Our house came with a name, Drovers Cottage, spelled out in gold ye olde English script on a black plaque hanging above the front door. I had no idea what Drovers meant, but being American and a sucker for a house with a name, I loved it anyway.
Some Googling soon revealed a drover to be one who drives livestock long distances to market. I assumed this had something to do with the sheep trade that made this region rich, but the cottage post-dates the height of the town’s golden fleece fuelled glory. Further Googling revealed a connection that matches the age of the cottage. Welsh cattle drovers are documented to have used a route through our town in the nineteenth century. Opposite our cottage are Stable and Hayloft cottages where perhaps years ago these drovers housed their herds for the evening. Today I continue the tradition of immigrant labour, occasionally trying to hijack the wireless network at Hayloft.
Drovers cottage lies along a curving row of stone terraced houses that ends with a mill house and the stream. The town history reveals that this micro-neighborhood was once a dual mill, pre-Norman hamlet that was incorporated into the main town in the fourteenth century. Behind the mill is the most distinctive architectural feature of the town, the twelfth century church that came into its own with fifteenth century wool money. From this church springs a one hundred foot tower, crowned by a gleaming cockerel weathervane. The tower houses the eight bell carillon that rings to the tune of Hanover every hour through the day and the night (as we learned on our first overnight visit last year).
At the opposite end of our row of cottages is the entrance to the village green, now a small parking lot bordered by well-kept half-timbered buildings, including a butcher that sells the best sausages in the world, Eastleach spotless. To the left is a small lane that runs alongside the pub and opens onto the market square. The market still held here once a week is a legacy from the early thirteenth century when King Henry III granted the town a charter allowing it. In addition to the pub, the market square is bordered by a pharmacy, a post office, a green grocers/bakery, a wine shop/bar, and a takeaway Chinese restaurant, the latter two of which figured unreasonably in our decision to buy here.
One route out of the market square takes you past the war memorial and onto The West End. The higgedly piggedly row of Georgian and medieval houses removes any confusion with London’s synonymous theatre neighborhood. At the end of the End is the Roman road and the old prison, recently converted into a coffee shop and internet cafe. The alternate route out of the square takes you to the main A road, with newer developments and council housing on either side. Fields of sheep soften the intrusion of modernity into my rural fantasia. I’m in love.