A celebration of Cotswold life, crafts and heritage

Stow on the Wold

About the 2015 Stow Cotswold Festival


A UNIQUE COMMUNITY QUILT is ready to be sent to America from the Cotswolds. The pioneering patchwork is a surprise present from Stow-on-the-Wold to US town Appomattox, Virginia. The colourful ‘Civil War’ quilt celebrates a newly-forged ‘friendship link’ based on an historical parallel. Stow staged the final battle of the 1st English Civil War, in 1646, and the Battle of Appomattox Court House was the last in the American Civil War in 1865 – marking its 150th anniversary this year. The quilt is the brainchild of Stow and District Civic Society which initiated the link with Appomattox County Historical Society. Society members revealed its planned design and materials as a fitting contribution to the biennial Stow Cotswold Festival – which had adopted a US theme and was held on the 4th of July, American Independence Day. At the event, locals and visitors were invited to join in a mass ‘Sewing Bee’. The call sparked a huge response with all the colourful patchwork’s 128 hexagons being sponsored and the first stitches were sewn.

The one-off 4ft X 3ft quintessentially English quilt was finally completed in November. Now the goodwill gesture has been unveiled to the public – before being dispatched. It’s on display in the foyer of St Edward’s Hall, Stow, by the library, until the end of January.

Stow Primary School pupils and head teacher Rebecca Scutt – who have built a strong bond with Appomattox Elementary School through the link – had first sight of the finished work. Mrs Scutt said: “Appomattox school feels like a friend across the miles. It’s supportive when we face similar situations, both joyous and sad. We’ve all sent letters and exchange photos of events here, such as Remembrance Day and the American equivalent, Veterans’ Day. We email regularly and follow each other’s websites to compare and contrast our lives.”

The arresting quilt features rosettes of five battles - Edgehill, Marston Moor, Newbury and Naseby, with Stow in the centre - all marked with crossed swords. Made entirely from eye-catching William Morris fabrics, it is in traditional English Paper Piecing style. Friendship link co-ordinator Derek Taylor said it would strike a chord abroad. “Quilts have a very special meaning in the US, particularly in the Civil War,” he explained. “When soldiers went off to fight their womenfolk made quilts for them embroidered with personal messages such as ‘Keep Brave Billy’. So they would sleep wrapped up in loving thoughts.” Stow’s quilt has its own missive at the bottom: ‘Stow-on-the-Wold 2015. To our friends in Appomattox on the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Appomattox Courthouse’.

At Stow Cotswold Festival, hexagon sponsors also wrote their names and messages on the quilt’s corresponding template, as part of the gift. They were given commemorative bookmarks and could also make American-themed material brooches. The Society raised over a thousand pounds from the sponsorship, brooches and themed refreshments on the day for Stow Cotswold Festival’s charities.

The quilt’s design and assembly was led by experts Stephanie Venn and Sue Dalrymple, from Cupcake Cottons in Burford, Oxfordshire. They were helped by keen Civic Society members and local ladies Pat White, Lynn Guthrie, Yvonne Cadman, Ann Edwards, Angela Gibson and Susan Brattin. The postal cost to Appomattox is being donated by American Lee Materia, from Durham House Antiques, Stow.

The quilt can be viewed during normal library opening hours: 10am to 5pm, Monday and Wednesday; 10am to 7pm, Tuesday and Friday and 10am to 2pm Thursday and Saturday. Times could vary over holidays.

Yee ha! USA and UK flags at Stow's market cross Yee ha! USA and UK flags with a US style pickup truck

The Stow Cotswold Festival 2015 – A rip roaring success


A FAIR dinkum donation will boost charities close to the hearts of Cotswolds’ people following a fabulous American-themed celebration. The Stow Cotswold Festival raised a profit of £3,982. The pot has been divided between the following organisations:

The Fourth of July event marked American Independence Day with a strong US flavour including ubiquitous Stars and Stripes, Stetsons and hamburgers, as well as showcasing the best of the Cotswolds.

The biennial event also strengthened Stow’s unique Friendship Link with American town Appomattox, Virginia. The liaison was launched by Stow and District Civic Society as the two towns shared an historical landmark. Stow staged the last major skirmish of the English Civil War and the Battle of Appomattox Court House was one of the last in the American Civil War.

A pioneering community quilt – set to be a surprise gift for Appomattox – was also begun at the Festival. Visitors and locals donated to a mass ‘Sewing Bee’ buying all 128 hexagons on the patchwork, being stitched together by volunteers. Contributors also sent personal greetings messages to the American townspeople. Rachel Surman, who organised the project with husband Nigel, and expert quilter Stephanie Venn, said: “People said it was a unique idea and we’ve been overwhelmed by the keen interest and support.” Appomattox, marking the 150th anniversary of its battle with a re-enactment, sent its greetings to its Cotswold counterpart.

Fifty-two craft, fashion and charity stalls jostled for space in a bustling market. This included the buzzing Festival giant charity tombola with a prize for every £5 donation and 50 star prizes over £25. Organisers Dave and Sylvia Wiblin rang in £1,625. Folks also enjoyed a display of American vehicles, an American tea party, show of American Civil War coins and flags and Stow primary school’s exhibition on Appomattox. A rodeo bull kicked off alongside a attractions including a craft tent, face painter, Stow fire engine, a best-dressed dog competition, children and adults’ treasure hunt, storytelling and magic man.

