Wantage

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Wantage
Wantage Market Place.jpg
Wantage Market Place and statue of King Alfred the Great
Oxfordshire UK location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Wantage
Location within Oxfordshire
Population11,327 (2011 census) [1]
OS grid reference SU3987
  London 57 miles (92 km)
Civil parish
  • Wantage
District
Shire county
Region
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town Wantage
Postcode district OX12
Dialling code 01235
Police Thames Valley
Fire Oxfordshire
Ambulance South Central
UK Parliament
Website Wantage.com Gateway to Wantage
List of places
UK
England
Oxfordshire
51°35′20″N1°25′37″W / 51.589°N 1.427°W / 51.589; -1.427 Coordinates: 51°35′20″N1°25′37″W / 51.589°N 1.427°W / 51.589; -1.427

Wantage ( /ˈwɒntɪ/ ) is a historic market town and civil parish in the ceremonial county of Oxfordshire, England. Historically part of Berkshire, it has been administered as part of the Vale of White Horse district of Oxfordshire since 1974. The town is on Letcombe Brook, about 8 miles (13 km) south-west of Abingdon, 24 miles (39 km) north-west of Reading, 15 miles (24 km) south-west of Oxford and 14 miles (23 km) north north-west of Newbury.

Contents

It was the birthplace of King Alfred the Great in 849. [2]

History

Saints Peter and Paul parish church St Peter and St Paul, Wantage - geograph.org.uk - 1547576.jpg
Saints Peter and Paul parish church

Wantage was a small Roman settlement [3] but the origin of the toponym is somewhat uncertain. It is generally thought to be from an Old English phrase meaning "decreasing river". [3] King Alfred the Great was born at the royal palace there in the 9th century, [2] in what was originally known as Wanating. [4] Wantage appears in the Domesday Book of 1086. Its value was £61 and it was in the king's ownership until Richard I passed it to the Earl of Albemarle in 1190. Weekly trading rights were first granted to the town by Henry III in 1246. [3] Markets are now held twice weekly on Wednesdays and Saturdays. [5] Royalist troops were stationed in Wantage during the English Civil War. [3]

In the 19th century, Lord Wantage became a notable local and national benefactor. [6] He was very involved in founding the British Red Cross Society. [6] In 1877 he paid for a marble statue of King Alfred by Count Gleichen to be erected in Wantage market place, where it still stands today. [3] [6] He also donated the Victoria Cross Gallery to the town. [3] [6] This contained paintings by Louis William Desanges depicting deeds which led to the award of a number of VCs, including his own gained during the Crimean War. It is now a shopping arcade. [3] Since 1848, Wantage has been home to the Community of Saint Mary the Virgin, one of the largest communities of Anglican nuns in the world. Wantage once had two breweries which were taken over by Morlands of Abingdon. In 1988 the town was thrust into the headlines after a Brass Tacks programme entitled "Shire Wars" exposed the drunken violence that plagued the town and surrounding villages at that time. [7]

Governance

Former head office of Wantage Urban District Council in Portway Former Wantage UDC (Council) Offices, Portway, Wantage, Oxon.jpg
Former head office of Wantage Urban District Council in Portway

Wantage has a town council consisting of 16 councillors, 14 of whom (as of 2019) are Liberal Democrats with the remaining two councillors being made up of one Conservative and one Labour councillor. It is also part of the district of the Vale of White Horse.

Until 1974, Wantage had two local government councils: Wantage Rural District, which had its headquarters in Belmont, [8] Wantage and Wantage Urban District, which had its headquarters in Portway. [9] These bodies were both abolished as part of the Local Government Act 1972 and became part of the Vale of White Horse District Council.

The Wantage constituency is currently represented by Conservative MP David Johnston who was first elected in the 2019 general election after former MP Ed Vaizey announced that he would not stand for re-election in the 2019 general election. [10] [11] The nearby towns of Didcot, Faringdon and Wallingford are also part of the Wantage constituency. [12] At the time of the 2019 general election, the Wantage constituency had a total electorate of 90,876. [10]

Geography

Wantage is at the foot of the Berkshire Downs escarpment in the Vale of the White Horse. There are gallops at Black Bushes and nearby villages with racing stables at East Hendred, Letcombe Bassett, Lockinge and Uffington. Wantage includes the suburbs of Belmont to the west and Charlton to the east. Grove to the north is still just about detached and is a separate parish. Wantage parish stretches from the northern edge of its housing up onto the Downs in the south, covering Chain Hill, Edge Hill, Wantage Down, Furzewick Down and Lattin Down. The Edgehill Springs rise between Manor Road and Spike Lodge Farms and the Letcombe Brook flows through the town. Wantage is home to the Vale and Downland Museum. There is a large market square containing a statue of King Alfred, surrounded by shops some with 18th-century facades. Quieter streets radiate from it, including one towards the large Church of England parish church. Wantage is the "Alfredston" of Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure . [13]

