Chipping Norton

Coordinates: 51°56′N 1°33′W / 51.94°N 1.55°W / 51.94; -1.55

Chipping Norton
Alms houses, Chipping Norton.JPG
Almshouses in Chipping Norton
Chipping Norton is located in Oxfordshire
Chipping Norton

 Chipping Norton shown within Oxfordshire
Population 5,972 (2001 census)[1]
OS grid reference SP309269
    - London  74.5 miles (119.9 km) 
Parish Chipping Norton
District West Oxfordshire
Shire county Oxfordshire
Region South East
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town Chipping Norton
Postcode district OX7
Dialling code 01608
Police Thames Valley
Fire Oxfordshire
Ambulance South Central
EU Parliament South East England
UK Parliament Witney
Website Chipping Norton Town Council
List of places: UK • England • Oxfordshire

Chipping Norton is a market town in the Cotswold Hills in the West Oxfordshire district of Oxfordshire, England, about 12 miles (19 km) southwest of Banbury.


History until the 17th century

The Rollright Stones, a stone circle 2.5 miles (4.0 km) north of Chipping Norton, is evidence of prehistoric habitation in the area.

The town's name means 'market north town', with "Chipping" (from Old English cēping) meaning 'market'. It is not clear what the original Saxon settlement was north of, but John Blair, Professor of Medieval History and Archaeology at the University of Oxford, suggested in 2000 at a lecture in Chipping Norton Town Hall that Charlbury to the south, now a smaller town, was in Anglo-Saxon times a more important minster town and that Chipping Norton's "nor-" prefix refers to this geographical and pastoral relationship with Charlbury.

Chipping Norton began as a small settlement at the foot of a hill on which stand the motte-and-bailey Chipping Norton Castle. Only the earthworks of the castle remain.

The parish church of St. Mary the Virgin was built on the hill next to the castle. Parts of the present building may date from the 12th century.[2] It certainly retains features from the 13th and 14th centuries.[3] The nave was largely rebuilt in about 1485 with a clerestorey in the Perpendicular style.[4] This rebuilding is believed to have been funded by John Ashfield, a wool merchant, making St. Mary's an example of a "wool church".[4] The bell tower was rebuilt in 1825[2][5] and has a peal of eight bells.[6]

In the Middle Ages wool production made the Cotswolds one of the wealthiest parts of England. Many of the mediaeval buildings built in the town as a result of that trade still survive. It became the new centre of the town and remains so today. There is still a weekly market every Wednesday and the "Mop Fair" in September. In 1205 a new market place was laid out higher up the hill.

Later, sheep farming was largely displaced by arable, but agriculture remained important in this part of the Oxfordshire Cotswolds. Many of the original houses around the market place were rebuilt in the 18th century with fashionable Georgian frontages.

An inscription on the almshouses records that they were built in 1640 as "The work and gift of Henry Cornish, gent".[7]

History from the 18th century onwards

In 1796 James and William Hitchman founded Hitchman's Brewery in West Street. In 1849 the business built a larger brewery in Albion Street that included a malthouse and its own water wells. Three generations of Hitchmans ran the brewery, but in 1890 Alfred Hitchman sold the business as a limited company. The new company grew by buying other breweries in 1891 and 1917. In 1924 it merged with Hunt Edmunds of Banbury, and in 1931 Hunt Edmunds Hitchmans closed the brewery in Chipping Norton.[8]

Other industries in the town included a wool mill (see below), a glove-making factory, a tannery and an iron foundry.

Chipping Norton had a workhouse by the 1770s. In 1836 the architect George Wilkinson built a new, larger workhouse. It had four wings radiating from an octagonal central building, similar to Witney workhouse, which also was built by Wilkinson. The architect G. E. Street added a chapel to Chipping Norton workhouse in 1856–57. It ceased to be a workhouse in 1929 and became a hospital in the Second World War. The National Health Service took it over in 1948, making it Cotshill Hospital which later served as a psychiatric hospital. The hospital was closed in 1983.[9] and has since been redeveloped as private residences.

Chipping Norton Town Hall

Chipping Norton was one of the boroughs reformed by the Municipal Corporations Act 1835. The borough built its neoclassical town hall in 1842.

