Visiting Chipping Campden was like stepping back in time. The village seems to be frozen in a lovely frame of beautifully craved ancient limestone. The place was crowded as well, with countless number of cars parked along the main street, lined with a stretch of old houses, glued to each other in an attempt of creating a long and gentle stroll.
The town was born in the medieval times and as the name suggested (“chipping” means market or market place) it was one of the most important places for trading in wool. In the middle of the town sits 17th century Market Hall, build by the town’s benefactor, Sir Baptist Hicks. Surprisingly its purpose has not changed to this day and we could see people selling sheep and cow skin under an amazing wooden roof.
The Market Hall is surrounded by houses build from honey-coloured lime-stone, and because they are so well preserved it is easy to see Chipping Campden as a lively market town as it was in the past. The Hall itself is rather impressive. Build in 1627 in order to provide shelter for the traders. Back then you could buy almost anything – cheese, butter, poultry etc. If you let your imagination wander, you will see the trading taking place and you will be able to understand how important this building was for the traders. It was almost sold to an American in 1940, but local people raised money and bought it first. Then the building was donated to the National Trust, so everyone could enjoy its uniqueness and remember its very important connections to the town.
On the edge of the town, at its north end, seats St. James church – one of the finest “wool” churches in the Cotswolds, build from profits gained in wool trading. These churches are common for Cotswold and East Anglia and were often build to replace an existing but smaller and less splendid church to show growing prosperity of the community. Quite often these kinds of projects were undertaken by a family living in a village to emphasize their wealth and faith. The idea of wool churches died with decline of the wool trade and the English Reformation between 1525 and 1600.
St. James church has a magnificent 120ft tower and its very spacious inside, with one of the oldest altar tapestries (pre-reformation) and largest brass in England.
The first church on the side was a Norman church erected in 1180, slowly changing around 1260 into a bigger one. The changes continued well into 15th century, as the North aisle was constructed and the south aisle and the south porch were added together with windows. Nave was reconstructed and the great window over the chancel arch was added as well.
The tower was built around 1500 ensuring that the church is a significant landmark to the town, no matter which way you approach.
Chipping Campden is one of the finest little towns in the region of Cotswold. With its 2000 inhabitants and countless number of small pubs, cafes and B&B’s can offer a pleasant stay. Its popularity among tourists is growing each year so I would not recommend it for a quiet stay. The town is very artist friendly, offering places to exhibit and still cultivating its medieval trading tradition.
You can travel to Chipping Campden by car, train or by bus. For more details please visit here.