Buildings with a Story to Tell…
Our magnificent Town Hall has a proud and intriguing past. A symbol of Chippy’s wool-based prosperity, it was built in 1842 on arches to make space beneath for a fire engine, and four lock-up cells for prisoners of the Borough. It also featured a weighbridge – vital to the town’s economy before the railway existed – weighing coal brought in from Banbury by cart. The hall hosted traditional poultry and butter markets, as well as operating as a weekly Corn Exchange. The Town Hall remains, today, a striking centre of community life.
Just outside Chippy stands the imposing Bliss Mill, a truly grand design built in 1872 to replace the town’s former mill which burned down. Constructed from local Cotswold limestone, the mansion-like factory produced wool and tweed of exceptionally fine quality. William Bliss, the owner, was instrumental in bringing the railway to the town, supplying coal for the mill’s steam engines. A major town benefactor, he received a medal in 1867 from Napoleon III for looking after his workers so well.
After the declaration of WW1, workers at Bliss Mill abandoned a bitter strike to produce thousands of yards of khaki for soldiers on the battle front.
This BBC podcast explains how the war effort changed the fortunes of the town.
The mill finally closed in 1980, and has now been converted to luxury apartments. The town’s railway and station closed in the 1960s.
The glorious Church of St Mary the Virgin dates back to the 12th century, and features in Simon Jenkins’ renowned book England’s Thousand Best Churches. Here weathered tombstones stretch down the hill in a tangle of trees and wild flowers, the churchyard described by Jenkins as ‘still refreshingly wild”.
Yet this beauty belies St Mary’s dark history. Henry Joyce, the feisty vicar of Chipping Norton, headed the Oxford Uprising against the introduction of Edward VI’s Book of Common Prayer. In 1549 he was arrested and hung in chains from the tower of the Chippy church until he was dead. Marvel at the church’s Creation Window with a staggering 98 separate openings, and find its carved bosses featuring the Green Man, grinning devils and a sheep overpowering a wolf.
The legacy of the Chipping Norton Almshouses arose from a very personal tragedy. For it was the sadness of losing his own children which inspired successful landowner Henry Cornish to leave so much to the town he lived, worked and died in. Although Henry and his wife Sarah had 12 children, 10 died in childhood and the remaining two died in their thirties. The lack of surviving children – along with his deeply held belief in charity to the poor – led Henry, on his death in 1650, to bequeath the almshouses to aged widows, together with 12 other cottages to be held at a fixed rent.
The Theatre started life as a Salvation Army Citadel in 1888. Lucky, then, that its original builders were more used to constructing Victorian Music Halls than holy places.
They created the perfect proportions for a theatre. And even though it took many years, through various incarnations – including use as a furniture warehouse – The Theatre finally took shape in the 70s after the building was discovered by two Royal Shakespeare Company actors, Tamara and John Malcolm.
It began as a true community resource, with Chippy residents each being asked to donate 1 pound. And so it remains, this artistic centre bursting with creative life, offering a wide range of pantomime, classic and nouveau drama, arthouse cinema, art exhibitions, music, comedy and workshops – all proudly supported by local residents.
Chipping Norton Town Walks
If you have itchy feet, Chipping Norton is just the town for you. From our history-packed Town Trail to longer walks taking in the surrounding Cotswold countryside and honey-stone villages, there is a wealth of walking tracks waiting to be discovered. And why not book-end your journey with refreshment at one of our classic watering holes?
Put your walking shoes on for a tour of our classic Cotswolds Market Town : download our NEW GUIDE TO EXPERIENCING CHIPPING NORTON
Check out a fascinating selection of walks in and around Chippy, taking in the neighbouring villages of Over Norton, Churchill, Kingham, Great Tew and Chadlington.
We love our cycling too, so click here for a selection of Chippy bicycle routes, including Ancient Stones and Old Manors.
Cotswold Hill Walks
The Cotswolds is the largest of 40 areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) in England and Wales. It features over 3000 miles of public footpaths, wending their way through picturesque and historic villages, rolling countryside, winding river valleys and windswept peaks laced with the centuries-old dry stone walls (left) that the region is famed for.
Visitors from all corners of the globe come to the Cotswolds to hike or ramble their way through a landscape often untouched by the modern world. There is something to suit every level of fitness, as the following walks reveal.
Recently listed as one of the ‘Great Walks of the World’, The Cotswold Way is also one of the finest long-distance walking routes in the UK. Spanning more than 100 miles, the trail follows the beautiful Cotswold Escarpment as it winds through golden-stone villages and passes historic sites.
Try out a number of circular walks including shorter, easy-access trails at various points along the route.
Cleeve Hill and Common
Featuring ancient dyke and iron-age hill fort, Cleeve Common boasts the highest point in the Cotswolds. Find the single beech which is the regions’s highest tree, circled by a special memorial wall. Marvel at the 360-degree view across this remote hillside landscape.
The Winchcombe Way
Explore the 42-mile figure-of-eight trail centred on Winchcombe (left), an historic town in the northern Cotswolds.
Along the way find Hailes Abbey, Belas Knap, Sudeley Castle and the fully restored, working watermill at Stanway House.
Annual Cheese Rolling
Win yourself a cheese in the May bank holiday annualCheese Rolling races at Cooper’s Hill – dating back to the 19th century – this year featuring vintage Double Gloucester, with a Dutch Gouda thrown in. Crowds gather to watch entrants tumble down a steep hill in hot pursuit of a runaway cheese. Travellors from as far away as Europe, America, Japan and Australia take part, and try not to get too cheesed-off if they don’t win.
Cotswold Water Park
If cycling’s your thing, check out the flat, relaxing country lanes or more adventurous off road cycle routes at the Cotswold Water Park (left) – 40 square miles of delightful lakes and Cotswold countryside.
If you prefer bird watching the park is wintering home to thousands of waterbirds, with a huge variety of birds including nightingales, warblers and plovers living and visiting here. Circular walks run through a variety of landscapes, from river trails and canal towpaths to lake, woodland and meadow.