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Chipping Norton is a market town and civil parish in the Cotswold Hills district of Oxfordshire, England, about 12 miles (19 kilometers) south of Banbury and 18 miles (29 kilometers) north of Oxford. The civil parish population was 5,719 according to the 2011 Census. In 2019, it was estimated to be 6,254.
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Parish church of St Mary the Virgin, rebuilt around 1485.
The Rollright Stones, a stone circle 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) north of Chipping Norton, are evidence of prehistoric habitation. The town’s name translates as “market north town,” with “Chipping” (from Old English cping) meaning “market.” Chipping Norton started as a small settlement beneath a hill, where the earthworks of the motte-and-bailey Chipping Norton Castle can still be seen today. On the hill next to the castle is the Church of England parish church dedicated to St Mary the Virgin. Parts of the current structure may date back to the 12th century. It has elements from the 13th and 14th centuries. The nave was extensively rebuilt around 1485, and it now has a Perpendicular Gothic clerestory. St Mary’s is thought to have been funded by John Ashfield, a wool merchant, making it an example of a “wool church.”
In July 1549, Henry Joyes or Joyce, Vicar of Chipping Norton, led parishioners in a popular rising after the suppression of chantries and other religious reforms left him to minister alone to a congregation of 800 and reduced the budget for schooling.
Lord Grey de Wilton brutally suppressed the uprising. Joyes was apprehended and then hanged in chains from his church’s tower. The bell tower, which was rebuilt in 1825, has an eight-bell ring, all of which were cast in 1907 by Mears and Stainbank of Whitechapel Bell Foundry. It also has a Sanctus bell cast in 1624 by Bristol’s Roger I Purdue.
Wool made the Cotswolds one of England’s wealthiest regions in the Middle Ages, and many of the medieval buildings still stand in Chipping Norton. Every Wednesday, there is still a market, and in September, when the High Street is closed to through traffic, there is a mop fair. A new market place was built higher up the hill in 1205. Arable farming largely replaced sheep farming, but agriculture remained important. In the 18th century, many of the original houses around the market place were given fashionable Georgian façades. According to an inscription on the almshouses, they were founded in 1640 as “the work and gift of Henry Cornish, gent.”
James and William Hitchman established Hitchman’s Brewery on West Street in 1796. In 1849, the company relocated to a larger brewery on Albion Street, which included a malthouse and its own water wells. This was run by three generations of Hitchmans, but in 1890 Alfred Hitchman sold it as a limited company, which went on to acquire other breweries in 1891 and 1917. It merged with Hunt Edmunds of Banbury in 1924, and the brewery here closed in 1931. A woollen mill (see below), a glove factory, a tannery, and an iron foundry were among the other local industries.
By the 1770s, Chipping Norton had a workhouse. In 1836, the architect George Wilkinson built a larger one with four wings circling an octagonal central structure, similar to one he was building in Witney. In 1856–1857, the architect G. E. Street added a chapel to Chipping Norton Workhouse. During WWII, the structure was converted into a hospital. The National Health Service took over Cotshill Hospital in 1948, and it later became a psychiatric hospital before closing in 1983. It has been converted into private residences.
The Municipal Corporations Act of 1835 reformed Chipping Norton as one of the boroughs. Its Town Hall, built in the neoclassical style, was finished in 1842.
The Chipping Norton Railway (CNR) began operations in 1855, connecting with the Oxford, Worcester, and Wolverhampton Railway at Kingham.
In 1887, a second railway to the Oxford and Rugby Railway opened at King’s Sutton, and the CNR was absorbed into the Banbury and Cheltenham Direct Railway (B&CDR). The railway was extended from Chipping Norton via a tunnel 685 yards (626 m) long under Elmsfield Farm west of the town. British Railways discontinued passenger service between Chipping Norton and Banbury in 1951. In 1962, the station at Kingham was closed, and two years later, the B&CDR was closed to freight and the line was decommissioned. The abandoned railway tunnel is bricked up on both ends for safety and serves as a haven for bats. (See also the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981.)
Rioting erupted in May 1873 following the sentencing of the Ascott Martyrs, a group of 16 local women accused of interfering with strikebreakers at a farm. William Bliss built the Bliss Tweed Mill in the west of town in 1872 as a tweed mill. Millworkers went on strike for eight months from 1913 to 1914. The mill closed in 1980 and was converted into apartments. It is still a visible landmark from Worcester Road. The town lost its status as a municipal borough in 1974, when the Local Government Act 1972 relegated it to the district of West Oxfordshire as a successor parish. The architect John Adey Repton, grandson of English garden designer Humphry Repton, designed the neoclassical Holy Trinity Roman Catholic church in 1836.