Between the Cotswolds and the Marlborough Downs, Chippenham grew up at the crossing of the River Avon in Anglo-Saxon times.
In the town center is the elegant pedestrianized High Street with a ceremonial Town Hall dating back to 1834. The Town Museum gives you a crash course in Chippenham history and is also the owner of Yelde Hall, a former prison and half-timbered 15th century courtyard. Century.
One of the joys of Chippenham is the abundance of interesting places in the town's backyard.
The postcard towns of Lacock and Castle Combe thrived in the Middle Ages and feature in TV shows and films as parts of rural England of yesteryear.
Bowood House, Lacock Abbey and Corsham Court are elaborate country houses where milestones in the history of science have been achieved, such as the discovery of oxygen and the first photographic negative.
Let's explore themThe best things to do in Chippenham:
1. Bowood House and Gardens
Just 5 miles from Chippenham is Bowood House, a Georgian mansion that took shape in the 18th century.
Two Georgian luminaries, Robert Adam and Capability Brown each worked on the home and grounds.
Unfortunately, most of this huge building was demolished after being used by the RAF in World War II.
The remaining house is still large and has many fascinating things within its walls.
One of the rooms was used as a laboratory by Joseph Priestley, who discovered oxygen here in 1774. You can also enter the library, which has a decorative ceiling designed by Robert Adam.
The Lansdowne family collections include Georgian textiles, jewellery, watercolours, miniatures and many Victorian era furniture and artefacts brought here from colonial India.
Capability Brown's Grade I listed park features an Italianate terraced garden, a walled private garden, an arboretum and a mile-long lake.
2. Lacock Abbey
In the village of Lacock there is a beautiful manor house modeled on the ruins of an Augustinian monastery.
During the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII the building was largely demolished and sold to the courtier Sir William Sharington.
The building that stood in its place is an amazing blend of styles from different eras, incorporating the monastery's wonderful Gothic cloister (these feature in two Harry Potter films), sacristy, warm house and chapter house into its basement.
The upper floors were given a neo-Gothic revamp in the mid-18th century and by the 19th century the mansion became the birthplace of British photography, as we shall see in the next entry on this list.
The monastery grounds are a delight, complete with a greenhouse, botanical garden and plenty of activities for restless children.
3. Museum Fox Talbot
In the 19th century, Lacock Abbey was home to William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877). William is one of a long line of Talbots to live in this home and will be remembered for his contribution to photography.
In 1835 he took what is believed to be the first photographic negative; An image of a mullioned bay window from the inside.
Part of the ground floor is a museum about William Henry Fox Talbot, chronicling his life, the history of this famous negative, the chemistry behind his photography and details of the experimental "mousetrap" camera he invented.
The Fenton Collection of historical photographs is housed in Lacock Abbey, while a first-floor gallery hosts temporary photographic exhibitions.
4. Museo Chippenham
One of the attractions in Chippenham itself is the town museum, housed in the former 18th century magistrates' court.
The museum explains how road, rail and river links contributed to Chippenham's growth and also reveals the town's links to some famous historical figures such as Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Alfred the Great.
You can discover what Anglo-Saxon Chippenham would have looked like, see the transformation created by the Great Western Railway in 1841, explore historic street scenes and see a working model of a flour mill.
Children are catered for with costumes and an activity table, while the calendar is packed with temporary exhibitions, guided walks and history talks.
5. Corsham's court
Another exceptional country home is just five miles south west of Chippenham in the village of Corsham.
This property is very old, dating back to a manor house that belonged to Kings of Saxony and remained in royal hands until the reign of Elizabeth I. After Sir Paul Methuen bought the house in 1745, Capability Brown was commissioned to rehabilitate the site but also to enlarge the house.
Brown's work can still be seen in the picture gallery and state rooms in the east wing, where the long gallery offers a fantastic exhibition of 16th and 17th century Italian masters such as Salvator Rosa and Carlo Dolci.
The house remains private, so only a small portion of the rooms can be toured, but there is enough china, paint, and furniture to keep you captivated.
