The village of Ashton under Hill (population 743) is situated at the eastern end of Bredon Hill and overlooking the Vale of Evesham. Formerly know as Aesctun, it has a long history with evidence of Roman occupation.
The earliest surviving building is the parish church which is dedicated to St Barbara, who is alleged to afford protection from lightning strikes. The church is entered through a Norman doorway. The church has been extended and reconstructed over the years and has a neat pinnacled tower of the 14th Century and a chancel rebuilt in 1624. By the lych gate at the entrance to the churchyard is a 14th Century stone cross with a three-step base, a shaft and a sundial. On either side of the road are thatched cottages dating back to the 17th Century.
Ashton is most remarkable for its length – a walk along the almost mile-long village street (now called Beckford Road to the south and Elmley Road to the north) will take the visitor past a wide selection of the local rural architecture typical of both the Cotswolds and The Vale.
In addition to timber-framed and stone cottages there is a black and white farmhouse dating back to the 15th century, an elegant stone manor house built before 1700, tall brick houses from around 1800, also many red-brick Victorian cottages and a scattering of 20th century houses in a variety of styles. Most of the older part of the village is in a conservation area.
The non-conformist chapel, Ashton Free Church, was built in the 1920s. It contains a memorial window of stained glass which was installed to the memory of those killed in the First World War.
The village also has two schools; the primary school in the centre built in the 1860s with the more modern village hall attached, and at the north end the 1960s Bredon Hill Middle School.
The village pub The Star Inn offers a warm welcome, traditional ales and home-cooked food. Ashton used to have three pubs but The Plough Inn closed about 1940 and The White Hart closed some time before the Second World War.
The sub-post office at Ashton is contained in an old thatched cottage that is about 400 years old. It has had several uses including a shoe repair business. The post office has been run by the Whitehead family for many years.
Ashton is a favourite place for walkers because of its easy access to Bredon Hill with its range of public paths and scenic views. It’s a key part of Wychavon Way. The village is also well known as the birthplace of Fred Archer, whose many books, including The Secrets of Bredon Hill and Under the Parish Lantern, describe in vivid prose life on the farms and in the villages in past years, particularly the first part of the 20th Century.
Piped water did not arrive in the village until after the Second World War. Water was obtained from private wells prior to this.
In earlier times Ashton was celebrated for its orchards and market gardening. Very little now remains although the traditions of the market gardener have in some measure been transferred to the current inhabitants who take a great pride in their gardens, many of which are open to the public at the annual Open Gardens weekend in June.
There are many other activities in the village, including a playgroup, football club and a thriving cricket club which puts out two teams on Saturdays, a friendly team on Sundays and three junior age group teams.