For any holiday destination, location, location, location is extremely important and as well as its outstanding intrinsic beauty and the character of its historic buildings and High Street, Chipping Campden’s has this in abundance. If not at the centre of the Cotswolds, Chipping Campden certainly typifies the heart and soul of the Cotswolds ANOB.
Access & Location
Whilst it is now often described as being on the road from nowhere to everywhere, years ago it was at the centre of the extremely important main routes between Warwick and Gloster, and Woster and Oxford (see the Izod’s finger board on the A44 at Cross Hands).
Its position in today’s world may not be as politically important, but for today’s holiday, it is:
- Easily accessible from the M5/M6 and M40/M42 motorways (20 – 25 minutes)
- Relatively close to the 4 cathedral cities of Gloucester, Oxford, Warwick and Worcester (40 – 45 minutes).
- Closer still to Banbury, Cheltenham, Cirencester, Leamington Spa and the Malvern Hills, etc. (5 – 10 minutes less).
- For those that want to visit the Cotswolds, it is within 15 – 20 minutes of Moreton in Marsh, Stow on the Wold, Burford, Bourton on the Water, Northleach and even Shakespeare’s Stratford upon Avon and Shakespeare Country.
- On top of this the Vale of Evesham is over the ridge and there are different beautiful Cotswold villages, lanes and views to explore almost every 5 or 6 miles.
Location, Architecture and History of the High Street
Chipping Campden lies in a bowl beneath steeply rising ridges and its intrinsic beauty comes from a combination of the local deep golden yellow honey coloured oolitic Jurassic limestone stone from its adjacent quarries and a fine range of architecture financed by the wool trade and silk merchants through from the early 1400’s to 1900 and later the arrival of Griggs and legacy of the Art & Crafts movement.
The High Street scene was created by The Lord of the Manor, Hugh de Gondeville who in 1185 was granted a market charter by King Henry II and then set out the plan of the town with the main street following level ground by the River Cam, a curve that helps to make the High Street and its regular plots of land called burgages to be occupied for a fee by craftsmen and traders, etc. to provide services to the whole community.
Grevel’s House (pictured above) was built around 1380 and remains one of the oldest continuously occupied houses in the Country. Woolstaplers Hall also comes from the 14th Century. There was undoubtedly a church on the site prior of The Church of St. James (pictured below) the Great that was first mentioned around 1180. This grand early perpendicular Cotswold wool church with its medieval altar frontals (c.1500), cope (c.1400) and vast and extravagant 17th-century monuments owes a lot to silk merchant Sir Baptist Hicks and his family.
Having purchased the land in 1608, Hicks built the magnificent Campden House (and mannerist gardens) at a cost of in excess of £40,000 that was destroyed by Royalists in 1645 during the English Civil War to prevent it falling into the hands of the Parliamentarians. All that now remains of the once imposing estate are a gatehouse and two Jacobean banqueting houses. Lady Juliana Noel, Sir Baptist’s daughter, and her family lived at the converted stables near the site in Calf Lane, now called the Court House.
Hicks built The Alms Houses in 1612 for £1,000 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. The Eight Bells was built to provide sustenance and accommodation for those building these 2 buildings. The little crescent roofed building on Conduit Hill contains 3 springs and the water was piped through to Campden House and the Almshouses.
Hicks also built the ancient Market Hall in 1627 at a cost of £90.00. It was for the purpose of giving shelter to the local market selling cheese, butter and poultry. There is a pediment at each corner and the gables had windows which are now blocked up.
The Old Grammar School – John Fereby & his wife Marjerie were founders of the school in about date 1440, he had worked for King Henry VI who was founding Eton at this time and it maybe this gave him the idea too. In 1547 it was recorded that normally 60 to 80 scholars attended the school. The 1688 will of George Townsend, provided for Scholarships to Pembroke College, Oxford for scholars from four Gloucestershire schools including Campden. In the 1620’s, there was a major legal case by Sir Baptist Hicks and others against the Feoffees of the School and one of the first results was that a new school was built in the High Street.
In addition, the High Street has a wide mix of styles from the middle ages through to the Victorian Palladian and later. Westington, an area to the south of the town has several fine cottages some with roofs of slate stone or thatch (evidence of the coming of the railways when thatch was replaced with slate). Today there are some pastiche buildings with thatched roofs having been incorporated into this area.
The Chipping Campden Coat of Arms was created by Town Clerk Frank Holland in 1972 and can be still seen today around the town.
The Old Police Station is an interesting example of a post Victorian Police Station with the old Courtroom very much as it was in its hay day. Why not join the Cotswold Wardens for a guided walk of Chipping Campden to hear how this ancient town has developed. Walks start at the Market Hall at 2.30pm on Tuesdays and at 10.00am on Thursdays from the end of May to the start of October.
What to Enjoy in Chipping Campden Today
Today, Chipping Campden’s High Street boasts an infinite variety of independent shops; many selling desirable locally produced and manufactured craft items to enhance your home. There are regular weekly/monthly offerings from Town Hall by Campden Market and various local craft organisations.
