Wysdom Hall

Drawing of Wysdom Hall

The medieval market town of Burford is well known for its picturesque High Street, made up of a variety of fifteenth and sixteenth century stone and timber framed properties. Burford as a village has a small mention in the domesday book of 1086, but by the end of the eleventh century a charter was granted allowing property to be leased and a market held. By the fourteenth century, mercers and craftsmen had come to the town, which was well on its way to becoming one of the most famous wool towns of the Cotswolds.

A packhorse bridge, built over the river Windrush, added to Burford's importance, being part of the major south to north routes from Salisbury to Chipping Campden and Bristol to Banbury. The east to west routes of London to Gloucester and Worcester were equally well served. This communication crossroads helped build Burford's corn and wool trade, which by the beginning of the fifteenth century had made Burford one of the four most prosperous towns in England. It was here, in 1555, that Simon Wysdom (a successful mercer) decided to build a centre for his growing business empire.

Today, behind a grand Georgian façade, is Wysdom Hall, one of the most important medieval houses in Burford. Built around a narrow central courtyard are jettied structures with fine oak bressumers; an archway to the east leads to gardens and Simon Wysdom's wool stores. The Hall still retains many original and interesting features, including a panelled room of 1555 carved with Wysdom's initials. It was here, as Alderman, that he welcomed Queen Elizabeth I to the town in 1574.

Wysdom died in 1586 or 1587, and the building, largely untouched, continued to be used for trade until around 1720 when Richard Whitehall, another mercer, bought the house and added the grand façade. Throughout the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the Hall housed a number of mercers' businesses. In the 1840s and 1850s, it was used as a grocery store. John and Philip Howell, cabinet makers, traded from the Hall through the 1860s and 1870s, using the wool store at the back as a workshop. The Sharp family were boot, furniture and china dealers, who succeeded the Howells, and must have done a little Undertaking as there is a faded sign stating ‘Funerals Furnished' which is painted on the stone pillar beside the shop door.

In 1935 the house was sold to Marjorie Warner, whose son Roger ran a very successful antiques business until 1987. When Roger sold the Hall, the front rooms were separated and let to David Pickup, who also ran a well-respected antiques business, whilst the rest of the property was used as a bed and breakfast undertaking.

To bring Wysdom Hall's story up to the present time, David Pickup left the shop in 2015 to continue dealing from his home and Tim Wilson, a collector and dealer in early furniture, moved into the Hall which he first visited as a young 'mercer' 40 years' earlier.