Chipping Norton's Lido (an open-air pool for those who might think a lido something you lie on atop the water - that's a LYLO) is very much a summer thing and is open from sometime in spring until sometime in autumn - the website is under construction as I write.
This is a public swimming pool which also provides a resource for local schools and is supported solely by locally-raised funding and very reasonable entrance fees.
On my November visit I refused to pay the entrance fee, enjoyed a cigarette and did a bit of diving in the shallow end - just a shame there wasn't any water ;-)
Chipping Norton's heyday (which perhaps should read "woolday") was during the Medieval period when the area became rich on the back of the sheep trade. This was when the town centre developed the layout which you see today.
Still relatively propsperous in the late 1700's and early 1800's most of the High Street was given a makeover in what is now known as the "Georgian Style" whereby the buildings were given mathematically regular frontages as opposed to the haphazardry (if there's such a word) of the previous incarnations.
It's interesting to note the difference between the "modern" High Street and the immediately adjacent Market Street.
The town's 15th century Guildhall was its original bureaucratic centre where the local merchants and artisans would meet to discuss the running of the market (and maybe do some price fixing?) and generally look after the town's interests.
Following the town's 1607 Royal Charter the Guildhall became the offices of the newly-formed corporation (which probably pretty much did as the merchants and artisans) but the members seemed to be more interested in holding their meetings in the local hostelries as evidenced by the fact that one of the founder members, Henry Cornish (the builder of the almshouses) left in his will a sum sufficient to provide an annual dinner at the White Hart for the corporation officers.
The Guildhall has reverted to being used by the Town Council, following a relatively recent major renovation, and now hosts what is termed as a "Tourist Information Point" which, from what I can gather is a bit like a "Tourist Information Centre" except that it's not open at weekends, evenings, mornings, lunchtimes, or any other times that tourists might actually want to use it.
Nice building though.
One of the wierd things I somtimes do when visiting small towns is take a wander around the graveyard of the church. Gravestones tell you so much about a place and when you see the family names, the various connections between them and the memoria you get an idea of a place's history.
Here I discoverd the gravestone of Elizabeth and Urban Law. Law is quite a common surname but Urban as a forename is unusual and googling "Urban Law" all I get is an American law firm.
There must be more to this gravestone but I can't find out anything so far - watch this space though
The eye-catching centrepiece of the town is Chippy's slightly chipped, much loved and variously used and abused town hall.
This was built in the days when Chippy - sorry, I should say - "The Royal Borough Of Chipping Norton" was a place to be reckoned with. Here they had the markets; corn, butter and grain. The upstairs were the council rooms hosting the glitterai whilst downstairs the four jail cells were reckoned adequate to host the overnight guests reckoned to be non glitterai.
These days the multi-functional town hall maintains the over-and-under ethos with which it was constructed. The upstairs rooms are still used as council chambers on occassions, and by all accounts hang paintaings of previous borough masters but at the time of my visit there was nothing to sign a welcome to view - nor even a "Bar Open" invitation.
Useful though, in that in place of the old fire station and its water supply the downdraft bit has Ladies and Gents at either end - the Cons go through the old sheep market pens.
Alms houses were an early form of social housing and usually connected in some way to the church, either by direct ecclesiastical charitability or by the benefaction of devout members of the local community.
The oldest alms houses in England are those of the Hospital of St Cross, Winchester which itself dates to about 1132 AD, although the dwellings themselves are slightly more recent. Throughout England many of the finest examples of Medieval and Middle Age architecture are to be found in discovering the alms houses as these were subject to strict covenants which precluded any change of use and so they could never be sold as private dwellings nor their land in any way interfered with.
Chippy's little row of alms houses, on the road down towards the church, was bequeathed by a local notable, Henry Cornish, in 1640 for the housing of eight widows who had to be ‘of honest and godly life and conversation’. These were built using the local stone and are pretty much preserved in their original form (with the exception that the outside privies are no more). As a matter of aesthetics you might note that despite the fact there are only eight cottages there are in fact nine chimneys, one of which being a falsie and built just to provide an eye-pleasing balance.
This aesthetic principle holds true to the present day as the second pic shows - the controversy is whether residents should be allowed to plant climbing roses instead of hawthorn on their porchways. This looks almost as serious a business for the local council as the Sainsbury's planning app!!
At the time of my visit (Nov 2011) the supermarket group Sainsburys were in the process of attempting to get planning permission for a new superstore on the London Road approach to the town centre.
The land pertaining to the application was formerly owned by the furniture company Parker Knoll which pulled out of the town in 2004 and is supposedly set aside for development by small retail and manufacturing businesses.
Local traders and residents have set up a campaign pressure group called SCOOTS (Stop Chippy's Out Of Town Supermarket) in order to fight the planning application. Obviously the arguments are a bit too detailed to go into here but basically the main point is that Chippy is a vibrant local community with mostly independent traders occupying the High Street and an edge of town development will alter the trading balance which currently exists.
Me I'm all for SCOOTS and its good to see that the local people have the pride and confidence in their own environment to challenge the corporate bully boys and so watch this space for further developments (hopefully non-developments).