C.R. Ashbee set up his Guild of Handicrafts here in Chipping Campden in1902 and much of his legacy is displayed in The Court Barn Museum near St James Church. Harts Silversmiths Workshop still occupies the old silk mill in Sheep Street and is an exhilarating time warp that you should not miss. The Gallery at The Guild exhibits offerings from many local artists and craftsmen.
On the corner of Sheep Street you will find the Robert Welch shop design centre where you can see and purchase their world renowned wares.
Whatever the season or weather, Chipping Campden offers stunning views throughout the year as demonstrated by these 2 pictures of Westington and St James Church.
Chipping Campden is a delight for those that like and enjoy good locally produced food and meals. Menus range from traditional English to French, Italian, Mediterranean and even Indian tastes. The historic Eight Bells, Lygon Arms, Noel Arms and Red Lion offer exceptionally good value traditional and exciting menus.
You can get afternoon tea at Badger’s Hall, Campden Coffee Co., da Stefania, The Bantam, Noel Arms, etc.
For those looking for local produce, Fillet & Bone, Maylam’s Deliquescent and Tokes between them will meet all your needs.
You can find accommodation to suit just about all tastes and pockets in Chipping Campden and the local area. The historic inns like The Lygon Arms, The Noel Arms, The Eight Bells, The Red Lions and Cotswold House (and Spa) offer accommodation throughout the year.
There are close on 180 to 200 self-catering cottages of all shapes and sizes in the locality. Cotswold Charm Holiday Cottages is amongst these and offers 4-star 1, 2, 3 & 4 bedroom units quite close together near Top Farm which means that they can handle family parties of 20 or more. They range from the interesting historic Stable Cottage through to the much more modern George Barn which enjoys level access and is disabled/wheelchair friendly.
Bed & Breakfasts abound on the Aston Road where you will also find a small caravan/camping site as well as glamping/yurts.
If you love gardens, then Chipping Campden will be your paradise. Within a few minutes’ drive you can visit Hidcote Manor Gardens, Kiftsgate Court, Snowshill Manor, Bourton House, Sezincote, and Batsford Arboretum.
Walk around Chipping Campden and you will find that beautiful gardens abound in and around the town; many participate in The Annual Open Gardens Weekend in June. The gardens at Shepherds Close and Pike Cottage in Westington are amongst the exceptional ones and well worth a look through the gate at any time of year.
A drive through Campden Wood from Dyers Lane takes you to the hidden, but splendid Campden House (formerly Combe House) and its gardens which are opened on occasions for charity.
Open throughout the year The Earnest Wilson Memorial Garden celebrates his working life and the plants he collected from China. It provides a restful spot where you can rest and recover from your exertions.
Music & Literary Festivals:
Chipping Campden’s first Music Festival was held in 2002 and since then it has grown to be widely recognised as one of the UK’s leading festivals, with visitors coming from the Americas, Canada, Australia, & New Zealand, as well as from all over the UK, and mainland Europe. The glorious venue of St James’ church has become a favourite with many of the world’s greatest musicians who all look forward to returning to this most beautiful of all the Cotswold towns.
Plans for the 2021 festival are being finalised and all being well; it will run from Monday May 10th – Saturday 22nd with the joint even with Campden Literature Festival being on the 8th. You can keep up to date with these plans via campdenmusicfestival.co.uk
Frequent recent participants include Bernard Haitink, Steven Isserlis, Alfred Brendel, The Jerusalem Quartet, Imogen Cooper, Paul Lewis, Richard Goode, and Vox Luminis. The Paul Lewis masterclass was so popular that it is likely to be repeated, possibly with Richard Goode as tutor.
Robert Dover’s Olimpick Games:
Chipping Campden has been home to a championship of rural games since the early seventeenth century, when it morphed into Robert Dover’s Cotswold Olimpick Games. The games were discontinued in 1852 but revived in 1963 and still continue despite Foot & Mouth Disease and the Covid19 virus.
Picture Robert Dover’s Olimpick Games
Held every summer on the Friday evening following the late Spring Bank-holiday (usually late May or early June), on Dover’s Hill, near Chipping Campden. Peculiar to the games is the sport of shin-kicking (hay stuffed down the trousers can ease one’s brave passage to later rounds).
To mark the end of the games, there is usually a huge bonfire and associated firework display that is followed by a torch-lit procession back into the town and dancing to a local band in The Square.
Chipping Campden’s own Scuttlebrook Wake takes place on the following day. Locals don fancy dress costumes and follow the Scuttlebrook Queen, with her four attendants and Page Boy, in a procession to the centre of town pulled on a decorated dray by the town’s own Morris Men. This is then followed by the presentation of prizes and displays of Maypole and Country dancing by the two primary schools and Morris dancing.
If you like walking, there is a myriad of circular walks of different lengths in and around Chipping Campden for you to enjoy. Maps and descriptions of these local walks can be obtained from the Chipping Campden Information Centre or www.campdenonline.org.
