Chipping Sodbury

First published in Town guides

Chipping Sodbury is an ancient market town which, although only eight miles north-west of Bristol, has retained a lively country flavour. Visitors to the town will notice the long Market Square or Chepynge, as it was called in medieval times, hence the prefix Chipping.

This area is known as Broad Street and is bordered with a wonderful assortment of houses mainly dating from the 17th Century. It is here that the town holds its twice yearly Mop Fair - in March and September - which traditionally took place to give people the opportunity of hiring servants.

The recorded history of Chipping Sodbury begins in the mid 12th century when a new town was founded by William Crassu, owner of the Sodbury estates, on a site above the River Frome and its two mills where two trading routes crossed.

The prefix chipping' was added when the first Market Charter was granted around 1200. The wide high street you see today is a legacy of its being modelled on a typical medieval pattern which consisted of burgage plots along both sides of a wide main street with a narrow back lane running behind some areas.

The town's 1919 war memorial incorporates the original Market Cross which existed as far back as 1370 but was replaced in the 1500's. Along the High Street and Broad Street many of the gabled houses were built in the 17th and 18th centuries while in Hatters Lane, Tudor House is believed to be one of the oldest buildings dating back to 1460.

Many properties in this area had a Georgian or Victorian facade added to them when it became the fashion to update older properties.

Unlike many small market towns, the church does not occupy a prime site but is positioned down a lane behind buildings because the original plan did not make provision for it along the main street.

During the 1860s the church underwent many alterations and additions but the original font, dating from the 13th century, remains intact.

As befits its market town status there were once many inns and beer houses some of which remain today, the eldest of these are probably The Grapes and The George.

The Boot, which is located in the street bearing the same name, is the starting point for an interesting walk, around five-and-a-half-miles in total, which takes you along the River Frome, crosses the Cotswold Way and through Old Sodbury before finishing back at your original destination.

The Police Station was built in 1862, on the site of the former Duke William Inn, and is probably the oldest working station in the area. Just outside the Police Station is the Clocktower, now housing the tourist information centre, which was originally built as a memorial to Lt Col Blathwayt of Dyrham.

The facade of the Town Hall was built in 1858 and whilst the building itself has been thoroughly modernised it actually stands on the site of the 15th Guild Hall.

The main shopping area of the town is centered around Broad and High Street and includes a range of outlets from grocery and newsagents to antiques and clothes shops and probably the finest bakers in the area, the Hobbs House Bakery.

Chipping Sodbury has continued to thrive as market town and its numerous public houses and restaurants ensure a lively atmosphere in the evening.

For those wishing to sample different cuisines, it boasts Thai, French and Indian restaurants, the latter being housed in a Georgian property which was once lived in by Edward Jenner, the first doctor to invent a successful vaccination against smallpox.

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