In the grounds you'll see the neo-Gothic bathhouse, also by Brown, and a mindless ruin by another star of Georgian architecture, John Nash.
6. John Coles-Park
On a warm summer weekend it will feel like all of Chippenham came to John Coles Park in the best way possible.
During this season, the kiosk hosts a concert by the regional brass, silver and brass bands every Sunday from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
A valued local resource in summer is the paddling pool, always popular with young children.
The park has lawns where you can read a book or have a picnic under a mature oak tree, as well as sports facilities for young and old residents, including a bowling alley, tennis courts, and a multi-purpose playground.
7. City of Lacock
Almost everything you see in the charming village of Lacock dates from before the 19th century and is owned by the National Trust.
You could easily be convinced you've stepped back in time on this four-street grid lined with half-timbered houses and charming rustic stone houses.
It's no surprise, then, that Lacock has been the location for many productions, including two Harry Potter films, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, Downton Abbey and the 1995 BBC version of Pride and Prejudice.
Then at 2 on the High Street is an early 20th century shop window whilst at the junction of East Street and High Street you will find a medieval tithe barn used to store goods paid to Lacock Abbey.
Right next to this building is the 18th-century village dungeon where drunkards sleep.
8. Church of St. Ciriaco
The grandeur of Lacock Church gives you an idea of how prosperous this settlement was in medieval times.
There, at an important station on the road between Bath and London, there was a thriving market.
Local tax revenues helped fund the rebuilding of St Cyriac's Church in the 15th century, while an octagonal tower and an outbuilding called the Cottage were built in the 17th century.
St Cyriac's highlights relate to the historic Lacock landowning families.
In particular, look out for the Northeast Perpendicular Gothic chapel.
It has rich Lierne vaulting, some incredible 15th-century stained glass windows and a Renaissance memorial to Sir William Sharington, who took over Lacock Abbey in the 16th century.
9. Dorf Castle Combe
A short drive into the Cotswolds will bring you to a village often described as the prettiest in England.
Castle Combe in By Brook is built of honey-colored limestone that is characteristic of the Cotswolds and evokes a wool trade that was once extremely prosperous.
At St Andrew's Parish Church, look for the 14th-century baptismal font and the effigy of Sir Walter de Dunstanville (d. 1270) in the Lady Chapel.
His crossed legs indicate that he fought in the Crusades.
Cross the bridge at the foot of the village for a photogenic view of the delightful, rickety rows of houses on The Street, supported by the high side of the valley.
Where the three main streets of the village meet is the Market Cross, erected in the 14th century when Castle Combe was granted the privilege of holding a weekly market.
10. Traktor Ted Little Farm, Bowood
Bowood isn't all about Georgian intricacies and history, as there's a children-only attraction on its grounds.
At Tractor Ted Little Farm, kids can meet all kinds of young farm animals like lambs and chicks, as well as tame rabbits and guinea pigs.
Friendly staff are always on hand to provide insightful facts about these animals and their care.
At Tractor Ted Barn you will find a sow and piglets and an activity area with discovery walls, coloring and educational DVDs about farming.
Outside there are mini tractors and mechanical diggers to operate and a great adventure park with a pirate ship and zip line.
11. The Yelde Halls
When visiting Chippenham Museum you can inquire about Yelde Hall, a medieval building owned by the city.
Built in the mid-15th century, this half-timbered building was a prison on the ground floor and a courtroom on the upper floor.
Since these facilities were relocated in the early 19th century, the building served as a bank, parade hall, regimental headquarters, fire station and city museum until it moved in in 1999. On the pediment above the side entrance is the Town of Chippenham coat of arms, dating from 1776 with the inscription 'J.S.' for the then Sheriff John Scott.
The wood-paneled courtroom upstairs has been preserved, and inside you can take part in a lively interactive council debate dating back to 1816, discussing the end of the Napoleonic Wars and the decline of the local cloth trade.
A worthwhile excursion for motor enthusiasts, this museum is located eight miles from Chippenham in the town of Calne.