Many of the footpaths lead to and from Dovers Hill, a natural amphitheatre on a spur of the Cotswold scarp with glorious views over the surrounding countryside and can be found approximately 1 mile northwest of Chipping Campden. It has beautiful views across the Vale of Evesham and Malvern Hills and on a very good day you can see the Wrekin in Shropshire.
Broadway Tower is another wonderful local target; its location was wisely chosen and provides a dramatic outlook on a pre-medieval trading route and beacon hill. The stunning all round views look towards Cleeve Hill and across the Vale to Bredon Hill, the Malvern Hills and Black Mountains.
The walk from here down into Broadway is equally stunning and from there you may be able to get a bus back to Chipping Campden or can walk across the escarpment near Willersey and Saintury back to Chipping Campden via Dovers Hill.
Looking towards Stratford upon Avon you cannot miss the Iron Age hillfort on Meon Hill, the remains of which are visible as earthworks. It is the second tump of 4 on a 28km route from Mickleton to Stratford climbing Ebrington hill before following the Heart of England Way to Admington Lane.
Able walkers may divert to include Hidcote Manor and Kiftsgate Court Gardens and Bakers Hill, Larkstoke or even Ilmington on their route.
The route from Ilmington to Charingworth over Foxcote Hill provides stunning views over the Warwickshire Countryside towards Brailes Hill and Clump. Continue from Charingworth through Ebrington and back to Chipping Campden.
Continuing on around Chipping Campden there are walks up Broad Campden Hill and on towards Blockley and if you can make it Batsford and finally Moreton in Marsh. Much of this on The Monarch’s Way.
Completing the circle, Westington can provide unforgettable views into Chipping Campden and onwards toward Stratford and Warwick.
Maps and descriptions of these local walks can be obtained from the Chipping Campden Information Centre or www.campdenonline.org.
You can also join the Cotswold Wardens for a guided walk of Chipping Campden and hear how the ancient town has developed. Walks start at the Market Hall at 2.30pm on Tuesdays and at 10.00am on Thursdays from the end of May to the start of October.
The Cotswold Way
Chipping Campden’s historic Market Hall marks the start of The Cotswold Way, a long distance walking Trail that runs between the market town in the north and the city of Bath in the south.
The Trail is 102 miles (164 km) long, and runs for most of its length on the Cotswold escarpment. It passes through many picturesque villages and close to a significant number of historic sites, for example the Roman heritage at Bath, the Neolithic burial chamber at Belas Knap, Sudeley Castle near Winchcombe, Hailes Abbey and many beautiful churches and historic houses.
Following many years of lobbying by the Ramblers Association and others, The Cotswold Way has existed as a promoted long distance walk for over 30 years. Its special qualities have been recognised and in 1998 the government approved its development as a National Trail.
The Cotswold Way was formally launched as a National Trail in May 2007. This designation is a very special one and there are only a few other Trails in England with this special grading. Information about the others can be found on the main National Trail web site www.nationaltrail.co.uk.
Please call in to see us at The Information in Campden or contact us via www.campdenonline.org for all your Maps and Guides and to update information.
Recreation and Activities
The Recreation Ground is 3 minutes away from the High Street on George Lane has a junior football pitch and a carefully well-built children’s play area that is well laid out with different activities for children of various ages.
Chipping Campden Tennis Club has 3 courts and clubhouse on the Recreation Ground. The Scout Hut is a reasonable sized multi-purpose building on the Ground.
Chipping Campden Bowls Club is at the bottom of Station Road and has a very nice green and a clubhouse where the indoor game can be played.
Chipping Campden Cricket Club is alongside the Bowls Club.
Winter and summer, the Chipping Campden Bridge Club meets in The Town Hall and normally plays duplicate bridge on Wednesday evenings from 18.40.
The North Cotswold Vintage Motorcycle Club normally starts its Sunday Runs at 10.00 – 10.30 from The Square with 20 – 30 bikes of wide age range in attendance.
Chipping Campden’s Early History
A well-established settlement by the 7th century, Chipping Campden’s name originates from 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’ meaning ‘market’, was not added until much later when the town had a market.
There local evidence of a stone age village in Weston Wood, a Roman grave at Kingcombe and vineyard on the slopes of Dovers Hill.
The Kiftsgate Stone stands on the “moot” site where local tribes met to discuss matters and is on the old path or lay-line from Brailes Clump to Bredon Hill.
An early Saxon chapel or church stood on the site of St James Church in Saxon times. There was also a small Saxon barn in Westington that unfortunately was destroyed by fire in 2017. It is believed that there was a small Saxon Chapel at the bottom of Westington on site now occupied by electrical sub-station.
Little more is known about Campden before the Norman Conquest and the Domesday Book recorded a population of about 300.
Chipping Campden History Society
The society is interested in uncovering all aspects of Chipping Campden and the local area’s history. It has a major collection of old photographs and documents.
For more information see – https://www.chippingcampdenhistory.org.uk/
The CHS Archive Room in The Old Police Station is open to visitors on Wednesdays from 2.00pm – 4.00pm and Saturday from 10.00am – 12 noon and at other times by appointment. Telephone 01386 848840 or email us to make an appointment
Below, a picture of Chipping Campden under the rainbow.