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Chipping Norton, at 700ft, is the highest town in Oxfordshire and regarded as one of the "Gateways" to the Cotswolds. Chipping means market and for a considerable period the market at 'Norton' was the commercial centre for the Evenlode valley. When the medieval wool trade made the Cotswolds one of the wealthiest parts of England, the town assumed new importance as a gathering place for wool merchants and other traders. Much of the town's attraction today is due to its many surviving buildings erected during times of great prosperity in the past. Among these are numerous 18th century houses and a 'wool' church that is among the finest in the county.
King John granted the town a charter for an annual fair for the sale of wool. However, the fair, held in September, has been suggested to have an alternative origin when servants and masters came together to find new positions and employees. The 'Mop Fair' is now an excuse for fun in the town centre each September.
The town's most notorious character was James Hird born in 1616. He gained notoriety as a highwayman surviving until 1652 when he was condemmed for high treason and executed.
William Bliss is the town's greatest benefactor. By 1816 he had established the foundation of the town's textile industry using the latest technology of the industrial revolution. After a fire in 1872 the current mill, a prominent landmark today, was erected and through various owners remained in production until its closure in 1980. The mill has now been converted into luxury apartments and leisure facilities.