Chip­ping Cam­p­den

Jane Leigh takes the town trail around this jewel of the Cotswolds

Cotswold Life - - INSIDE - WORDS: Jane Leigh

Awarm wel­come awaits in Chip­ping Cam­p­den, where the honey-coloured build­ings cast a golden glow over res­i­dents and vis­i­tors alike as they go about their daily lives.

With over 200 listed prop­er­ties in the town, pri­mar­ily built with the lo­cal Cotswold stone, it’s dif­fi­cult to know where to start: the sheer num­ber of an­cient build­ings re­flects the town’s pros­per­ous his­tory, with me­dieval wool mer­chants lav­ish­ing their wealth on churches and almshouses as well as their own homes.

The re­sult is a small town with much to ad­mire, and the Town Trail (avail­able on­line at www.chip­ping­cam­p­den.co.uk) of­fers a short stroll around the best fea­tures.

Pick of the bunch are:

The ‘wool church’ of St James, which in­cludes a me­mo­rial brass to Wil­liam Grevel, de­scribed as ‘the flower of the wool mer­chants of all Eng­land’. On his death in 1401, Grevel left 100 marks to­wards the re­build­ing of the church.

His home, Grevel House, which dates from around 1380: vis­i­tors can only view the out­side but there are some im­pres­sive gar­goyles and a sun­dial to en­joy.

The Almshouses on Church Street, built at a cost of £1,000 in 1612. They were pro­vided by Sir Bap­tist Hicks as homes for 12 pen­sion­ers (six men and six women), and are still in use to­day.

The Market Hall, built by Sir Bap­tist in 1627 to pro­vide shel­ter for traders and still in use on Market Day. A marker stone nearby de­notes the start (or fin­ish) of the Cotswold Way.

The Old Silk Mill in Sheep Street, a three-storey build­ing orig­i­nally used as a silk ‘throw­ing’ mill, and con­verted in 1902 as home to the Guild of Hand­i­craft.

And if you plan to be in the area in May next year, you might like to join in the fun at Dover’s Games, or the Cotswold Olimpicks as it’s bet­ter known. Held at Dover’s Hill, just a mile out of town, these pro­vide a sport­ing spec­ta­cle with a dif­fer­ence, in­cor­po­rat­ing such cen­turies-old sports as tug of war, shin­kick­ing, throw­ing the ham­mer, and spurn­ing the barre!

HIS­TORY

The ori­gins of this small market town are shrouded in the mists of time – Ne­olithic, Bronze and Iron Age items have been found, and the area is well known for Ro­man roads and set­tle­ments.

Most of the lo­cal place names are of Saxon ori­gin – in­clud­ing Cam­p­den, de­rived from ‘Cam­padene’ which means a val­ley with fields, or en­clo­sure of cul­ti­vated land – and there are sto­ries of the site be­ing a meet­ing place for a coun­cil of Saxon kings.

The ad­vent of the Nor­mans brought the Domes­day Book, and a ref­er­ence to the Manor and Vil­lage of Cam­p­den hav­ing be­longed to King Harold. A cen­tury later the land was granted to Hugh De Gon­dev­ille who is cred­ited with cre­at­ing the High Street: the town’s first char­ter was granted in 1186 when the ‘Chip­ping’ – de­rived from the Old English ‘ceping’ or market – was added to the name.

The Mid­dle Ages saw the town grow in pros­per­ity, due to the wool trade, with wool from Wales as well as the lo­cal area be­ing brought in for grad­ing and trad­ing, but even­tu­ally the wool in­dus­try de­clined, to be re­placed for a time by the silk spin­ning in­dus­try, with the silk mill pro­vid­ing em­ploy­ment.

The late 1800s saw hard times with agri­cul­ture in de­cline, but new crafts were brought in with the ad­vent of the Guild of Hand­i­craft, brought from Lon­don – and the Guild still pro­vides vis­i­tors with the op­por­tu­nity to see crafts­peo­ple and de­sign­ers at work in the Old Silk Mill on Sheep Street.

The fact that much of the cen­tre is a Con­ser­va­tion Area has helped pre­serve the orig­i­nal build­ings, and con­trib­uted to a town that en­joys a wellde­served rep­u­ta­tion as the ‘jewel of the Cotswolds’, in an Area of Out­stand­ing Nat­u­ral Beauty.

TRADERS

An in­fi­nite va­ri­ety of in­de­pen­dent shops in Chip­ping Cam­p­den makes shop­ping a plea­sure.

Nick West, chair of the Cam­den Busi­ness Fo­rum, says, “Chip­ping Cam­p­den, con­sid­ered to have the most beau­ti­ful high street in the coun­try, can also claim to be one of the most in­ter­est­ing, vi­brant and di­verse.

“In­de­pen­dent jew­ellers, milliners, wine mer­chants and Robert Welch’s iconic cutlery and tableware shop and stu­dio have been joined by Sam Wil­son, the home and ac­ces­sory de­signer, whose flag­ship store sits in close prox­im­ity to Fil­let & Bone, a food em­po­rium, which of­fers or­ganic meats, fish, veg­eta­bles and many other types of lo­cal pro­duce.

