St Marks, ILL
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St Marks & St Michaels Church, Geneva, ILL
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Blenheim Palace          The home of the present 11th Duke of Marlbrough.  The first Duke John Spencer gave battle to the Frence and Bavarian forces at the village of Blenheim in 1704.  He took a force of 50,000 men on a 600 mile march to the Danube were the enemy was waiting in a strong position.  By tactical brilliance and by the personal inspiration he gave his troops, he achieved a great victory.  When he returned to England he was created a Duke and granted the Royal Manor of Woodstock with a promise that a sumptuous palace should be paid for by a grateful country.  The architect of Blenheim Palace was John Vanbrugh who worked with Nicholas Hawksmoor on both Blenheim and Castle Howard in Yorkshire.  Marlborough went on to other famous victories at Ramillies, Oudenarde and Malplaquet.  The Palace was built between 1705 & 1722, it is set in over 2,000 acres of parkland (landscaped by Capability Brown) Blenhalm Palace is the birthplace of Sir Winstone Churchill who was born here on the 30th November 1874.
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The Cotswolds               Developed from the Anglo Saxon words Cot and Wold, Cot meaning sheep pen. Wold meaning high windy ground, that certainly can describe the area well, especially in the winter.  The soil is poor on the Wolds and not a lot of it but a great area for rearing sheep.  Hence the numerous villages with lovely churches (known as wool churches) built by wealthy landowners centuries ago.  The area is also famous for the Cotswold stone a soft stone which yellows with age.  Many cottages will be seen built of Cotswold stone.
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Cotswold Images

Cirencester                    The Capital of Dobuni when as Corinium Dobunorum in 43A.D. it became one of the chief Roman administration centres for South West of England.  In the 4th Century with the withdrawal of the Romans the town went into decline until an Anglo Saxon town was built.  It slowly regained its importance with the development of sheep rearing on the rich Cotswold meadow lands.  The wealth from the wool trade was tremendous, so much so that the merchants of the town were able to build one of the greatest wool churches in the town.  The 15th Century St John the Baptist Church with its superb tower and three storied fan vaulted porch.  It has been judged one of the most beautiful perpendicular churches in England.
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Burford                           Can certainly lay claim to being one of the most beautiful Cotswold towns.  A superb High Street slopes gently down to a three arch bridge spanning the River Windrush.  Some of the buildings such as the Bear Inn, Crown Inn and the Grammer School can readily identify their roots in the 15th Century.  A fine church exists, St John, hidden from view down a lane at the foot of the High Street.  A wonderful mixture of accretion (add on's as and when money became available or persons so decided) the tower is definitely Norman so is the West Doorway.  The Guild of Merchants chapel circa 1200 but remodelled in the 15th Century.  In May 1649 Cromwell imprisoned a group of mutineers in the church for 3 nights after which they were to be shot.  When three had been executed Cromwell relented, one of the group “Sedley” scratched his name on the font.  In even earlier times the Anglo Saxons defeated the Mercians at the battle of Edge now a playing field near the church.  It is also written that in 683 a council was convened at Burford attended by the King of Mercia at which the date of Easter was fixed for the English church.  The wealth of the region coming from the surrounding sheep country during the middle ages.  To really appreciate Burford take time to walk the High Street.
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Bibury                             Best seen in the fading light of a warm summer evening, the houses of golden stone many with cottage gardens facing the River Coln.  William Morris described Bibury as the most beautiful village in England.  Sit on the wall by the river watch the trout running in the crystal clear water and across on the island a protected nature reserve with wild duck and many species of bird.
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Wells                            Very much a Cathedral city and dominated by it, the existing building was started in 1180 continued in stages until 1424.  Many of the buildings in the Cathedral precincts are used today for much the same purposes as that for which they were originally built.  The Vicars Close consists of a cobbled street with a total of 42 small houses built in the 14th Century for the Vicars of the Cathedral.  The Cathedral school was started in 909 and while closing for one short period of 6 years in 1861 now records over 600 pupils.  On the West front there are 294 sculptures left of the original 386 some damaged beyond recognition, 3 new ones were unveiled by the Prince of Wales in 1985.  The Chapter House reached by an ancient stone stairway is octagonal in shape and part of a two storey building, could be one of the most beautiful Chapter Houses in Britain.  The Cathedrals South doors lead to beautiful 15/16th Century cloisters
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Glastonbury      It is believed by many people that under the waters of a spring on the slopes of its Tor Joseph of Arimathea buried the chalice used at the last supper.  That when on a nearby hill, he thrust his thorn staff into the ground it took root to produce the distinctive Glastonbury Winter flowering thorn tree, and that, on what was later to be the site of the great Abbey round which the town grew, he built  a church of daub and wattle.  Briefly this is the legend which has drawn pilgrims to this place for centuries.  In 688, King Ine of Wessex gave it a Monastery, majestic, rich and the most beautiful in Britain which is clear from the ruins of the church.  It is also believed that King Alfred and Queen Guinevere were re-buried in the Abbey.  In the town St Johns church is a fine 15th Century example.  The George Inn was built in the 15th Century to lodge pilgrims and the handsome market cross is 19th Century.
Web Link to Glastonbury Abbey
Web Link to Glastonbury Town

