Bibury is a small village in the Cotswolds, seven miles north east of Cirencester. It consists of two villages – Arlington, west of the River Coln and Bibury, east of the River Coln. The village attracts thousands of visitors each year from all over the world, who come mainly to view Arlington Row, a row of nine 17th century weavers’ cottages. They are owned by the National Trust but are not open to the public, apart from one which can be rented as holiday accommodation. The cottages at Arlington Row are claimed to be the most photographed cottages in Britain. Bibury itself, was described by William Morris, the 19th century poet and artist, as “The most beautiful village in England.” Arlington Row was built in the 1380s as a monastic wool store, which was converted into a row of weavers cottages in the 17th century. The cloth produced was then sent to Arlington Mill, which is a short distance across the water meadow, Rack Isle, the area between the River Coln and Water Lane. The name is derived from the original use of the land for hanging out the racks of fulled cloth to dry. Bibury prospered with the woollen industry in the 12th – 14th centuries. Rack Isle is managed by the National Trust as a nature reserve. A small herd of Belted Galloway cattle graze the land in the summer, as part of the management of the area for wildlife.
Arlington Mill, next to Bibury Trout Farm, was originally a corn mill, but later a fulling mill for cloth. The present building dates mainly from the 17th century. In the 19th century, it was owned by Samuel Bowly, a famous Quaker who took a leading role in the abolition of slavery and in founding the Temperance Movement. It was a museum in the 1960s, but it is now a private residence.
Tourists from overseas flock to Bibury. Since 2010, all United Kingdom passports have an image of Arlington Row featured in the front inside cover. Japanese tourists are particularly attracted to Bibury. They know that Emperor Hirohito stayed here and praised the location during his European tour in 1921. Visitors are also attracted to Bibury Trout Farm, which was founded in 1902 and is one of Britain’s oldest trout farms. Crystal clear water, which is essential to operate the hatchery, is provided by the Bibury Spring, which starts near the Swan Hotel. The farm covers fifteen acres, where visitors can see the trout being fed and can purchase smoked and fresh trout. There is a cafe, picnic area and children’s playground. The farm also supplies live trout to restock rivers and lakes around the country. Outside is the Swan Bridge, a road bridge built in 1770 as part of the improvements to the Cirencester to Oxford main road.
The Swan Hotel, beside the River Coln, is a popular 17th century inn. It was a staging post on the stage coach route to Oxford. In the autumn, it is a spectacular sight when the creeper covering the building, turns red. A short walk away on the Cirencester road, is the Catherine Wheel, a traditional 15th century village pub. It has been a pub since 1856 and previously was a blacksmiths making cart wheels. Across the road is Sundial Cottage, which was once a pub itself and takes its name from the carved stone sundial in the centre of the cottage.
St. Mary’s Church is late Saxon and is mentioned in the Domesday Book, but was altered and extended in the 12th and 13th centuries. It is adjacent to Bibury Church of England Primary School, which was built in the 1850s. Bibury Court, also close to the Church, was an hotel from 1969 until 2015. It has a date above its door of 1633.
The name Arlington, will be familiar to American visitors. Arlington National Cemetery, in Arlington County, Virginia, USA, across the Potomac River from Washington DC, is closely linked to the Custis family of Arlington, Bibury. They moved to Virginia in 1650 and purchased an estate, which they named after their family home. A descendant married George Washington, the first President of America, in 1759. His son bought another estate in 1778, which he also called Arlington. During the American Civil War, the Union Army buried their dead close to the house on the Arlington Estate. After acquisition by Congress in 1883, it became the site of Arlington National Cemetery.
Bibury was used as a location for the 2007 fantasy film, Stardust, where it was part of the village, “Wall”, as the house of Victoria, played by Sienna Miller.