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Chalford High Street
Grid reference: SO898028
Location: 51°43’26"N, 2°8’57"W
Population: 6,215  (2011)
Post town: Stroud
Postcode: GL6
Dialling code: 01453
Local Government
Council: Stroud

Chalford is a large village in the Frome Valley of the Cotswolds in Gloucestershire, to the southeast of Stroud, about four miles upstream of the town.

The village stands by the River Frome, at an ancient ford on the river from which it was named. The name Chalford may be derived from Calf Ford, or possibly from the Old English cealh ford (Chalk Ford).

At this point the valley is also called the Golden Valley.[1]


The remains, and known sites, of many barrows indicate that the plateau area of Chalford Hill, France Lynch and Bussage has been an area of continuous settlement for probably at least 4,000 years.[2] Stone Age flints have been found in the area as well as the remains of a Roman villa.

There were two ancient crossings at Chalford apart from the ford from which the village was named: Stoneford, recorded from the later 12th century, was the crossing-point of a track up Cowcombe hill on the line of the later Cirencester turnpike[3] and by 1413 another track crossed into Minchinhampton by Stephen's bridge at Valley Corner.[4]

Chalford Hill is a recent title for the western end of the hill: its original name was 'Chalford Lynch', from the Old English hlinc, meaning a cultivated terrace following the contours of a hill (a 'lynchett' as we may say today). Chalford Lynch and its extension France Lynch originated in the late 16th century as collections of stone cottages many built illegally on the peripheries of Bisley common as the mill expansion in the valley outstripped accommodation space in the valley.[5] Many dwellings in Franch Lynch and Chalford Hill only became legitimate at the time of the parliamentary enclosures in 1869.[6]

The settling of displaced Flemish Huguenot weavers in the 17th and 18th centuries brought quality silk and woollen cloth manufacturing to the valley. Some say that they gave their name to the neighbouring village of France Lynch. It is more likely that the name comes from a non-conformist chapel, France Meeting, that was displaced from the village in the valley to the Lynches above.[7] At this point the Golden Valley is narrow and deep so many weavers' cottages were built clinging to the sides of the hills, giving the village an Alpine air. It is sometimes still referred to as the 'Alpine village'. As the paths on the hillsides were too narrow for more conventional forms of transport donkeys were used to carry groceries and other goods to houses, this tradition continuing until as recently as the 1950s.[8]

Chalford expanded rapidly with the opening of the Thames and Severn Canal in 1789 and the village became one of the centres for the manufacture of broadcloth. Its wealthy clothiers lived close to their mills and built many fine houses which survive to this day.


Christ Church, Chalford
  • Church of England:
    • Christ Church
    • St John the Baptist, France Lynch
  • Baptist: Baptist Chapel
  • Methodist: Chalford Hill Methodist Church
  • France Congregational Church
  • Roman Catholic: Church of Our Lady of the Angels, Brownshill

Chalford is noted for two fine Arts and Crafts movement churches; one of the Church of England and one Roman Catholic.

Christ Church (Church of England) contains work by Norman Jewson, William Simmonds,[9] Peter Waals, Edward Barnsley, Norman Bucknell,[10] amongst other distinguished artists and craftsmen working in the Cotswold tradition.

The Roman Catholic church, the Church of Our Lady of the Angels, in Brownshill, was designed by W. D. Caroe (1930), contains outstanding stained glass by Douglas Strachan.

France Lynch, part of the civil parish but a separate ecclesiastical parish has a splendid listed church, St John the Baptist, built by George Frederick Bodley who went on to build Washington National Cathedral in Washington DC, in the United States.

