From the Roman invasion to the Georgian era, Britain has a long and bloody history of invasion, occupation and conquest. This is reflected in its historical architecture, such as the medieval cities that are still present throughout the country today. These towns are often overlooked by tourists, but they offer a fascinating reflection of the rise and fall of medieval Britain and the cast of knights, kings and queens which populated it. We take a look at eight of the best.
Situated on the river Teme, Ludlow played a large role during the Wars of the Roses. With over 400 listed buildings, the city is beautiful, and the (now ruined) castle is the site of several fairs and festivals every year. The Feathers Hotel is also the place where the idea of a ‘Hustings’ first originated: politicians stood on the ‘hustings’ balcony of the hotel before an election and attempted to convince the populace to vote for them. A stroll through the city itself, however, is also well worth a look – it contains many traditional shops such as ironmongers and locksmiths that hark back to the early 1900s.
Named after the Old English word for the ancient settlement known as ‘Venta Bulgarum’, Winchester sits at the end of a Roman road called Clarendon Way in Hampshire. The ‘Wintonians’ have more to be proud of than the annual ‘Hat Fair’ that takes place every summer and the painted bollards that decorate the roads around the city. During the Saxon times, Winchester was actually the capital of Wessex under Alfred the Great. In addition, the 1000 year old Great Hall—all that remains of Winchester castle—is the resting place of what was allegedly King Arthur’s Round Table, which has been dated to 1275 AD.
Established in the 12th century and an obvious source of inspiration for JK Rowling’s Hogwarts, Oxford is justly famous throughout the world, both as one of the best universities on the planet and as a beautiful medieval city. Called the ‘city of dreaming spires’ by the poet Matthew Arnold, this epithet is justly deserved: from Christchurch College to Carfax, whose tower is the oldest part of the city, the city has played host for everyone from Wordsworth to Richard Dawkins. Oxford is well worth a visit, from the pristine lawns of the college (stray onto them at your peril) to soaking up the historic atmosphere of the Eagle and Child pub, where JRR Tolkein and CS Lewis used to meet.