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Of Markets and River Street

August 28, 2019

 Fiona Plant reports on the final Wednesday history walk for August...

"Another interesting afternoon being tourists in our own town and learning more about the history of Chippenham with Mel Barnett of Chippenham Museum. Followed, of course, by coffee and chat - this time at Lily’s Vintage Tearooms on Timber Street."

It was thumbs up for the tea rooms and amazement that the Market Place was the place for town gatherings and once had 37 pubs! In view of this Mel's tales of riots and Chippenham's reputation for feistiness, weren't so surprising. The town was once famous for its cheese making and market and one local maker discovered the compound which turns cheese rinds orange. Traces of the original cattle market are seen in the shape of the tying up posts in front of St Andrew's church.

We also learned that Chippenham once had a castle (probably where the town hall's car park is now), possibly a simple motte and bailey with timber the main material used. John Wood - of Bath architecture fame - was responsible for the buildings which we now know as Chippenham Museum as well as the more well-known church at Hardenhuish.

Mills, a tannery, a gunmakers, Oxo and Hygrade foods were the manufacturing heart of the River Street and Factory Lane part of the town at various times. We found out where workers rights campaigner Florence Hancock was born - the house was where the road behind Borough Parade goes!

Look out for the Museum's activities for Heritage Open Days next month.

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