Live music dominated the stage and Gloster Gladiators marched through the town centre. The day culminated in a Square Dance in the Square with band Silver Bough, hot dogs and burgers.

The event launched the night before with a performance by the Military Wives Choir, Brize Norton, under the Music at Stow banner, and Stow primary school’s summer fete.

Festival committee chairman Maggie Deacon said: “We couldn’t have done without the fantastic support from local businesses which we hope promotes them and Stow.  The Civic Society’s fantastic work will no doubt strengthen our Friendship Link, especially when we send the quilt. The day’s atmosphere and sunshine saw lots of people having a wonderful time and being very generous with donations to our charities.”

Photos of the event can be found in the ‘Picture Galleries’ pages of the web site.

YEE-HA!   The spirit of Yankee Doodle Dandy came to the Cotswolds. Stow Cotswold Festival celebrated America’s Independence Day on 4th July 2015. Stars and Stripes flew beside Union Flags; Stetsons, checked shirts and American-style refreshments starred alongside straw hats and traditional cream teas.

The biennial extravaganza marked Stow-on-the-Wold’s unique Friendship Link with the US town of Appomattox. The British town staged the last major skirmish of the English Civil War at which Parliamentarians routed Royalists in the 1646 Battle of Stow. Appomattox witnessed The Battle of Appomattox Court House, one of the American Civil War’s final clashes in 1865.

One of the Festival’s major attractions was a mass ‘Sewing Bee’. Stow’s first community quilt is being put together by visitors and locals as a surprise gift to Appomattox. People could make a pledge or sew a hexagon on the colourful patchwork in St Edward’s Hall. Eye-catching red, white, and blue American material brooches were made and there was an American tea party including homemade cookies and brownies.

Special greetings were screened from Stow’s American friends showing a Civil War re-enactment commemorating their battle’s 150th anniversary this year.

Mayor Mike Curtis gave the Festival a grand opening at 10.10am. Market stalls, crafts and a host of games kicked it off. USA vehicles were on display with family attractions including a children’s fancy dress competition and parade, a carousel, face painters, giant snakes and ladders, a roaming Magic Man and a story teller. Children and adults came up with some ‘barking’ ideas for the best-dressed dog contest and tested their skills in town centre treasure hunts and a community competition in the church.

Marking the growing bond between the two towns’ primary schools, a display included art, maps and letters, collated by Stow and District Civic Society which initiated the overall friendship link.

Live music featured on the stage in the afternoon including Cotswold School’s Back to Black brass section, Silver Bough and Gloucester Gladiators Scout Band. Stow Square then hosted a Square Dance until 10.30pm.

Reinforcing the theme of resolving conflict, The Military Wives Choir, Brize Norton, directed by conductor/organist David Ashley and featuring soprano Rose Johnson was a curtain raiser for the Festival. The singers performed the evening before in St Edward’s Church, under the banner Music at Stow. Stow Primary School also hosted its summer fete on July 3.

The Festival supported four main charities: The Sam Pilcher Trust; Springboard Children’s Centre, Stow; Stow Disability Association and the Sue Ryder hospice, at Leckhampton, Cheltenham.

Stow on the Wold and Appomattox

The Friendship Link started some 18 months ago when Stow and District Civic Society contacted Appomattox Historical Society. Both towns have some 2,000 inhabitants and are rural. The link blossomed with both primary schools starting to share their cultures and individuals corresponding.

Stow was the scene of the last major skirmish in the English Civil War, in 1646. And the Battle of Appomattox Court House, near Virginia, Massachusetts, was one of the American Civil War’s final battles in 1865.

“Our American friends are set to celebrate their 150th anniversary this April. We look forward to seeing their greetings to Stow against the backdrop of a Civil War re-enactment, which will be played at the Festival and enjoyed with US-themed refreshments. We want to encourage everyone to join in making the quilt on the day,” said Stow and District Civic Society chairman and festival committee member Nigel Surman. “It will be a traditional English quilt with hexagonal paper piecing. People can stitch a hexagon, or sponsor one. There will also be a message book for people’s comments and addresses if they’d like to forge further with individual friendships. Perhaps this could also lead to an on-line conversation between the two towns.” Led by expert quilter Stephanie Venn, with inspiring work on display, volunteers will demonstrate and help piece it together as a surprise gift for Appomattox

In 1646 blood was said to be “flowing in the gutters and down Digbeth Street” at the Battle of Stow. Outnumbered Royalist troops, led by Charles 1st’s senior infantry commander Sir Jacob Astley, were driven into the market square by the Parliamentarians. Today’s town centre witnessed over 4,000 men and cavalry in hand-to-hand combat. More than 1,500 Royalist prisoners were taken and held overnight in St Edwards Church. The colourful quilt will pay homage to the desperate last stand.

Festival-goers can also stitch a striking stars and stripes rosette as a memento to wear and take home.

“The aim of the Festival is to introduce Stow to new visitors, to offer a family fun day for visitors and locals alike and to contribute to local charities. We expect our Festival to be lots of fun, with something for everyone” said Maggie Deacon, Stow Cotswold Festival chairman.