Holy Trinity Roman Catholic church is also neoclassical. It was built in 1836 by the architect John Adey Repton, a grandson of the English garden designer Humphry Repton.

The Chipping Norton Railway opened in 1855, linking the town with Kingham on the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway.[10] In 1887 a second railway opened, linking Chipping Norton to the Oxford and Rugby Railway at King's Sutton, and the CNR became part of the resulting Banbury and Cheltenham Direct Railway. Extending the railway from Chipping Norton involved digging a tunnel 685 yards (626 m) long[11] under Elmsfield Farm to the west of the town.

In May 1873, rioting took place following the conviction and sentencing of the Ascott Martyrs, sixteen local women accused of trying to interfere with strikebreakers at a farm.

In 1951, British Railways withdrew passenger services between Chipping Norton and Banbury. In 1962 BR closed Chipping Norton railway station and withdrew passenger services between Chipping Norton and Kingham. In 1964 BR closed the B&CDR to freight traffic, and thereafter dismantled the line. The disused railway tunnel is now bricked up at both ends to prevent access, both for people's safety and to protect any bats that may roost inside. (See Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981)

Bliss Mill, on the western side of the town, was built as a tweed mill in 1872. In 1913 to 1914 the millworkers struck for eight months. The mill closed in 1980 and has since been converted into flats. It remains a local landmark, clearly visible from Worcester Road.

The town lost its status as a municipal borough in 1974, when the Local Government Act 1972 made it a successor parish within the district of West Oxfordshire.


Chipping Norton lies in the Witney Constituency. The current MP is David Cameron, the Prime Minister. The town is part of the South East England constituency for the European Parliament. The town is represented by two Conservative councillors and one Labour councillor in the district council, making it the least Conservative part of Mr Cameron's constituency.[12]

Notable people

In 1581 the neo-Latin poet Elizabeth Jane Weston, also known as Westonia, was born in Chipping Norton. She soon moved to Prague with her mother and stepfather Edward Kelley, an alchemist at the court of Emperor Rudolf II.

James Hind was born in the town in 1616. He was a notorious highwayman in the area, executed for high treason in 1652.

Bliss Mill

In 1763, the Reverend Edward Stone (1702–68), while living in Chipping Norton, reported to the Royal Society that willow bark relieved pain, later discovered to contain 2-hydroxybenzoic acid (salicylic acid) a mild analgesic, and prepared via esterification into aspirin.[13]

William Bliss modernised the textile industry using the technology of the Industrial Revolution. He was also the promoter of the Chipping Norton Railway (see above). After a fire destroyed his old textile mill in the town, Bliss built the Bliss Mill in 1872 (see above).

In the 1850s, Charles Stewart Parnell from Ireland was sent to school in the town. He later became an MP and in the 1880s he led the Irish Home Rule League, which he renamed the Irish Parliamentary Party.

Joseph Allen was born in Chipping Norton, moved to Canada and became a business owner and mayor of Verdun, Quebec, a borough on the Island of Montreal.[citation needed]

The artist Conroy Maddox lived with his parents at the Blue Boar pub in the town centre from 1929–33. He used one of the bedrooms as a studio and later became Britain's leading surrealist.

The World record-holding ocean rower, Janice Meek, lived for many years in Chipping Norton. She was the first female Chairman of the Chipping Norton Chamber of Commerce, served on the town council and served for a year as Mayor.[14]

The British School building at 28/30 New Street, formerly home to Chipping Norton Recording Studios.

The actors Rachel Ward and Wentworth Miller were born in Chipping Norton.[citation needed]

The Who drummer Keith Moon once owned the Crown and Cushion Hotel in High Street. Comedian and actor Ronnie Barker ran the Emporium antique shop in Chipping Norton after his retirement from show business in 1987.

