THE COTSWOLDS CHIPPING CAMPDEN A BRIEF HISTORY
AND TOURIST ATTRACTIONS
Part III

 

 

CHIPPING CAMPDEN COTSWOLDS AND THE WOOL INDUSTRY

 

HISTORY OF CHIPPING CAMPDEN

The market town of Chipping Campden has a long history. "Chipping" is derived from the Old English word "ceping" meaning market, "camp" meaning camp or enclosure and "denu" meaning valley: Valley with enclosures and a market.

Chipping Campden had a weekly market dating as far back as 1180 and three annual fairs since before 1247. The market refers to the market in wool. The town reached the height of its prosperity at the same time as the surrounding areas, in the later Middle Ages when the affluent wool trade reached out to Western Europe.

Chipping Campden Market HallIn the 14th and 15th centuries it became the most important trade centre for wool in the northern Cotswolds. Traders came here from the Low Countries and Italy. It was only in the 18th and 19th centuries that the prosperity of Chipping Campden began to decline.

The most renowned wool merchant in England was William Grevel. He is, in fact, described as "the flower of the wool merchants of all England" on the memorial brass in the parish church of St James. Although William Grevel and the debt that the town owes him is often remembered it is rarely recorded that he was a somewhat unscrupulous merchant. The tax roll of 1380 documents that he and his son John were both pardoned "for all unjust and excessive weighings and purchase of wool contrary to the statute".
Among the descendants of William Greville was Sir Fulke Greville patron to Shakespeare and Ben Jonson.

The wool trade was continued by William and Alice Welley, John Lethenard, William Gibbys. These families have their tombs in the church which they helped to rebuild after William Grevel.

Another wool Merchant, Robert Calf, has no place in the church but is remembered inChipping Campden High Street. On the left a glimpse of the Market Hall Woolstaplers' Hall which he built. Also Calf's Lane is named after him.

It was in the 14th and 15th centuries that the finest houses in the town were built: Woolstaplers' Hall in 1340, the oldest building in Chipping Campden, Grevel House 1380. It was in the 15th century that we have the transformation of the Norman church around 1450-1500. Chipping Campden was flourishing at a time when nearby Winchecombe was poverty stricken and when Cirencester was in a similar state of poverty.

The arrival of Flemish weavers made the wool merchant somewhat redundant as the wool tended no longer to be exported but to be used for cloth-making and mainly in the southern Cotswolds. However, the development of Chipping Campden continued unlike the poverty ridden Winchecombe and Cirencester depleted of many of its inhabitants.

The person responsible for the continued development of Chipping Campden when the fortunes of other areas nearby declined rapidly was Sir Baptist Hicks.


Visit the Cotswolds in a chauffeur driven car.
For chauffeur driven services for the Cotswolds please see below.

 

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