This is not a pretty, pretty, almost too perfect, Cotswold town. No. Stroud was as close to the grime of the industrial revolution as any other town in the Gloucestershire Cotswolds. It has few architectural gems. However, its attraction lies in its energy and artistic ambitions (or pretensions). There has been a liberal, bohemian attitude at play here since the group of Tolstoyan Anarchists settled at Whiteways in 1898. There is a lively community of writers and artists living in the surrounding valleys. Many will have read Laurie Lee’s "Cider With Rosie" about his early life in the Slad Valley but artists Michael Cardew, Lyn Chadwick and Norman Jewson settled here, too. And Damien Hirst has a business making up his prints and artworks in nearby Chalford.
So, supposedly the claim that it is the Arts and Crafts centre of the Cotswolds is justified. A busy café culture pervades, too. The weaving industry all began in a couple of cottages up the hill in Bisley. This moved into the town where 150 mills were soon in action using the water-powered valleys. But, as the C19 progressed much of this cloth making moved north to the West Riding of Yorkshire. The surrounding valleys provide wonderful walks through combes and woodland that are so very different from the Central Wolds. Look out for the Subscription Rooms built around 1833.
“Special Places" to Visit:
Museum In The Park and the Stroud House Gallery.
Fringe Festival - 2nd week of September. Arts Festival - October. stroudfringe.co.uk