A visitor’s guide to Chipping Norton
- Credit: Archant
We’ve assembled a brief guide to help you to get the most from your visit to Chipping Norton, sponsored by The Real Wood Furniture Company
The Real Wood Furniture Company | 01608 642714 | realwood.co.uk
Like many a Cotswold town Chipping Norton’s historic wealth was built on the wool trade, so the streets of golden buildings feature so much splendid architecture it seems every other shop and house has a Grade I or II listing. St Mary’s church is considered one of the Cotswolds’ finest, and Bliss Tweed Mill, a local landmark that was once a textiles factory, was designed to look like a country house retreat. Now converted into luxury apartments, its distinctive chimneystack is a nod to Tuscan columns.
Once the domain of rich merchants, Chipping Norton has become known for a smart city set of rural second-homers whose barn parties make headlines. On the flip side, there’s a vibrant community who keep Chipping Norton thriving.
The 13th century weekly market that gave Chipping Norton its ancient name (Chipping means market) and the monthly farmers’ market are still an attraction to townsfolk and visitors. The town was a finalist in The Great British High Street awards in 2016, aided by shops such as Jaffé & Neale, the bookshop and café that regularly wins national awards. Chippy, as it’s known, has a community-run leisure centre and lido, and the church has invested in a redundant high street bank building to turn it into a hub with a youth and community focus. Chipping Norton’s monthly hyper-local newspaper brings issues, events and opinions to the fore and with plans for more than 1,000 new homes on the town’s eastern side, the population looks set to expand over the next few years.
Most noted for... being the highest town in the Cotswolds at more than 200m above sea level.
While you’re here... get tickets to visit The Theatre, which was a Salvation Army citadel before it became the town’s playhouse, gallery, cinema and concert venue. You’ll also find children’s workshops, comedy and Chipping Norton literary festival events held here.
But try not to... be astonished at Chipping Norton’s Yacht Club. It’s aimed at those with a love of the nautical, though there’s no sailing in sight and the nearest coastline is 100 miles away!
Who’s who... former British Prime Minister David Cameron lives locally and may be spotted in town when he’s not writing in his shepherd’s hut. World record ocean rower Janice Meek, Prison Break star Wentworth Miller and The Grand Tour presenter Jeremy Clarkson also have connections with Chipping Norton. Bands such as the Bay City Rollers, Status Quo, Duran Duran and Radiohead laid down hit-making tracks at New Street’s recording studio when it was in operation – you can spot the commemorative blue plaque on what is now a dental practice. Another blue plaque pays tribute to ‘aspirin man’ Edward Stone, a Chipping Norton vicar who first described the effects of willow bark in scientific terms. Notorious Nortonians include Royalist highwayman James Hind, hanged in 1652, and locally born Sarah Wildes, who was hanged in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692, after being convicted of witchcraft.
Saved by the community, Chipping Norton’s award winning Lido opens from April to September. Eco-friendly, it is heated to 27°C, using solar and ground heated energy, and the water quality is maintained through an ultraviolet light purifier. There’s a steam room on site and a Lido café that ploughs its profits back into the pool’s running costs, all of which are supplemented by an annual auction of promises – an experience in itself.
Chipping Norton’s annual must-do events include the ‘ChipLitFest’, scheduled for April 25-28. If you miss 2019’s big-name authors and heavyweight speakers, such as war correspondent John Simpson, scientist and broadcaster Professor Jim Al-Khalili, and paralympian television presenter Ade Adepitan, make a diary note for next year’s in April 2020. Chipping Norton’s annual music festival has been running since 1904. Events usually kick off in March, drawing classical, folk and jazz performers to the town. Much newer to the calendar, Chipping Norton Comedy Festival uses the theatre, the town hall and the Baptist chapel as venues. Star turns include Mark Watson, whose stand-up set is on July 8, 2019.
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The Rollright Stones
Steeped in mystery and lore, the Rollright Stones, just outside Chipping Norton date back to 3800-3600BC. The Whispering Knights, a Neolithic portal dolmen, are the oldest of the ancient monoliths, while the King’s Men are thought to be Bronze Age. According to legend you’ll get a different total every time you try to count them.
Move here for...
And get: A town centre shop and townhouse, aged and ripe for refurbishment, with an adjoining workshop and annexe, walled courtyard garden and garage.
Eat at: The Chequers
Why? Ideal for pre-theatre dinners, this Goddard Lane pub dates back to the 1500s. Choose from small plates and classics, as well as bar snacks such as pickled pink eggs. The Chequers has a traditional feel and well-behaved pets are welcome.
Drink at: The Red Lion
Why? The smallest pub in Chippy, it is an unpretentious 17th century alehouse with Hook Norton beers and traditional games such as darts, dominoes and Aunt Sally.
Stay at: The Crown and Cushion
Why? A coaching inn once owned by rock star Keith Moon, the drummer in The Who, this 15th century High Street hotel offers four-poster beds in 11 of its 40 rooms and will allow pets to stay for a small surcharge. The hotel has its own health club and spa, featuring a swimming pool, gym and squash court.