Adlestrop is a village in the North Cotswolds, close to the Gloucestershire border off the main A436 road which runs between Chipping Norton and Stow on the Wold. The village was mentioned in the Domesday Book and the manor and lands were owned by Evesham Abbey from 718 until the sixteenth century when a wealthy London Mercer, Sir Thomas Leigh, purchased it in 1553 for £1,429. The village lies on the edge of Britain’s largest Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and it is popular with walkers as two long- distance footpaths: the Diamond Way and the Macmillan Way pass through.
Since Saxon times Adlestrop has been known by many different appellations: Aedelsthorp, Eadlesthorp, Tatlestrop, Tedestrop, Tadilthorpe, Attlesthorpe and Tiddlestrop until finally ending with its present one. It is a small village with a population of under a hundred, but in the first census of 1801, it was the home of 225 people, most of whom worked on the four large farms surrounding the village. There was a well-attended school, a water mill, a blacksmiths and a butcher’s shop but in 2014 there is just a village post office and shop which serves teas on summer afternoons.
The Leigh family built themselves a manor house which they improved in the 1770s into a beautiful gothick mansion which still stands today overlooking its Pleasure Grounds embellished by Humphry Repton with a water garden, lakes and fast running streams. Opposite the church is the handsome Old Rectory where Jane Austen stayed three times with her cousin, Thomas Leigh – he was the vicar of Adlestrop for fifty-one years. Jane Austen’s grandfather was born in Adlestrop – her mother’s maiden name was Cassandra Leigh. The current Lord Leigh lives just outside the village in a farmhouse his ancestors built in the eighteenth century.
The parish church of St Mary Magdalene is full of Leigh family memorials and hatchments recording their dynastic marriages with the families of the Duke of Chandos and the Twisletons of Broughton Castle (Lord Saye & Sele). It has a fourteenth century crenelated tower and although it has been heavily restored over the centuries, is believed to be of Saxon origin. In the twelfth century, the monks of Evesham had a chapel on the site. Today it is part of the Diocese of Gloucester and one of the Evenlode Vale Churches. The fine arch and lantern at the entrance to the church were erected to mark Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee and the sundial in the churchyard was put up for Queen Elizabeth II’s golden jubilee.
Every year the village hosts an Open Day and this year it is on 15 June 2014 when many gardens are open and lunch and tea can be found at the Village Hall . There is a Fun Dog Show and stalls and other amusements for visitors. Thanks to the poem the village has many visitors searching for the old station which was closed by Dr Beeching in 1966, or simply admiring the Cotswold stone cottages, the lovely gardens and views and the sense of peace that still prevails.
To learn more about the Jane Austen connection to the village please see the book published in 2012, Jane Austen & Adlestrop by Victoria Huxley, available on line and in bookshops. Click HERE to visit the dedicated website.