“Just along the road is the Covent Gar­den Academy of Flow­ers, a home and life­style store which runs a wide range of flower work­shops through­out the year to suit the needs of ev­ery bud­ding Con­stance Spry, while a few doors away is the Cherry Press stu­dio, which cre­ates letterpress sta­tionery us­ing good old-fash­ioned inky-fin­gered print­ing tech­niques.

“And from old me­dia, to new me­dia – Peri­dot Dig­i­tal Com­puter Sales and Ser­vic­ing caters for the needs of the com­puter savvy and not-so savvy.”

Nick also points to the multi-mil­lion pound re­fur­bish­ments of the Cotswold House Ho­tel and the Kings Ho­tel, and the re­de­vel­op­ment of Hux­ley’s café and bar with out­door ter­race over­look­ing The Square, as ev­i­dence of a town where busi­ness is thriv­ing.

He adds: “Like many towns, Cam­p­den strug­gles to pro­vide enough park­ing, so the lo­cal coun­cil has

‘The town en­joys a wellde­served rep­u­ta­tion as the ‘jewel of the Cotswolds’

pro­posed in­tro­duc­ing a clever free park­ing scheme which di­vides the High Street for long- and short-term vis­i­tors. This should en­sure that shop­pers can park close to re­tail out­lets, whilst those want­ing to stay, shop and eat or have a drink can all be ac­com­mo­dated.”

Of par­tic­u­lar note, and a high­light of the Cotswold Life visit to the town, was the warm wel­come that we found ev­ery­where, from lo­cal res­i­dents to traders. Our ‘must-visit’ rec­om­men­da­tions in­clude brows­ing The At­tic in Grafton Mews, a ‘dress­ing-up box for the grown-up lady’; step­ping back in time in the work­shop of Hart Sil­ver­smiths, in the Guild of Hand­i­craft; and en­joy­ing a leisurely lunch at Hux­leys.

But on an au­tumn day of glo­ri­ous sun­shine, the real treat was hav­ing time to am­ble around the cen­tre, ad­mire the beauty of the Cotswold stone build­ings, try­ing to re­sist temp­ta­tion in such a huge va­ri­ety of shops, and just en­joy­ing vis­it­ing this jewel of a town. We shall re­turn…

MARKET

The sec­ond Satur­day of ev­ery month sees vis­i­tors and res­i­dents flock to the Market in Chip­ping Cam­den, with the Town Hall keep­ing to cen­turies-old tra­di­tion and pro­vid­ing shel­ter for those in­tent on shop­ping for food, crafts, gifts, clothes… and more.

Now as the fes­tive sea­son ap­proaches, the town is get­ting set for the tra­di­tional Christ­mas Market on the first Satur­day in De­cem­ber.

There’ll be the usual market stalls, all dec­o­rated for the oc­ca­sion, but along­side them will be spe­cial stalls of­fer­ing Christ­mas gift ideas, food and drink in­clud­ing mulled wine and mince pies, and Fa­ther Christ­mas ar­riv­ing in a Mini dec­o­rated with ‘rein­deer’ antlers.

The Square, the some­what in­con­gru­ous name for the road be­hind the Market Hall, run­ning par­al­lel to the High Street, will be taken over for the event, and fes­tiv­i­ties start at 12 noon, with shop­pers be­ing en­ter­tained by lo­cal singer An­drew James, while more mu­sic will be pro­vided by choirs from the town’s two pri­mary schools.

The Town Hall will of­fer two floors of traders while find­ing room to house a fes­tive grotto where young­sters can meet Fa­ther Christ­mas, and 5.30pm will be light­ing up time when the Ro­tary Club’s Tree of Light will be switched on, fol­lowed by the of­fi­cial il­lu­mi­na­tion of Chip­ping Cam­p­den’s own Christ­mas lights.

Alyson Jes­sopp, one of the or­gan­is­ers of the Christ­mas Market, says, “We’re hop­ing it will be an­other suc­cess­ful day, es­pe­cially as any money raised will ben­e­fit lo­cal char­i­ties, in­clud­ing the Young Car­ers’ Group, Cam­p­den Home Nurs­ing, and Dovers Games.”

She adds, “And the Town Hall market will be open again on the Sun­day, from 10am to 5pm, with craft stalls ready to tempt those who still have gift shop­ping to do.”

Char­tered sur­veyor and es­tate agent Mark An­nett says, “Christ­mas in Chip­ping Cam­p­den is al­ways spe­cial with the tree, lights, Christ­mas Market and vis­i­tors from far and wide. The at­mos­phere is par­tic­u­larly nice, with all the traders en­ter­ing into the spirit of the sea­son.

“At Mark An­nett & Com­pany we hold our an­nual Christ­mas drinks party each year and this has be­come rather a fea­ture of the fun. The com­mu­nity spirit is lovely and we all look for­ward to the oc­ca­sion as win­ter bites.”

N‘The coun­cil has pro­posed a clever free park­ing scheme which di­vides the High Street for long and short­term vis­i­tors’

(photo: Betty Stocker)

ABOVE: The Market Hall with a view to the High Street be­yond; Shin-kick­ing at the Cotswold Olimpicks

ABOVE AND RIGHT: Chip­ping Cam­p­den’s Christ­mas Market Photos by Arthur Cun­yn­g­hame and Alyson Jes­sop

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