A few weeks ago we held a management offsite in Chipping Campden in the Cotswold. It was a gorgeous town (which the locals tell me is visited heavily by Americans in the summer) and I found an hour to wander around:

Chipping Campden is a small market town within the Cotswold district of Gloucestershire, England. It is notable for its elegant terraced High Street, dating from the 14th – 17th centuries.

A rich wool trading centre in the Middle Ages, Chipping Campden enjoyed the patronage of wealthy wool merchants (see also wool church). Today it is a popular Cotswold tourist destination with old inns, hotels, specialist shops and restaurants. The High Street is lined with honey-coloured limestone buildings, built from the mellow locally quarried Cotswold stone, and boasts a wealth of fine vernacular architecture. At its centre stands the Market Hall with its splendid arches, built in 1627.

Other attractions include the grand early perpendicular wool church of St James – with its medieval altar frontals (c.1500), cope (c.1400) and vast and extravagant 17th century monuments to Sir Baptist Hicks and family – the Almshouses and Woolstaplers Hall.The Court Barn near the church of St James is now a museum celebrating the rich Arts and Crafts tradition of the area.(See below)

A few pictures from the local street. The fascinating thing, many British towns look like this … magnificent. You can read a more detailed history here.

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The pub across the street.

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A place to catch the bus … Random fact, many of the buildings had windows that had been filled in (with stone) as building taxation was in part influenced by the number of windows in your building. Look at the roof, amazing.

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I found myself standing and just looking down the street … even on a cloudy day, a marvelous view.

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Imagine living here in medieval times and seeing St. James chapel in the distance. What a magnificent site for the average farmer. I saw the top of the church and made that way with haste.

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Again, what an amazing roof.

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The road to the church.

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This is an Almshouse or a place where the poor (widows, elderly) could live, which were supported by the church. From what I can ascertain, these were built by the Earl of Gainsborough, Sir Baptist Hicks as he bestowed his wealth on the church. Interestingly enough, if you read the above entry you will see that the title is still held by a 57 year old man (Earl .. sorry). Imagine … being able to trace your history back that far and see what your family left behind.

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A view of the manor house that was built in the 1600s. The history:

Sir Baptist Hicks’ new manor house was built at a cost of £44.000 in the very latest style and with superb gardens. Towards the end of the Civil War, in 1645, it was burned to the ground by order of the Royalist commander, Prince Rupert, in order to prevent it falling into the hands of the Parliamentary forces.  The Gatehouse and two Banqueting Houses or pavilions remain together with some ruins of the house, beside the Church. It is said that Lady Juliana Noel, Sir Baptist’s heir and widow of Edward Noel, second Viscount Campden, lived afterwards in the converted stables, now called the Court House in Calf Lane.

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The manor gates.

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This car parked in front of the church made for quite the contrast. Sandstone and … pink?

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The tithe house is what the gate says (The front of the almshouse).

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St Jame’s is one of the finest wool churches in the area:

There was a Norman church on this site before 1180, though it was much smaller than the present one. It consisted of a squat tower, a nave about the same length as today, but without aisles, and a lower, shorter chancel with a pitched roof. About 1260 the Norman church began a slow transformation that was to last nearly 250 years         

The chancel was rebuilt, the North aisle constructed with arches to balance the the 13th century south aisle and the south porch was added together with the windows and battlements of both aisles.  About 1490 the nave was reconstructed with its magnificent arcading built on the foundations of the old Norman nave.  The great window over the chancel arch was added, a rare feature of church architecture, which provides wonderful light for the nave. About 1500, the noble West tower was built, adding grace and proportion to the whole. At 120 ft. in height it ensures that the Church is a landmark from whatever direction Campden is approached.

There is a peal of eight bells, whose dates vary from 1618 to 1737, they were recast and rehung in 1987.  The clock mechanism, dated 1695, is now stored under the arch of the tower, having been replaced in 1962.

It is thought that there were stained glass windows dating from the 15th century, but these have disappeared and only fragments remain.  The fine East Window by Henry Payne was completed in 1925 in memory of those who fell in the Great War.  The window over the chancel arch represents the last judgment.

Preserved behind glass are wonderful survivals from the days before the Reformation: the unique pair of Altar Frontals (c.1500) and the Cope (c.1400).  The Altar Frontals were copied by command of Queen Mary for the High Altar of Westminster Abbey for the coronation ceremony in 1912.There are fine 15th century brasses, now secured to the Chancel Floor, the largest of which commemorates William Grevel "…flower of the wool merchants of all England…" The finely carved canopied tomb of Sir Thomas Smythe is on the North wall in the sanctuary and is the most remarkable in the church. He was Lord of the Manor of Campden until his death in 1593.  He lived at the court of Henry VIII and was the first Governor of the East India Company.

The Jacobean pulpit and Flemish lectern are gifts from Sir Baptist Hicks, whose ornate tomb is in the Gainsborough Chapel.

I walked into the chapel and just did not feel right about photographing other than the below. Instead, I spent some time in silence. In the corner (cannot be seen) are the tombs of local wool merchants which are magnificent but seem rather odd in a church, rather presumptuous that they were so important that they need to be remembered within the church? There was a nice gentleman sitting at the entrance with his dog watching over the place as people walked in and out. I left just as 3 classes of 6 year old students entered ….

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Surrounding the church is the graveyard. Appears the locals have surveyed the site which you can view here. The oldest recorded is 1674 with many dates unknown.

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It was a busy hour.

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