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About Chipping Campden

Chipping Campden is located in the Cotswold district of Gloucestershire, England which is home to many beautiful Cotswold market towns. This town is most noted for its long and wide main street, which was once the heart of the local wool trade. The town’s architecture reflects its long history, with buildings dating back to the 14th century.

Today, the town is a popular tourist destination, thanks in part to its close proximity to other popular Cotswold towns like Stratford-upon-Avon and Cheltenham.

Early years

Wool Trade

Modern Day

About Chipping Campden

“Chipping” is from Old English cēping, “a market, a market-place”; the same element is found in other towns such as Chipping Norton and Chipping Sodbury. If you get up early on the morning of Scuttlebrook Wake you can generally see it in all its glory. Once a rich wool trading centre in the Middle Ages, Chipping Campden enjoyed the patronage of wealthy wool merchants at the time.

History in Stone

There was a settlement in Chipping Campden by the 7th century and, almost certainly, long before that. The Saxon ‘campa’ ‘denu’ is an accurate description as the meaning is literally ‘a valley with cultivated fields ringed by unfenced hill pastures’. The word ‘Chipping’ comes from the Anglo-Saxon ‘ceapen’ meaning ‘market’, and was not added until much later when the town had a market. Little is known about Campden before the Norman Conquest and the Domesday Book recorded a population of about 300.

Chipping Campden is a very early example of town planning. The Lord of the Manor, Hugh de Gondeville was granted a market charter by King Henry II in 1185 and set out the plan of the town. The main street followed level ground by the River Cam, a curve that helps to make the High Street so attractive. He laid out regular plots of land called burgages to be occupied for a fee by craftsmen, traders and others providing services to the community. An aerial view of the town today clearly shows evidence of these burgage plots.

Chipping Campden Wool Trade

The Cotswolds became very prosperous in the 14th and 15th centuries and Campden, in particular, thrived. The wool from the long-backed Cotswold Lion sheep was prized across Europe. William Grevel, the son of a local man, became one of Campden’s (and, by repute, one of England’s) most successful wool merchants. In about 1380 he built a new house in the High Street (Grevel House) that still stands today. The Woolstaplers Hall on the other side of the High Street was built in the 14th century by Robert Calf and illustrates how Campden had become an important collecting point for fleece, later sold to Flemish and Italian clothiers.

Decline and Revival

The Wool Industry around Campden was at its height from the late 13th to the early 15th century. After that the export of wool declined as the weaving of high quality cloth in England rose. The Cotswold’s and Campden especially, could not support a large scale cloth industry due to the lack of an adequate water supply. It also became increasingly profitable to supply meat as well as wool and by Victorian days, the main interest was in meat.

Silk spinning began to increase in popularity and in the mid 18th Century, we find records of Silk spinning in the Silk Mill in Sheep St and Campden was again known for the quality of its produce. However, the Silk industry collapsed in Britain during the 1860’s following a trade agreement with France which reduced import duties on French Silk.

Around this time the agricultural depression also had an increasing effect and farm workers were moving to the bigger towns to work in factories there.

So Campden remained stagnant and half empty until the arrival of C R Ashbee and his Guild of Handicraft which created work and employment for 100 or so families who moved with him from East London. This brought prosperity back to the Town once again.

Modern Day Chipping Campden

It was Chipping Campden’s outstanding architectural heritage, beautiful surroundings and living tradition of craftsmanship that brought the renowned etcher and architect FL Griggs to settle in Chipping Campden in 1904. Over 25 years he devoted all his resources and energies to protecting the heritage and charm of Chipping Campden. He stood out against unsuitable development, had many houses restored, saved Dover’s Hill and had it handed over to the National Trust (NT). Then in 1929, he formed the Campden Trust to continue the conservation effort – as it did very effectively for over 40 years until most of the town was designated a Conservation Area (1970) and protective planning laws were enacted. The Trust did restore many neglected town properties over the years and raised money to acquire The Coneygree and the 17th century Market Hall – both for transfer to the NT. Since the 70s there has been much added development and infilling in the old part of the town but mainly well-proportioned and in natural stone.

Developments on the outskirts have also been managed, in the main, sympathetically. Anyway, none of Campden’s precious open spaces or buildings and street-scenes of importance have been lost. It is no wonder then that Chipping Campden is such a uniquely attractive historic gem of a town. Since it was laid out so handsomely with its long high street in the 12th Century it has been fortunate. Its growth as a settlement, aided by wool wealth, durable stone and fine craftsmanship, has been untouched by war, industrialisation or arterial traffic. Thanks to this and exceptional care of the special character and built heritage of the town during the last century, it has survived splendidly. It is rich in listed (protected) buildings, with over 270 in the town, including no less than 170 in the extended High Street alone. In addition to its charm, Chipping Campden is still a thriving small market town with a wide range of high quality places to stay, restaurants, attractions, shops and other amenities.

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