Between 1972 and 1999, Chipping Norton Recording Studios existed in the old British School on New Street. "Baker Street" by Gerry Rafferty, "In The Army Now" by Status Quo, "Too Shy" by Kagagoogoo, "I Should Have Known Better" by Jim Diamond, "Perfect" by Fairground Attraction, "I Just Died In Your Arms Tonight" by Cutting Crew and "Bye Bye Baby" by the Bay City Rollers were all recorded in this internationally acclaimed studio. Duran Duran, Marianne Faithfull, Wet Wet Wet, Jeff Beck, Barbara Dickson, Alison Moyet and Radiohead were also clients.

Rebekah Brooks, former editor of The Sun newspaper and former chief executive of News International, currently lives in Chipping Norton as does historian Dominic Sandbrook.[15] Television presenter Jeremy Clarkson currently lives just outside the town.[16]


The town is a retail and leisure centre for its area, with a supermarket and numerous shops including branches of a number of national chain stores. It has a number of public houses and a theatre.[17]

The town has three schools. Holy Trinity Roman Catholic School[18] and St Mary's Church of England School[19] are primary schools. Chipping Norton School[20] is the town's secondary school and has a Sixth form.

Chipping Norton Golf Club is the oldest in Oxfordshire. The course was started in 1890 on Chipping Norton Common.[21]

Chipping Norton Rugby Union Football Club[22] first XV plays in the Southern Counties North League and was the league champion for the 2007–2008 season. Chipping Norton Town Football Club[23] used to play in the Hellenic Football League premier division. Chipping Norton Town Cricket Club plays in Oxfordshire Cricket Association Division 6. The town also has a bowls club.[24]

Chipping Norton has a Women's Institute,[25] and a Rotary Club.[26]

See also

  • RAF Chipping Norton


  1. ^ "Sex (UV03), Chipping Norton (Ward)". 2001 Census: Census Area Statistics. United Kingdom: Office for National Statistics. 18 November 2004. Retrieved 9 February 2009. "All People (Persons) Count: 5,972; Males (Persons) Count: 2,879; Females (Persons) Count: 3,093" 
  2. ^ a b Sherwood & Pevsner, 1974, page 536
  3. ^ Sherwood & Pevsner, 1974, pages 536–538
  4. ^ a b Sherwood & Pevsner, 1974, page 537
  5. ^ Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin[dead link]
  6. ^ Oxford Diocesan Guild of Church Bell ringers, Chipping Norton Branch
  7. ^ Sherwood & Pevsner, 1974, page 540
  8. ^ Hitchman's Brewery history. Retrieved on 24 August 2011.
  9. ^ Cotshill Hospital history. Retrieved on 24 August 2011.
  10. ^ The Oxford Times, 14 March 2005[dead link]
  11. ^ Railway Tunnel Lengths website, page 1. Retrieved on 24 August 2011.
  12. ^ Councillor information: West Oxfordshire District Council. Retrieved on 24 August 2011.
  13. ^ Volkin, Michael, 2000
  14. ^ Witney Gazette 2 March 1998[dead link]
  15. ^ About me « Dominic Sandbrook. Retrieved on 24 August 2011.
  16. ^ [1]
  17. ^ The Theatre, Chipping Norton. Retrieved on 24 August 2011.
  18. ^ Holy Trinity RC School. Retrieved on 24 August 2011.
  19. ^ St Mary's C of E School. Retrieved on 24 August 2011.
  20. ^ Chipping Norton School. Retrieved on 24 August 2011.
  21. ^ Chipping Norton Golf Club: History[dead link]
  22. ^ Chipping Norton RUFC. (2011-08-10). Retrieved on 24 August 2011.
  23. ^ Chipping Norton Town FC. Retrieved on 24 August 2011.
  24. ^ Chipping Norton Bowls Club. Retrieved on 24 August 2011.
  25. ^ Oxfordshire Federation of Women's Institutes. Retrieved on 24 August 2011.
  26. ^ Chipping Norton Rotary Club. Retrieved on 24 August 2011.


  • Sherwood, Jennifer; Pevsner, Nikolaus (1974). The Buildings of England: Oxfordshire. Harmondsworth: Books Penguin. pp. 536–541. ISBN 0 14 071045 0. 
  • Volkin, Michael (Ed.), (2000). Nuffield Advanced Chemistry Students Book. London: Longman. ISBN 0-582-32835-7. 

External links

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