The sub-village of Brownshill ahas a Roman Catholic nunnery: the Monastery of Our Lady and St Bernard, which is home to a community of eight Bernardine Cistercian nuns.[11]

About the village

Dry stone wall in Chalford Hill

In common with other towns and villages in the area, buildings are generally constructed of Cotswold stone, with local fields enclosed by dry stone walling. The area is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the village itself is a designated conservation area.[12]

Round house at Chalford

One of the most distinctive, and most photographed, features of the village is the Round House. It was built by the Thames and Severn Canal Company as a lengthman's cottage and is one of five along the Thames and Severn Canal.[13] (The others are at Coates, Cerney Wick, Marston Meysey and Inglesham.) A notable feature is that access is by way of steps up to the first floor as the ground floor would have originally been stabling for a horse. Apart from a relatively short break in the 1950s when it was a museum it has fulfilled its function as a private residence, which it continues to do to this day.

Directly opposite the Round House is Chalford Place, a Grade II* listed building built on the site of the original home of the de Chalkfordes who are mentioned in documents as early as 1240.[13] The house, formerly known as the Company's Arms, is one of the earlier houses in the valley. Built as a mill owner's house it became an inn in the 19th century. It owed its name 'Company's Arms' to the East India Company for which the mills of Chalford supplied much of its cloth. It remained an inn until the 1960s when it reverted to its former name of Chalford Place.[2] The house lay derelict for many years until it was recently purchased and is now being restored by the artist Damien Hirst

Surviving mills in Chalford parish

  • St Mary's Mill
  • Clayfields/Ballingers Mill
  • Iles Mill
  • Belvedere Mill
  • Bliss Mills (Bliss, New, Mugmore, Spring and Wood.) Now form Chalford industrial estate.
  • Woolings Mill (including Sevilles upper mill.)
  • Smart Mill (formerly known as Stoneford, Bidmeads, Hoptons and Halliday Mill.)
  • Valley or Morton's Mill

The mill race of Ashmeads Mill remains, mill demolished early 1900s.

Modern Chalford

In February 2008, Chalford hit the headlines when a community plan to reintroduce donkeys as a way of carrying shopping up the steep, narrow hills became public.[14][15][16]

On 5 September 2009 Chalford Community Stores allowed customers to purchase shares in the business. The store, which has been running with the aid of a volunteer workforce since 2003, is now affiliated with the independent organisation Co-operatives UK, making the share issue possible.[17]

On 4 March 2012 the store and the donkey were featured in an episode of Countryfile. The store prospered within the local church hall but returned to the High Street in May 2014 and now thrives in the former Seventh Day Adventist Hall, made possible by a second community share issue, a bank loan and various grants.

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Chalford)


  1. Chalford Hill Parish
  2. 2.0 2.1 Paterson, Nigel McCullagh: The Vernacular Architecture and Buildings of Stroud and Chalford: (Trafford Publishing, 2006) ISBN 1-4120-9951-X
  3. {{brithist|19016|British History Online]
  4. A History of the County of Gloucester - Volume 11 : Bisley and Longtree Hundreds (Victoria County History)
  5. Ralph Bigland 1791: Historical Monumental and Genealogical Connections Relative to the County of Gloucester
  6. Gloucestershire records office; Parliamentary Bisley Inclosures: 1869, Q/RI 22
  7. France Congregational Church, Chalford: Story of 257 years, 1662-1919 Paperback – 1919:by Herbert W Gurd. France Congregational Church.
  8. Donkey direct: Hilly hamlet brings back beast of burden to carry shopping after 50 years
  9. "William and Eve Simmonds, between them : Artist, Carver / Sculptor, Photographer, Embroiderer, Book Illustrator, Marionette Maker and Puppet Master · Oakridge Community Archives". Retrieved 2018-07-19. 
  10. Mary Greensted. "Obituary: Norman Bucknell | From". The Guardian. Retrieved 2018-07-19. 
  11. "Brownshill". Bernadine Cistercians of Esquermes. 
  12. "Chalford Parish Design Statement". Chalford Parish Council. Retrieved 30 October 2019. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 Chalford Guide. Pub. Chalford Parish Council 1990
  14. Independent newspaper
  15. Daily Mail
  16. BBC News
  17. [1] Residents snap up hundreds of pounds of shares in village shop