; only to find that they later appeared as personalised Christmas tree decorations on various trees.  I like the idea that you can use, re-use and recycle, instead of waste things like Christmas tags.

Although only 18 miles from Oxford, Burford is a relatively small town with a population of less than 1500 people.  Maybe that is because it is pleasantly attractive with both old and new buildings in Cotswold stone giving that warm, cosy feeling; maybe it is because in 2009, Burford was 6th on Forbes Magazine’s list of “Europe’s Most Idyllic Places to Live’ and therefore maybe it is because house prices are very high and parking very difficult.  The High Street is very long and straight, on a hill, and if you stand at the top, you just want to walk up and down both sides to make sure that you do not miss anything.  I like Burford; I would always go back but I do miss the Copper Kettle.

September 2016: Sorting through the airing cupboard has turned up many surprises, including a second tea towel from Burford showing Burford High Street. It just adds to my memories!

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Click below to return to the Virtual Tea Towel Museum

The England, Wales and Northern Ireland Collection

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