Chipping Campden is one of the loveliest small towns in the Cotswolds and a gilded masterpiece of limestone and craftsmanship. The main street curves in a shallow arc lined with a succession of ancient houses each grafted to the next but each with its own distinctive embellishments.
Pevsner described Chipping Campden as ‘the best piece of townscape
in Gloucestershire, arguably one of the best in England’.
As the name suggests ("Chipping" means market or market place from the old English "Ceping"). Chipping Campden was one of the most important of the medieval wool towns and famous throughout Europe. This legacy of fame and prosperity is everything that give the town its character.
Campden was already established in the 7th century and derives its name from the Saxon "Campa-denu" or "Campadene", meaning a valley with fields or enclosures of cultivated land.
Chipping Campden's church, St. James, at the north end of the town, is perhaps,
the finest 'wool' church in the Cotswolds, with a magnificent 120ft
(36 metre) tower and a very spacious interior. The church is famed
for having one of the oldest altar tapestries (pre-reformation)
and largest brass in England.
In 1970 the High Street and much of the rest of the town was officially designated a conservation area to preserve the ancient town for centuries to come.
To day Chipping Campden has a population of circa 2000.
Chipping Campden's 17th-century Market Hall (picture below) was built by the town's benefactor, Sir Baptist Hicks.
Chipping Campden has become known for its unusual and attractive High Street, said by G.M. Trevelyan (English Historian) to be "the most beautiful village street now left on the island".
The High Street is long and broad, and is flanked on either side by an almost unbroken single terrace, made up of many different architectural styles.
This house is the oldest in Chipping Campden and was built by William Grevel in about 1380. The house would have been one of the first to have chimneys instead of just holes in the roof.
William Grevel was one of the country's most influential wool merchants, a citizen of London and financier to
King Richard II.
Chipping Campden's wealth came from the Wool Trade.
St James church is one of England's finest Wool Churches Featured with four stars in 'England's Thousand Best Churches' by Simon Jenkins".
With pinnacles topping the diagonal buttresses and a pierced parapet with ogee arches, the composition soars over the landscape.
Most of the church is 500 years old and was built with money from the flourishing wool trade. Each of the lime trees leading from the main entrance to the porch represent an apostle
The ancient Market Hall was built in 1627 by Sir Baptist Hicks for a cost of £90.00. It was for the purpose of giving shelter to the local market selling cheese, butter and poultry - not wool as is sometimes thought.
Each corner of the building has a pediment, and each gable had a window which is now blocked up. The side arches have stone balustrades and the floor is paved with stone.
The Alms Houses were built in 1612 for £1000 by Sir Baptist Hicks in the form of a capital I and their simple style shows the early influence in Britain of the Renaissance. They were and still are used as the homes of twelve pensioners.
Each dwelling has an upper and lower room and each front door is shared by two houses. Sir Baptist Hicks's coat of arms and motto "NONDVM METAM", meaning 'I shall not fear yet' can be found on the Alms Houses.
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The 157 year old railway tunnel, still in use today, that links Chipping Campden with Mickleton was designed and built by Isambard Brunel. In the middle of it's construction 'The War of Mickleton' broke out. In 1851 Brunel decided to seize the site from the Main Contractor who had stopped work claiming he was owed £4300 by the Oxford Worcester & Wolverhampton Railway.
The Main Contractor was supported by 100 men armed with clubs, spades and pick-axes, the local police and magistrate from Bretforten (who Read the Riot Act to Brunel) and soldiers from the Gloucestershire Artillery.
Brunel surrounded the the tunnel entrance on the Mickleton side with a force of 2000 navvies and the Main Contractor capitulated after sporadic clashes between the two sides.
The author and his wife, Vivien, stayed at Little Orchard cottage in the 1930's where Graham Greene wrote his first really successful novel Stamboul Train.
Earnest Henry (Chinese) Wilson
E. H . Wilson was born in Chipping Campden - a notable plant collector who travelled China and Asia and introduced to the West a large range of about 2000 plant species of which some sixty bear his name.
There is a memorial garden dedicated to him in the town open daily free of charge at Leysbourne (continuation of the High Street) near St James church GL55 6DL.
For many visitors, Chipping Campden is the quintessential Cotswold town. It has a variety of building styles that have survived from all ages. Chipping Campden was one of the Cotswold's main wool markets.
Chipping Campden has important links with the Arts
and Crafts movement. C.R.
Ashbee set up his Guild of Handicrafts here in 1902. His workshop in the old silk mill in Sheep Street is now a small museum.
Read the strange story of a mother and her two sons in the 1600's being hanged for a murder that never happened - known as 'The Campden Wonder'.
NB: Please note American visitors quite often incorrectly spell Campden as 'Camden'.