chippynet3xx.jpg ( bytes)



What is a burgage plot

The Chipping Norton News asked recent resident and historian David Eddershaw to explain the background to these valuable town centre sites.

Behind nearly every shop along the High Street is a narrow strip of land stretching back to Albion Street. Most of them have an assortment of old buildings and outhouses on them, some are extensions tacked on behind the main houses others perhaps former barns and stables now converted to modern uses. If you look at these buildings today from Albion Street they don�t appear to be of any architectural or historical importance, so why are they special

These are �burgage plots� and it is not so much the buildings as the shape of the strips and their arrangement in relation to the market place that is interesting. Chipping Norton�s market place was planned and laid out probably as long ago as 1205 by a lord of the manor who wanted to make the place more prosperous. It is a remarkable piece of medieval town planning with a huge open space for pens of livestock and stalls for other produce, the whole space surrounded and enclosed by the houses of the wealthier inhabitants (in later times called �burgesses�). Their houses were all part of the original plan. The building plots which they leased belonged to the lord and like any modern developer he fitted in as many as possible all along the upper and lower sides, and probably also the ends, of the market place. It is noticeable even today that most of the shops on High Street have similar sized frontages, because although the buildings have changed they still stand on the original plots marked out nearly eight hundred years ago. To make up for the restricted frontages each one had a long strip of land behind it and a lane ran round the back of them to give rear access � simply known as �Back Lane� until it was given the posher name of Albion Street by the Victorians.

These strips (today called burgage plots) were originally used as gardens or extra space for outbuildings, workshops, stables and occasionally additional cottages. They are still used for all sorts of purposes today. One is used by Albion Market for a thriving business which provides a useful thoroughfare at the same time. In the last century a rope maker called Keck used the length of this same burgage plot to stretch out the fibres and twist his ropes. At least one has a house built on it, called �Ampersand� because it was built by the town�s printer. There is a dovecote in the gable end of an old barn behind 9 High Street and nearby is a plot that nobody seems to own. Flourishing hotels like the Crown and Cushion and the White Hart developed their burgage plots centuries ago as stable yards used by the many travellers passing through this busy market town and today they provide car parking and other facilities for guests.

These burgage plots were a key part of the medieval town plan and are still a characteristic feature of the town today.


(The map was kindly provided by the CN Museum of Local History)