Afternoon Tea in Chipping Campden

The center of Chipping Campden, at the wool market and war memorial.

Something I dearly wanted to do here in England, and sooner rather than later, was to enjoy a full afternoon tea. The Cotswolds area abounds with tea houses (well, except there isn’t one in Blockley), so I did my research of where might be a good place to go, and chose the Badger Inn in nearby Chipping Campden. By having tea there we could kill two birds with one stone; that is, we could not only have a lovely tea but also explore the nearby market town.

Chipping Campden’s terraced high street.
This very large, beautiful old home was on the high street. It had two statues of dogs guarding the front door and two wings on either side, one of which supposedly held a ballroom on its ground floor.
We almost missed this small gate as we walked along, but it was the entrance to the beautiful Ernest Wilson Memorial Garden, opened in 1984.
The beautiful little sanctuary was formerly part of the old vicarage garden. Wilson was a well-known botanist who studied and collected plants from Asia, China in particular. Many of the plants and trees in the garden were donations from nurseries or other gardens throughout England.

The town of Chipping Campden has been around since the 14th century and served from the Middle Ages as a major wool trading center. The name “chipping” comes from old English, and means “market” or marketplace” (other famous chippings include Chipping Norton and Chipping Sodbury). The market town became known for its elegant, terraced high street, the imposing St. James church, and other buildings built by wealthy wool and silk merchants.

Chipping Campden is also known for being the early 20th century center for the Cotswolds Arts & Craft movement. The Guild of Handicraft was established here, and craftspeople still practice here. Near St. James, in the old Court Barn, is the Museum of Craft and Design, which showcases the work of current craftspeople and sells items made by local artisans (I bought a necklace here).

The most famous structure in town in the Market Hall, built in 1627, where wool sellers and merchants conducted business. The Hall sits in the center of town, next to the war memorial and town hall.
The original interior of the market hall with its uneven cobbled floors.
The starting point of Cotswolds Way, a 100-mile path from Chipping Campden to Bath, sits just outside the wool market. This plaque marks towns and villages along the way.
The Chipping Campden town hall sits opposite the market hall, on the other side of the war memorial.

St. James church sits on the east side of town and is considered one of the finest ‘wool churches’ in the area, built and expanded with funds donated by wealthy wool and silk merchants over the years. The church was first erected in the 12th century but enlarged beginning in the 13th century and continued for over 250 years, including the construction of the striking vertical west tower. The bells inside the tower date from the 17th and 18th centuries.

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The entrance gate to the remains of Campden House, built by wealthy silk merchant Sir Baptist Hicks (the major contributor to the expansion of St. James) sits next to St. James. The house was destroyed during the British Civil War, and all that is left today is this gate and two banqueting houses. The grounds were closed the day we visited.
The top of the East Banqueting House could be seen over the top of the stone wall.
Sir Baptist Hicks also built almshouses for the poor. These are located just down the street from the church, and have been converted into modern apartments.
Across from the almshouses is a wagon wash – muddy wagons and carriages were driven down into the wash, scrubbed off and then pulled back out.

And then it was time for tea . . . .

My huge afternoon tea! The dark orange pile next to the salad was a highlight: house-made carrot chutney, both spicy and smokey. I bought a jar to bring home.

Sadly, the Badger Inn turned out to be closed last Friday, but we had spotted the Bantam tea house just a short distance away and decided to try there instead. We discovered their prices to be a bit more reasonable, and I ordered a full tea (sandwiches, cake, and scones) and Brett more sensibly ordered two scones. I was expecting a lovely tiered tea tray to come out with some dainty items but I instead received two big plates loaded with four sandwiches (Cotswold ham and cheese), a large slice of lemon drizzle cake, and a huge raisin scone along with clotted cream and strawberry preserves! Brett’s two scones filled his whole plate. It was a massive amount of food for the two of us and we did our best to finish it all. Every bite was delicious but I ended up tucking half of the sandwich into my purse – I just couldn’t finish all of it (Brett had it for dinner).

We were lucky to enjoy beautiful weather on our visit to Chipping Campden, but the town was also blissfully uncrowded that day, allowing us to take our time and get a good look at things in town and not have to stand in a long line for our tea. As we waited for the bus back to Blockley we learned we had just missed taking part in a small, free walking tour, and think we might go back someday and do that to get some more in-depth knowledge of the town.

8 thoughts on “Afternoon Tea in Chipping Campden

    1. It really was. I ended up not eating anything that evening and Brett finished off the rest of the sandwich. That said, I would definitely go back there again​ but stick to ordering only scones the next time.

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  1. How civilized to have a wagon wash! And what a treat for a healthy appetite! I can’t get over that ocher color of buildings, it warms up that stone. It must be gorgeous with the fall colors, stone buildings, green pastures and the blue sky!

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    1. We thought the wagon wash was interesting as well, and in an interesting location (close to the church and Campden House, and across the road from the Almshouses – maybe the poor who lived there were able to find work washing carriages and wagons?).

      We have had gorgeous blue skies all week but that is supposed to change next week. The leaves are just beginning to change, but it’s still mostly green all over.

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  2. That was some high tea. Mama thought there would be mostly deserts and she certainly didn’t expect such large portions. Is Cotswolds Way a walking path or a roadway?

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    1. It really was more of a meal than a tea (well, in my opinion anyway) but it was very affordable – just $17 for everything – and it was all delicious. We would definitely go back, but I wouldn’t order anything more than scones the next time.

      The Cotswolds Way is a walking path. It would take us around a month to do it all, staying in B&Bs and pubs every night along the way. The longer I’m here the more I’m intrigued with the idea of doing it.

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