Chipping Campden is quite simply one of the finest towns in the Cotswolds – well-preserved and full of history, but also full of life and bustle.
Its elegant High Street is a delight, described by the historian, G.M. Trevelyan, as “the most beautiful village street now left in the island”: a broad gentle curve flanked on either side by an unbroken sweep of buildings covering a host of architectural styles, with buildings dating back to the 14th century.
In the centre of the High Street stands the iconic Market Hall, now in the care and ownership of the National Trust, and built in 1627 by Sir Baptist Hicks to provide shelter for traders selling perishable goods, like cheese and butter, or precious goods, like silks. The paving stones have been worn away by hundreds of years of busy trade – and it’s all too easy to imagine the noise and bustle of traders long ago.
Sir Baptist Hicks was a very wealthy silk merchant and vast and extravagant 17th century monuments to him and his family can be found in the town’s church. St James' Church, the town’s most visible landmark, is one of the greatest ‘wool’ churches in the Cotswolds, built with money from the flourishing medieval wool trade. It is famous for having one of the oldest altar tapestries and largest brasses in England.
In 1613, the newly enriched Sir Baptist Hicks began work on a splendid new house in Chipping Campden with equally fashionable formal gardens. Unfortunately not long after its completion it was burnt to the ground by retreating Royalist soldiers during the Civil War and little remains - two pepperpot lodges framing the gateway beside the church, and two exceptional Jacobean banqueting houses, which can be rented through the Landmark Trust.
The Court Barn Museum in the town tells the story of craft and design in the Cotswolds. C R Ashbee brought the Guild of Handicraft to the Old Silk Mill in the town in 1902. Unfortunately it did not prosper and in 1908 many artists had returned to London. However some stayed on, and the Hart family, descendants of George Hart, still have their workshops in the Old Silk Mill today.
The town has a lively calendar of events, including the famous Cotswold Olimpicks, founded in the 17th century by Captain Robert Dover and still celebrated every year - a bizarre mix of sports, games and village festivities.
Chipping Campden has no shortage of excellent places to eat, drink and stay in with some excellent Cotswold hotels, pubs and B&Bs, as well as plenty of holiday cottages to rent. Chipping Campden makes an excellent base for a holiday, with a number of notable gardens nearby, including Hidcote and Kiftsgate, and with wonderful walks in the area, including the 104 mile Cotswold Way, which starts in the town and follows the escarpment all the way to Bath.
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