Chippenham is a historical riverside market town, the largest in North Wiltshire. A little over an hour’s journey from central London it offers an ideal centre for relaxation and exploration of rural Wiltshire and the Cotswolds.
The earliest documentary evidence and archaeological finds indicate a Saxon date in the 7th Century for the first urban settlers of Chippenham. The Anglo Saxon Chronicle records the town as Cippanhamme and this could refer to Cippa who settled here with his kin or Cheppeham meaning trading and market at the settlement. In 878 the invading Danes occupied Chippenham, but after Alfred the Great led the West Saxons to victory, the Danes signed the 'Treaty of Chippenham' and retreated back to Mercia. Chippenham became Alfred's 'Royal Vill (Town) of Wessex'. The Domesday Book recorded 12 mills on the river, and working mills lasted until the textile industry declined in the 19th century.
Chippenham's position as the principal market town in North Wiltshire was secured by the Wilts & Berks Canal, its position on the London-Bristol stage coach route and, later, by Brunel's Great Western Railway which arrived in 1841.
Explore The Yelde Hall, built circa 1500, which houses the Museum & Heritage Centre’s temporary exhibition gallery. In the historic Council Chamber on the first floor you will be transported back to 1816 and experience a lively Council meeting debating the end of the Napoleonic War and the decline of the weaving trade. The Museum & Heritage Centre in the Market Place has excellent displays of Chippenham through the ages, plus well-researched year round exhibitions. Chippenham is home to the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre whose archives are a great resource, especially for exploring family history.
Chippenham's industrial heritage includes the famous Western Arches designed by Brunel for the Great Western Railway; Francis Holland's tobacco factory, where cigarettes were hand-rolled until they could no longer compete with Bristol's mechanised factories; and Avonbridge House, the oldest condensed milk factory in the world. The lower market place is known as The Shambles where, in 1580, the Lord of the Manor granted the local Guilds and Tradesmen licence to erect market stalls. There is still a market here on Fridays and Saturdays. Keep a look out for the ancient Buttercross (rescued from a hundred years of oblivion as a gazebo in Castle Combe) and also the Neeld Hall, once a covered market for the sale of corn and cheese. For walkers, the Macmillan Way which winds its way along the Bybrook Valley is not to be missed, while cyclists can enjoy the Rivers Route of the Sustrans national network along the River Avon and the old Wilts & Berks Canal.
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