You see the legendary King Alfred was here: he of burnt cakes fame. He was king of Wessex - one of the realms of England during the Dark Ages - and one of the more famous ones of those times.
During these times Chippenham was a villa regia aka a royal estate with a hunting lodge. The king would bring his court here to stay for hunting in the surrounding rich forest and also preside over matters of justice. The Anglo Saxon Chronicle states that the Anglo Saxon Witan, or parliament was held in Chippenham in 933.
During the ninth century, the kingdom of Wessex was under threat from Danish Vikings, who'd already captured the other three Anglo Saxon kingdoms. In 878, the Anglo Saxon Chronicle says:
This year, about midwinter, after Twelfth Night, the Danish army stole out to Chippenham, and rode over the land of the West Saxons, where they settled, and drove many of the people over sea.
In 879, King Alfred defeated the Danes at the battle of Ethandune, which is thought to be modern day Edington near Westbury. He then chased them back to their stronghold at Chippenham and lay siege. Thus peace was restored to the kingdom of Wessex and it's this defeat which went towards him earning the title King Alfred the Great.
Whilst the remains of buildings dating from Saxon times have been found close by where the pictured commemorative plaque is displayed, there's no real proof yet that this is indeed where the royal hunting lodge actually was.
However, a couple of mentions in the Anglo Saxon Chronicle, one of the key documents we have of this poorly documented time, shows that Chippenham must have been of some importance. There's other evidence too, but that story is a better tale for next month :)
This is for ABC Wednesday and is the eleventh in my themed round of posts about Chippenham.