A hub of the Cotswolds since Roman times, when it was called Corinium, Cirencester (pronounced siren-sester) was second only to London in importance. Today this old market town is the area's largest, with a population of 19,000. It sits at the intersection of two major Roman roads, the Fosse Way and Ermin Street (now A429 and A417). In the Middle Ages Cirencester grew rich on wool, which funded its 15th-century parish church. It preserves many mellow stone buildings dating mainly from the 17th and 18th centuries and bow-fronted shops that still have one foot in the past.
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