Who Used to Live Here?

The early history of Chipping Campden is a bit of a mystery, but there are a few clues.

Bronze Age

There is evidence from the Bronze Age that this pleasant valley was occupied from a find of an axe which is now in Cheltenham Museum.  As yet no one can be sure whether the loser lived here or was just a visitor.

Iron Age

Another unsolved question is who placed the Kiftsgate Stone in position and why – some have suggested it is prehistoric. Later, in the Iron Age, there was a hill fort on Meon Hill near Mickleton.  This was so close we can be sure that people of the British tribe the Romans called the Dobunni knew this area.  Some of their coins have been found elsewhere in the Cotswolds but none here – so far.

The Romans

One of the Roman army’s first acts in Britain was to build military roads across the newly conquered land. One of these was the Fosse Way, not so far away, and a road of lesser importance was Ryknield Street, along part of an old Campden boundary.  Just as today, people lived near the roads that brought goods and supplies. There was a villa in Ebrington and, pretty certainly, at least one Romano-British farmstead in Campden. The numbers of Roman coins that have turned up in gardens and fields are far too many to have been scattered by some more recent numismatist, Then, too, occasional  pieces of Roman pottery have been found, a map shows the likely position of a Roman vineyard near Dover’s Hill and a Roman grave has been found not too far away.

Anglo-Saxons

When the Romans had left, the Angles and Saxons moved in. The incomers were a tribe known as the Hwicce, who lived in the Cotswolds area and parts of the Severn Vale, and appear to have been a sort of client kingdom to Mercia. It was long thought that there was once a meeting of Saxon kings here followed by a battle against the Britons but recent study has shown this to have happened at a place with a similar name in Yorkshire.

The Normans

All the same there was at least a small village, about where Broad Campden is now and by 1066 we know that the lord of the manor was no less than King Harold himself. As yet it is not known how long the manor had belonged to his family. Then the Normans conquered England and by the time of Domesday Book the new lord of the manor was Hugh d’Avranches. He was one of the richest followers of William I and most of his  200 or so manors were rented out – not Campden though. This was already becoming an important place.

Perhaps there was already a regular weekly village market when in the late twelfth century Henry II granted a market charter for a completely new town?  A new road was laid out, probably along an existing footpath through a field the other side of the brook from the existing village, and burgage plots were measured out with equal frontages onto the High Street. The king himself visited and confirmed the charter.  At this time most of the local people, including the incoming craftsmen, who built their shops, workshops and dwellings along the High Street, still spoke the Anglo-Saxon (Old English) tongue –so the new town was called ‘Chipping’ (or Market) Campden.  Latin records from then on speak of ‘Parva (Little) Caumpedene’ when they refer to what we now know as Broad Campden.

As to what has happened since then, could you add to the early story?

Have you found peculiar old coins in your garden?

Or broken pottery that doesn’t look as if it came from Woolworth’s or a Victorian tea service perhaps?

If you  have and would like to know more, bring it in to the Campden Archive Room in the Old Police Station. If we cannot help, we will know someone who can!

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