The village of Welford-on-Avon is considered by many to be one of the prettiest villages in Warwickshire. It lies in a loop of the River Avon about 4 miles West of Stratford Upon Avon, on a site that has been occupied for thousands of years, having been mentioned in the Domesday Book, when it was part of Gloucestershire. Today the village benefits from a lovely local primary school (rated Ofsted Outstanding), some excellent pubs, village stores, a garage, a children’s play area, one of the tallest maypoles in England, a spectacular 18 hole golf course, and a wealth of timber-framed thatched cottages, many of them dating from the 17th century. The oldest building in Welford is the parish church of St Peter, built in 1330 on the site of an earlier 12th-century building. The church stands a short distance from the river, and the site of a ford which gave the village its name. The church tower was said to have been used as a landmark by travellers using the ford. These days the river is popular with small boat traffic, canal barges, and canoeists, the village even has it’s own private marina.
There are two notable pubs, The Bell and The Shakespeare, plus the renowned riverside eatery The Four Alls. The Bell, at the junction of Church Lane and Welford High Street dates to the 17th century and has been named by The Good Pub Guide as Warwickshire dining pub of the year every year from 2017 to 2021. This pub has played a part in literary history, for according to tradition William Shakespeare came here to share a drink with Ben Jonson. On his way home to Stratford, Shakespeare was caught in a rain shower and contracted a case of fatal pneumonia. These days The Bell warms travellers with open fires, comfortable surroundings and some first class pub food, fine wines and great draught beer!
The village has around 1400 homes of which 145 older buildings are protected within a conservation area created in 1969; 64 of them officially listed Grade 2 by English Heritage, and 80 unlisted. There were 516 residents at the time of the first census in 1801, and in 2001 there were 1,300, rising to over 3000 today, a sign of just how popular Welford has become
For centuries the Maypole has been a popular European celebratory tradition, and although most of the historic party poles no longer exist, the small village of Welford-on-Avon retains one of the tallest surviving poles in England.
Rising to over 20 metres from the centre of the village, the striped maypole has been present in the site since the days of Shakespeare. In its original incarnation it was made of wood, but was at one point struck by lightning and destroyed. The current pole is made of aluminum and is officially a Grade II historical monument. The spire is topped with a weathervane shaped like a running fox, another traditional English icon. Visitors are recommended to visit the site in the month of May when the traditional May Day dance is still observed.