Bath                    The Romans built a city here and called it Aquae Sulis.  It grew up around the Baths establishment, one of the foremost of its kind in the Western empire.  Its remains form an impressive monument to Roman Britain.  In the 18th Century Bath became a fashionable resort for society presided over by Beau Nash.  It was at this time that the work of providing a suitable environment began.  From the early 1700s - to the early 1800s many beautiful buildings, streets, squares and crescents were completed.  The pump room in 1795 and the only bridge left in England built with shops, Pulteney Bridge completed in 1777 by William Pulteney.  The city abounds with acres of parks and gardens which sets off the formality of the Georgian architecture.  The town name means bath, it is not Roman but a pure English word.  The Romans did originally call the area Aquae Calidae (hot waters) then Aquae Sulis (waters of sulis, referring to their pagan god) the Anglo-Saxon name was Akemanchester, which is generally regarded as being derived from the latin Aquae (ake) and the Roman road of Akeman Street which ran via Bath.  Also the old English word Ceaster meaning Roman Fort.
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Web Link to Roman Baths

Bath Abbey        A Saxon Abbey first stood on this site followed by a Norman one.  It was not until 1499 that a Gothic Church was erected.  Progress was very slow and by the dissolution only the choir and the walls had been completed.  However the west front had certainly been given its famous turrets and ladders.  After the dissolution the Abbey was looted and the church was given to the parish.  The building was soon enclosed by houses and the North aisle became a walk through for towns people.  In 1864 a new rector Charles Kemble at his own expense began a reconstruction of the building.  Hence what we see today is a Victorian replica of the original Tudor designs.
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Avebury Ring                The largest stone circle in Europe.  It formed the centre of one of the most impressive Neolithic ceremonial landscapes in Britain.  Built in the Late Neolithic period (2,500-2,200 BC).  Consists of a massive circular earthwork, enclosing an area of Approx 28acres. While we are not sure of the original height of the bank (today 13ft to 17ft high) at its base it measures 70-90ft wide. 
The great circles: 200 standing stones arranged in an outer ring of 98 large upright Sarsens set at intervals of 36 feet and 2 inner circles
Northern inner circle:  Comprising of two concentric circles of Sarsens, Circle a: 160ft in diameter and constructed from 27 stones.  Circle b: 64ft in diameter. And constructed from 12 stones.  At the centre is a group of 3 Sarsens called the cove.
Southern inner circle
340ft in diameter and constructed from 29 Sarsens set at intervals of approx 36ft.  Within this circle stood the obelisk and a irregular line of 12 smaller stones.
It is thought the circles may have taken many centuries to complete.
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Old Sarum                         Such a historic place covering an area of approx 56 acres. Important due to its prominence above the countryside below.  First remains indicate a Iron age camp, followed by the Romans, the Anglo-Saxons, then the Danes who pillaged the area in 1003.  In 1070 William the Conqueror reviewed his troops on the plains below.  The site really moved forward just after William departed.  The Episcopal See was moved from Sherborne to Sarum and a new Cathedral and Castle where built on the site.  However by 1220 the area was becoming too small for the requirements of the community so a new Cathedral was planned nearby.(New Sarum or as it later became Salisbury) stones from the old Cathedral where carried away and used in the construction of the new Cathedral. 
Old Sarum---old refers to a former Iron age fort and Sarum is the abbreviated form of the Latin name
Salisbury
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Salisbury                       A town where there is no need to go looking for interests in dark corners, it is all around.  The city dates back to the 13th Century when it was decided to move the Bishops seat  from Old Sarum.  The Cathedral foundations were begun in 1220 and the city started to grow.  Salisbury was built on a grid or chequer system which left space between the blocks.  Cathedral Close is the most beautiful in all England and the list of buildings with interest is unending.  It is interesting to note that the main wall around the Cathedral Close was granted by license from Edward III.
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Salisbury Cathedral          The first sight of the Cathedral is most impressive an early example of English architecture.  Its spire soaring to a height of 404ft the highest in England which imposes almost 6,000 tons of stone on the four pillars of the crossing.  The Nave measures 198ft with a clear uncluttered beauty, little having changed since it was built.  With Foundations no more than 4 feet deep on a bed of gravel, the main building was begun in 1220 and completed in 1258.  The Cloisters and Chapter house being finished in 1280.  It was never a Monastic institution but staffed with Secular Clergy called Canons.  This arrangements continues today.  Canons would be away in their parishes for most of the year, just coming back to the Cathedral for short periods of time.  The present houses round the close are built on the sites of the former Canons' Houses.
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Stourhead House & Gardens   This superb 40 hectare landscaped garden was laid out between 1741 & 1780 set in parkland and surrounding woods.  A central lake reflects splendid trees, flowering shrubs and offers a visual experience that many say is unequalled anywhere else in Britain.  Exquisite buildings blend easily into the surrounding landscape.  The handsome house is a Palladian 18th Century mansion filled with paintings and fine Chippendale furniture.
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