The museum, which has been put together with great care, is the only one of its kind in the district and shows cars, motorcycles, mopeds and bicycles from the 1920s onwards.
There is also a wealth of motorsport accessories and memorabilia and a fine collection of model trucks.
One corner of the museum is a faithful recreation of a 1930's garage complete with cars from the period.
Many of the vehicles have intriguing backstories, such as the 1936 Rover 14HP Sports Saloon, which was bespoke for a wealthy Chippenham woman with a bulky steering wheel and vanity mirror.
13. Corsham 17th Century Classroom and Almshouse
Your priority in Corsham must be this Carolean workhouse, which dates back to 1668 and was built by Corsham House resident Lady Margaret Hungerford.
Her husband, Sir Edward Hungerford, had commanded Wiltshire Parliamentary troops during the Civil War two decades earlier.
Like Cromwell, Lady Margaret was a strict Puritan and issued 45 ordinances that poorhouse recipients were required to abide by.
Hungerford's coat of arms carved in stone still crowns the main entrance.
Most memorable is the 17th-century oak-panelled classroom, which has retained many of its original furnishings, including benches and a teacher's desk, and centuries of graffiti from bored schoolchildren!
14. Cherhill White Horse
White horses, created by removing a layer of grass and earth to reveal the chalk below, are a hallmark of the Wiltshire Hills.
There is a good eight miles from Chippenham at Cerhill, and this horse, felled in 1780, is said to be the third oldest in the country.
The man in charge was the eccentric Dr. Christopher Alsop from Calne believed to have been shouting instructions from the bottom of the slope through a megaphone.
The hill on the horse is in the care of the National Trust who have created a footpath to the Lansdowne Monument a few hundred yards away.
This 125-foot obelisk was erected in 1845 for Sir William Petty (d. 1687), a scientist, economist and philosopher who served under Oliver Cromwell but remained an influential figure even after the Restoration.
15th Chippenham Folk Festival
The Chippenham Folk Festival, in its fifth decade, takes place on the bank holiday weekend at the end of May when over 200 individual events take place.
This hugely popular event is a boon to the local economy and celebrates the different types of traditional music and customs found across England.
For a small sample of what to expect, on Monday there are concerts, dance performances, jam sessions, music and dance workshops, poetry readings, storytelling, ballroom dancing, cabaret performances and a grand parade through the city.
Children are not forgotten and can take part in puppet shows, circus workshops, face painting and soft games.
Where to sleep:The best hotels in Chippenham, England
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What is Chippenham famous for? ›
By Rail - Chippenham is on the main line rail route from London Paddington to the West Country and is famous for it's railway arches and other buildings created by Isambard Kingdom Brunel when he built the Great Western Railway.Is it worth visiting Chippenham? ›
The combination of the ancient and the new, the historic architectural gems, excellent transport links, modern shopping centres and some of the country's greatest houses and historic villages on the doorstep, makes Chippenham an idyllic location for living, working and visiting.What are some fun facts about Chippenham? ›
Chippenham was represented in the Parliament of England from 1295 onwards, and Queen Mary granted the town a Charter of Incorporation in 1554. 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.What shops are there in Chippenham? ›
- Chippenham Museum. Speciality & Gift Shops • History Museums. By petercP1885UJ. ...
- Allington Farm Shop. 160. ...
- Castle Combe Market. Speciality & Gift Shops • Farmers Markets. ...
- Bartys arts and crafts. Speciality & Gift Shops.
- Castle Combe - The Artisan Gift Shop. Speciality & Gift Shops.
- Here We Go Again. Speciality & Gift Shops.
What Food is Wiltshire Famous For? The Wiltshire town of Calne is famous as the birthplace of 'The Wiltshire Cure'. The Wiltshire Cure is a method for curing ham and bacon - which is why Wiltshire is famous for its ham!What is Wiltshire best known for? ›
Wiltshire is famous for its ham, white horses and, above all, for its many prehistoric monuments. In fact, it's got more than any other county in England.