The green at Bledington
Bledington shown within Gloucestershire
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Post town||Chipping Norton|
|EU Parliament||South West England|
Bledington is a village and civil parish in the Cotswold district of Gloucestershire, England, about four miles south-east of Stow-on-the-Wold and six miles south-west of Chipping Norton. The 2001 census recorded a parish population of 503.
The Church of England parish church of St Leonard dates from 1170: 12th century work includes the nave, pillars, tub font and sanctus bellcote: 13th century south aisle; 14th century windows; 15th century tower, stained glass and tiny chantry chapel: open bell-chamber and ring of six bells.
One bell cast in 1639 bears the motto "Charles is King", reflecting the views of the local gentry on the eve of the English Civil War.
Bledington Shop Committee
Bledington's village shop closed in 2006. The Post Office part of the shop now continues in the King's Head two mornings each week and the Bledington Shop Committee is trying to re-establish a community shop in Bledington in new premises, pending planning permission.
Bledington Music Festival
The Bledington Music Festival is an annual music event which takes place over three summer evenings in June and features top class performers from all over the World. The Festival has grown every year since it was established in 2000.
Bledington and Foscot News
Bledington and Foscot News is a magazine containing local news and events, is distributed monthly and is subsidised by local donations.
Village of the Year
The village won the Community category of the "2004 Calor Gloucestershire Village of the Year". The judges "were very impressed with the amount of activity in the community, considering the fact that the population is under 400. Its ability to run a large number of community events, ranging from the annual village fete to two flower shows and a music festival is impressive – as is the range of activities which take place in the village hall. We were also impressed with the provision the village makes for older people through the local church’s Care Committee and with the fact that it supports a village shop."
In 2012 the village won the Most Resilient Community category of the Gloucestershire Rural Community Council Vibrant Village Awards.
It is more than 100 years since the continuum of Morris dancing in the Bledington region came to an end. We cannot be certain of the exact date as the final appearances of the men were sporadic.
Charles Benfield ensured a link which touched almost four generations of dancers and his enduring enthusiasm eventually enabled the dances to be recorded by Cecil Sharp and later demonstrated and refined by the Travelling Morrice.
The Bledington area is rich in Morris history, one of the earliest recorded events being a paid performance by Morris dancers at a private house in Sherborne, eight miles away, at Whitsun in 1711. Another recorded event took place in Churchill in 1721 three miles to the north-east of Bledington when a Morris team (probably local) were paid six shillings for dancing at a Whitsun Ale. There is also evidence that sides were active in Rissington, Icomb and Milton all within four miles of Bledington, in the late 1700s.
No recorded incidents of Morris dancing in Bledington itself exist before the mid-19th Century, when a side from Bledington were remembered as having danced at Bledington and nearby Fifield. The dances performed by sides from Idbury and Fifield were described to Sharp as being essentially the same as those at Bledington and there was sufficient similarity to the Longborough dances (taught by Henry Taylor) for men from these villages to dance as one set in 1887. As far as revealed by the records the style we know as Bledington probably first entered the records with John Lainchbury, a farm labourer from Rissington. He was the senior member of the set dancing in Idbury between 1850 and 1870, but the existence of an earlier side has been implied by a local historian.
Charles Benfield began playing the pipe and tabour for the Morris in the 1850s and 'inherited' the instruments from the renowned Sherborne and Northleach musician Jim 'the laddie' Simpson, who died from an overdose of alcohol in 1856. He eventually went on to become a key character in the local Morris playing for Milton-under-Wychwood, Idbury, Fyfield and Longborough. By the early 1880s, Benfield eventually led what became known as the junior side comprising dancers born in the 1860s. These included men like George Hathaway, Lewis Hall, William Roberts and the Kerry (Carey) brothers, who were able to pass on their knowledge to the Travelling Morrice when they visited Bledington in the 1930s. By the late 1880s Benfield found it difficult to maintain a complete side and dancing continued sporadically until the late 1890s
Some of the Bledington dancers were very colourful characters. George Hathaway believed that 'you couldn't dance unless you were three part...'. They toured with other sides like Longborough and Lower Swell, and there is an interesting description of Fools 'competing' having a breath holding competition with their heads in a rain barrel.
Some 25 Bledington dances have been collected, all but two with handkerchiefs.
The B4450, a secondary road linking Stow-on-the-Wold with Chipping Norton, runs through Bledington, near Kingham and through Churchill Village. Through traffic usually uses the faster A436 between Stow-on-the-Wold with Chipping Norton, due to the shorter distance and a 5-minute saving in journey time.
The history of Bledington (1066–1914) was chronicled by M. K. Ashby in her book The Changing English Village.
Bledington village green still retains its Victorian maypole.
Bledington has ducks that live all around the brook and village green. Traffic through the village is warned of "ducks crossing".
A picture of sheep grazing on the village green in 1986 can be seen on the BBC's Domesday Reloaded webpage.
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