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Can You Hear The Tramp Of Ghostly Roman Feet Along Watling Street?

Can you hear the tramp of ghostly Roman feet along Watling Street?

Situated in the heart of Stony Stratford, the Butterfly Loft immediately absorbs you into two thousand years of history.

‘Stratford’ is an Anglo-Saxon word, meaning ‘ford on a Roman road’. The Roman road in question is Watling Street, which connects from London to Anglesey in north Wales. It was primarily a military road – one of the two great roads from London to the North. Legions passed along it on their way to and from campaigns or re-assignments to the various garrisons around the newly conquered country.

Anyone standing near the ford at Stony Stratford would have been used to the spectacle of disciplined marching cohorts of Roman infantry negotiating the river crossing, heading north or south. Stony Stratford was a stop-off point offering food, accommodation, horses, the services of blacksmiths and anything travellers might need.

Old Stratford – just over the bridge – was the bigger village originally and Stony was a very small hamlet. But things changed in 1194 when it was granted a royal charter to hold a market. It became a town in 1215 and that was the start of its long and prosperous career.

As you walk along Stony’s High Street you can see how many buildings were once coaching inns. Hooks used to hang from the ceiling of the entrance arch where the coaches turned in from the road so the coach driver could attach the coach reins and ‘park’ the coach allowing the passengers to descend.

The nursery rhyme “Ride a Cock horse to Banbury Cross to see a fine lady upon a white horse” is said to refer to the taking a horse from the Cock Hotel stables by one of the Fiennes – as in explorer Ranulph – ancestresses. It’s not proved, but it’s a nice story.

Elizabeth Woodville, mother to the two princes in the Tower came from nearby Grafton Regis. It’s said that after her husband Edward IV died she took the oldest son, the uncrowned Edward V, with her back to her home manor. His uncle Richard, Duke of Gloucester, later Richard III made false promises of safe passage and the two parties met in the High Street. The Rose and Crown Inn at Stony Stratford was reputedly where, in 1483, the boy-king Edward V stayed the night before he was taken to London (to become one of the Princes in the Tower) by his uncle Richard.

One of Stony Stratford’s claims to fame (this one is a bit spurious) is as the place of origin of the term ‘Cock & Bull Story’. This dates back to the late 18th/early 19th centuries, at the height of the great coaching era, when Stony Stratford was an important stopping-off point for mail and passenger coaches travelling between London and the North.

Travellers on these coaches were regarded as a great source of current news from remote parts of the country – news which would be imparted in the town’s two main inns, The Cock and The Bull. The two establishments rapidly developed a rivalry as to which could furnish the most outlandish and scurrilous travellers’ tales.

The town is still lively and as The Butterfly Loft is a quiet and peaceful retreat, just 30 seconds walk from the High Street, it’s perfectly situated. Find out about visiting us to enjoy our history.

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