Sunday, 19 July 2009

Chippenham / Cippanhamm: Place in Bernard Cornwell's Saxon Series ****


Chippenham is a market town in Wiltshire, England, located at grid reference ST919733, some 21 km (13 miles) east of Bath and 163 km (96 miles) west of London. In the 2001 census the population of the town was recorded as 28,065.
The town was established on a crossing of the River Avon and is believed to have existed as some form of settlement since before Roman times. It was a royal vill, and probably a royal hunting lodge, under Alfred the Great. The town continued to grow when the Great Western Railway arrived in 1841, and while historically a market town the economy has changed to that of a commuter town.
Cultural festivals such as the Chippenham Folk Festival are hosted by the Chippenham Folk Festival Association & Organised by the Festival Team who are all volunteers.
Chippenham is twinned with La Fleche in France and Friedberg in Germany.
The town motto is "Unity and Loyalty"

Situation
Chippenham is set on a prominent crossing of the River Avon and lies between the Marlborough Downs to the east, the Cotswolds to the north and west and Salisbury Plain to the south.
The town is surrounded by sparse countryside and there are several woodlands in or in close proximity to the town, for example, Bird's Marsh, Vincients Wood and Briars Wood.

History
There are believed to have been settlements in the Chippenham region since before Roman times. Remains of Romano-British settlements are visible in the wall behind the former magistrates court and recent redevelopments of the town have shown up other evidence of the earliest settlements.

Name
The town proper was believed to have been founded by Anglo Saxons around 600.
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records the town as Cippanhamme and this could refer to Cippa who had his Hamm, an enclosure in a river meadow. An alternative theory suggests that the name is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word Ceap, meaning market.
The name is recorded variously as Cippanhamm (878), Cepen (1042), Cheppeham (1155), Chippenham (1227), Shippenham (1319) and Chippyngham (1541). (There is another Chippenham, Cambridgeshire and Cippenham, Berkshire near Slough).

Early History
In AD 853, Ethelswitha (sister to Alfred the Great) married the King of Mercia in Chippenham. Alfred was then a boy of four and the wedding is believed to have been held on the site of St. Andrew's church. According to Bishop Asser's Life of King Alfred Chippenham was, under Alfred's reign, a royal vill; historians have also argued, from its proximity to the royal forests at Melksham and Barden, that it was probably a hunting lodge. Alfred's daughter was also married in Chippenham.
Chippenham was successfully besieged by Danish Vikings in 878, though Alfred escaped. Later that year Alfred decisively defeated the Danes at the Battle of Ethandun, whose forces then surrendered to Alfred at Chippenham (ushering in the establishment of the Danelaw).
In 1042 the Royal holding in Chippenham makes mention of a church. The Domesday Book listed Chippenham as Cepen, with a population of 600-700 people in 1086.
In Norman times the Royal properties were separated into the manors of Cheldon, Rowden and Lowden. Records show that the town expanded into Langstret (now the Causeway) from 1245 onwards and in 1406 onwards the town pushed into Le Newstret (now the New Road) area of town. Throughout this period Chippenham continued to have a thriving market in the town centre.
The A4 that runs through Chippenham (from London to Bristol) incorporates parts of the 14th century medieval road network that linked London to Bristol through Chippenham. This was an important road for the English cloth trade and its upkeep was funded in part by cloth merchants from Bristol due to its importance to the trade.
Chippenham was represented in Parliament from 1295 onwards and Queen Mary granted the town a Charter of Incorporation in 1554.

A map of Chippenham from 1773

Analysis of the wood used to build the Yelde Hall indicates that the market hall was built after 1458. The Shambles and Buttercross were built after 1570. The Shambles were destroyed in a fire in 1856, the Yelde Hall survived.
Chippenham encompasses the deserted medieval village of Sheldon, devastated by plague; all that remains today is Sheldon Manor, Wiltshire's oldest inhabited manor house, dating from 1282.
The wool industry took off in the 16th century due, in part, to the river. The plague hit the town hard in 1611 and 1636. This, a recession in the woolen industry, and a drop in corn production in 1622 and 1623, caused massive hardship for the town's population. The trade in cloth faced further problems during the English Civil War due to a Royalist proclamation that prohibited the sale of cloth to the Parliamentarian controlled London.
In 1747 a bribery and corruption scandal (involving two members of parliament for Chippenham) led to the downfall of Sir Robert Walpole's government.

An OS map of Chippenham from 1896

A spur off the Wilts & Berks Canal was built to Chippenham in 1798 with a wharf at the current site of the bus station (Timber Street) with the main commodity traded being coal. Pewsham Way now follows the line of the old canal. The Great Western Railway arrived in Chippenham in 1841 which in turn attracted many new businesses to Chippenham. The arrival of these businesses required new housing which led to the expansion of Chippenham into the land north of the railway line, which in turn led to the growth of further industries to support the building work.
The arrival of the railway promoted the growth of industrial agricultural businesses. In the middle of the 19th century Chippenham was a major centre for the production of dairy and ham products this led, later, to Nestle and Matteson's to have factories in the town centre. The railway also led to the growth of railway engineering works in Chippenham. The first of these was the Rowland Brothers in 1842. A variety of companies then took over part or all of the business on the site until in 1935 Westinghouse Brake and Signal Company Ltd took over the business site fully. Until recently Westinghouse remained a major employer in the town.

An OS map of Chippenham from 1946

The singer Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent were involved in a car crash in Chippenham on 17 April 1960 on Rowden Hill. Cochran died as a result of the crash. A memorial sits near the crash site and Chippenham hosts an Eddie Cochran festival annually.
On Friday the 13th February 1998 two unexploded Nazi German Luftwaffe bombs from World War II were discovered in the field behind Hardens Mead during preparations for the building of Abbeyfield School. About 1,100 residents living in the east of Chippenham had to be evacuated for two nights to friends and relatives or emergency accommodation until the Army carried out a controlled explosion. The Army initially attempted to defuse the larger 750 kg device but it was decided that owing to the bomb's orientation in the ground it would be too dangerous.

Landmarks

The Buttercross today

The original Buttercross, a stone structure, was erected in c. 1570 and stood in the current location of Barclays Bank, where it served as the centre of the Shambles. The Buttercross was used for the sale of meat and dairy products.

Yelde Hall
The Yelde Hall is currently the site of the Tourist Information Centre in Chippenham. It is run jointly by Chippenham Town and North Wiltshire District Councils and is the largest Tourist Information Centre in North Wiltshire.
The hall is one of very few remaining medieval timber framed buildings in the town. It was originally divided up internally for use as a market hall. Both the hall and its meeting room upstairs were used by the burgess and bailiff for a variety of meetings and trials as well as being used for Council meetings. The space under the Council Chamber was used as the town gaol. The hall was also used in this time for fund raising events for the local church.


Chippenham Folk Festival
Chippenham Folk festivalThe Chippenham Folk Festival takes place every year, usually from the 26–30 May. The event is featured on programming on the town's own Chippenham Hospital Radio.

Market
Chippenham is a market town, with street markets taking place most Fridays and Saturdays around Market Place. A Farmers' Market for the sale of fresh, locally produced foodstuffs is also held here once a fortnight. The original Cattle Market, which closed in 2004, is now being

Tourism
Surrounding the town are a number of stone-built villages, including Lacock (National Trust), Biddestone, Bremhill and Castle Combe. The great house and art treasures of Longleat, Bowood House, Lacock Abbey, Sheldon Manor and Corsham Court are within easy reach.

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