The famous Wool Market or Market Hall stands on the High Street. In many ways, this stone building with its arches and its timbered roof, sums up the Cotswolds, whose history encompasses sheep, wool, and oolitic limestone. The Market Hall was built in 1627 by Sir Baptist Hicks, later first Lord Campden, his descendants owned it until 1942, when it became the property of the National Trust.
The renowned botanist Ernest ‘Chinese’ Wilson was born in Chipping Campden on the 15th of February 1876 and his small, charming memorial garden is in a secluded location at the northern end of the main street in the shadow of the parish church of St. James, the garden being originally part of the Old Vicarage Garden. As a young adult, he went to work in Birmingham Botanic Gardens, and in 1897 he moved to the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, in London. He then accepted a position as a Chinese plant collector with the firm of James Veitch & Sons, who were eager above all to retrieve the dove tree, also known as the handkerchief tree, Davidia involucrata. “Stick to the one thing you are after” advised Harry Veitch, who had more than a dozen plant hunters on payroll, “and don’t spend time and money wandering about. Probably every worthwhile plant in China has now been introduced to Europe”. In 1899 he set out on the first of many trips, not only to China but to Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, as a result of which he introduced some two thousand plants into Europe and America, as well as rediscovering the dove tree.
On his first return, Wilson married Helen Ganderton, of Edgbaston, but within six months Veitch sent him out again, this time with the yellow Chinese poppy, Meconopsis integrifolia as his objective. In 1903 Wilson discovered the Regal lily in west Szechuan along the Min River. He revisited the site in 1908 and collected more bulbs, but most of these rotted while en route back to the Arnold Arboretum in Boston. In 1910 he again returned to the Min valley – this time his leg was crushed during an avalanche of boulders as he was carried along the trail in his sedan chair. After setting his leg with the tripod of his camera, he was carried back to civilization on a three-day forced march. Thereafter he walked with what he called his “lily limp”. It was this third shipment of bulbs that successfully introduced the Regal Lily into cultivation in the United States. Sixty species and varieties of Chinese plants bear his name.
Much of his working life was spent in the USA, working for the Arnold Arboretum in Boston, Massachusetts. He and his wife died in the USA in a motor accident in 1930. The garden was created through local donations and through the gifts of plants from various nurseries and gardeners and opened in 1984. although there is no entry charge, a collecting box in the wall is there for visitors who would like to contribute to the garden’s upkeep.