17th and 18th Centuries
Cirencester found itself involved in the Civil War like so many other towns in the area. The streets were the scene of several skirmishes as the Royalists and Parlimentarians fought for dominance. The townsfolk supported the Parliamentarians, but the gentry and clergy were for the old Royalist order. After an earlier unsuccessful attempt three weeks before Prince Rupert, nephew of Charles 1 and one of his most successful commanders, took the town on 2nd February 1643.
There was fierce resistance at a major engagement by Barton Farm. Over 300 citizens were killed and 1200 were held captive in the church overnight without food or water. Many of the old stained glass windows were broken that night as the families tried to get supplies in to them. The next day they were marched to Oxford, the King's headquarters. Most were persuaded to support the Royalists and allowed to return home. By April the Parliamentarians had returned, but only briefly. The civil war continued for a further 2½ years before the Royalists were finally defeated in 1645. Three years later the King was executed.
The return of the monarchy in 1660 was welcomed by many [the Parish Church bells are still sounded on 29 May ("oak apple day") to celebrate the Restoration].
Meanwhile, the 17th century saw the development of the two private estates which came to encircle the town. Following the dissolution of the monasteries the Abbey's property had been redistributed amongst favoured courtiers. The Oakley Manor was given to Sir Thomas Parry, treasurer to Elizabeth 1, and in 1564 he sold the site of the abbey to the Queen's personal physician, Dr Richard Master. Both began to build fine Elizabethan houses, set within landscaped grounds and parkland.
The Oakley estate was eventually sold to Sir Benjamin Bathurst in 1695. His son, who became the first Earl Bathurst in 1772, with the advice of his friend Alexander Pope the poet, was responsible for the extensive landscaping of Cirencester Park, with its broad avenues and follies dotted amongst an extensive wooded park. [It is still considered to be the very best of Forest Parks in the country.]
On the opposite side of town the Master family (Chester-Master from 1742) replaced the Elizabethan manor house in the old abbey grounds in 1776 with Abbey House, which was demolished in 1964 when the grounds were given to the town. The modern park - often called The Abbey Grounds - created now provides a pleasant parkland oasis behind the parish church.
In the town the religious diversity and eventual tolerance was illustrated by the early establishment of the Baptist Church some time before 1651 still on the same site in Coxwell Street and the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) built the Friends Meeting House in Thomas Street in 1673. The Weslyan Methodist building in Gloucester Street was added in 1808. Later the Salvation Army took over the Temperance Hall (built on the site of the Old Masters Brewery in 1846) in 1881 in Thomas Street and, after a move to Watermoor for about 80 years, returned to be there today. The Roman Catholic church in Ashcroft was built in 1896. The Kingdom Hall for Jehovah's Witnesses' moved from Coxwell Street up to Chesterton in the 1970s.
The 18th century saw the changes and eventual decline in the wool trade and growth of the corn trade together with the market and banking activities needed to support the trading. By the turn of the century the centre of local wool and cloth trade had gravitated to Stroud, where the demands of water for the new larger scale industries could be better met. However, the building of the Severn-Thames canal - through the famous Sapperton Tunnel - helped maintain some industry based on the coal that was made more readily available until the arrival of the railway.