Chipping Campden is one of The Cotswolds’ most well known towns, and is located in the district of Gloucestershire. Its ‘Chipping’ forename draws on Old English linguistics where the expression meant “a market” or “a market-place”, and so Chipping Campden is an apt pre-fix for this historical market town. Chipping Campden is notable for its beautifully terraced High Street that was erected between the 14th and 17th century; a feature that sets it apart from other ‘Chipping’ towns in the Cotswold area, such as Chipping Norton, Chipping Sodbury and the formerly named Chipping Wycombe (now High Wycombe).
Chipping Campden High Street
Back in Time
Back in the Middle Ages Chipping Campden was recognised as a rich wool-trading centre, a title that attracted many wealthy wool merchants into the area. Profits were large in size, and many of the vendors contributed their seemingly limitless earnings to the construction of community-based wool churches. Wool churches, fittingly named as an upshot of where their financial backing came from, are common landmarks throughout the Cotswolds and were built to replace the smaller places of worship. The wool industry began to take off at a time when new religions were being established and the number of worshippers was on the increase. Smaller religious buildings found that the growing network of religious citizens in each rural settlement frequently overfilled their pews, and so families in each village helped in the construction of different wool churches to illustrate their wealth, status and their faith. The early perpendicular wool church of St James is a grand example of a building from the era, with its medieval altar frontals, cope and 17th century monuments that were built in tribute to the popular silk merchant, Sir Baptist Hicks.
Chipping Campden’s architecture also dates back to the middle ages, with honey-coloured limestone the material of choice when it came to erecting the town’s iconic High Street. The locally sourced, quarried oolitic limestone is also known as Cotswold stone, and was used to build not only the architecture which lines the High Street but also the Market Hall, which has stood at the centre of the town since 1627.
Chipping Campden’s medieval heritage is also recognised through its compering responsibilities in the Olimpick Games, to which it has played host on Dover’s Hill since the 1612. The Olimpick Games focus on rural sports, such as shin kicking, coursing with hounds, and sledgehammer throwing, and takes place annually on the Friday evening that follows the late Spring Bank holiday. The Olimpick Games are also notable for their huge bonfire and firework displays, which mark their conclusion – and the Scuttlebrook Wake, which takes place the day after the finale of the Games.
The turn of the 20th century also saw Chipping Campden become the central location of the Cotswolds Arts and Crafts Movement, after Charles Robert Ashbee and the other members of the Guild and School of Handicraft moved into the area from the East End of London in 1902. Specialising in a variety of crafts such as metalwork, jewellery production and furniture making amongst others, the Guild of Handicraft group found a home in Chipping Campden, and helped the area to become a hub for artists, writers and other creatives who shared a love of the arts. The Court Barn on Church Street is now a museum that celebrates the Movement, and the skilled artists who were a part of it during the early 1900s.
Chipping Campden Court Barn
Meanwhile the National Trust-run Hidcote Gardens also showcase Campden’s relations to the Arts and Crafts Movement. Modern horticulturalist and American Major Lawrence Johnston created a selection of outdoor ‘rooms’ at Hidcote that are both colourful and carefully designed – much like the art that came before them. Ornate benches, narrow paved pathways and The Monarch’s Way path offer an enjoyable route around the gardens that are bursting with stunning plant-life and oodles of wildlife.
Chipping Campden in the Present
In the present day, Chipping Campden is considered a tourist hotspot in The Cotswolds, thanks to its range of aging inns, classic hotels, specialist boutiques and comforting restaurants.
Whilst the town still embraces it traditional roots through its architecture and heritage-themed attractions, Chipping Campden Is also becoming an increasingly cultured rural location, playing host to a number of local and international annual events. For example, not only did the town host its annual Olimpick Games this year, but it also played home to: the International Music Festival in May; a show performed by the Hungary-based Aurin Girls’ Choir in June; and the Contemporary Dance Festival in July. Whilst many rural villages remain quintessentially British, the creative townspeople of Chipping Campden instead choose to embrace global cultures through their eclectic events calendar.
So whether you visit Chipping Campden for a short weekend or stay in the town for a while, you will always find something to see and enjoy whether you love classic British heritage or contemporary cultured attractions.