Transport

Stagecoach Gold bus in Wantage Market Place on former route X30 (now S9) Stagecoach Gold bus in Wantage.jpg
Stagecoach Gold bus in Wantage Market Place on former route X30 (now S9)

Wantage is at the crossing of the B4507 valley road, the A417 road between Reading and Cirencester and the A338 road between Hungerford (and junction 14 of the M4 motorway) and Oxford. [14]

Bus services link Wantage with Oxford and other nearby towns and villages including Abingdon, Didcot, Faringdon and Grove. Stagecoach in Oxfordshire provide the main services between Wantage and Oxford with up to three buses per hour Monday to Saturday and up to two buses per hour on Sundays and bank holidays, operated under Stagecoach's luxury Stagecoach Gold brand. [15] [16] [17] Thames Travel provide two buses per hour between Wantage and Didcot via Harwell Campus, [18] the Faringdon to Wantage service which runs up to every 60 minutes, [19] and a local service to Grove, [20] all operated under the Connector brand.

The former head office of the Wantage Tramway Company in Mill Street Wantage Tramway Company.jpg
The former head office of the Wantage Tramway Company in Mill Street

Wantage does not have a railway station; Didcot Parkway, 8 miles to the east, is the nearest station, with services towards London, Bristol and Cardiff. The Great Western Mainline is just north of Grove (2 miles North of Wantage) where the former Wantage Road railway station used to be. It was closed during the Beeching cuts in 1964. [21] The Wantage Tramway used to link Wantage with Wantage Road station. The tramway's Wantage terminus was in Mill Street and its building survives, but little trace remains of the route. [22] One of the tramway's locomotives, Shannon, alias Jane, is preserved at Didcot Railway Centre. [23] Oxfordshire County Council have ambitions to re-open the former Wantage Road railway station and has stated that the station is a priority in their Connecting Oxfordshire plans. It is hoped that the station could be served by a direct service between Oxford and Bristol. [24] The Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) published their Connecting Communities: Expanding Access to the Rail Network report and outlined Wantage and Grove as one of the top seven places where a new station would be feasible and provide economical benefits to the area. [25]

The nearest public airport to Wantage is London Heathrow, approximately 42 miles (68 km) east of the town. [26]

A section of the Wilts & Berks Canal passes through the parish. [27]

Education

Front of King Alfred's Academy Centre Site King Alfred's School - geograph-2577522-by-Bill-Nicholls.jpg
Front of King Alfred's Academy Centre Site

There is one state secondary school in Wantage, King Alfred's Academy, and approximately ten primary schools. [28] The secondary school converted into an academy in 2011 and was rated Outstanding by Ofsted in that year. [29] [30]

Between 1873 and 2006, an Anglican private girls' school, St Mary's School, was located in Wantage. The school closed in 2006 when St. Mary's merged with Heathfield School, Ascot. [31]

A former independent preparatory school, St Andrew's, established in 1926, closed permanently in 2010. [32]

Fitzwaryn School, a school catering for pupils with special needs, is situated in Wantage. [33] The school caters for children aged 3–19 and was rated Outstanding by Ofsted in 2014. [34] It is named after the ancient lords of the manor of Wantage, the FitzWarin family, powerful Marcher Lords seated at Whittington Castle in Shropshire.

In October 2013, the Vale Academy Trust was created when King Alfred's Academy, Charlton Primary School and Wantage CE Primary School came together to form a partnership. [35] The trust was founded by local heads, governors and other stakeholders in hope of creating quality partnerships among the schools to ensure higher quality education for the area. [36] Since the trust was formed in 2013, three other primary schools in the area have joined. [37]

The Vale Academy Trust announced plans in September 2016 to build a brand new free school in Grove for children from the ages of two to sixteen. The school is planned to have a capacity of up to 1,000 students and is hoped to open in 2019 in preparation for large scale housing developments that are planned for Wantage and Grove. [38]

Architecture

The Old Town Hall (left), built in 1877, and a 17th-century building (right) Old buildings, Wantage Market Place - geograph.org.uk - 1321063.jpg
The Old Town Hall (left), built in 1877, and a 17th-century building (right)

Wantage has been the site of a church since at least the 10th century and the present Church of England parish church of Saints Peter and Paul dates from the 13th century, with many additions since. [39] SS Peter and Paul contains seventeen 15th-century misericords. [39]

King Alfred's Grammar School was designed by the architect J. B. Clacy [40] of Reading [41] and built in 1849–50 [40] but incorporates a highly carved Norman doorway [40] from a demolished chantry chapel that formerly stood in the churchyard. [3] [39]

Developments

In recent years four or more significant housing developments have been constructed. At least one development (including the new health centre) has been on a greenfield site adjacent to the A338 road towards Oxford. The other three, however, have been on brownfield sites, converting a scrapyard next to the Letcombe Brook.

In 2006, a commercial development began construction with a Sainsbury's supermarket as a focus. This supermarket is double the size of the previous one and was intended to have a significant impact on the town by drawing more visitors from outlying villages. The impact was projected as being positive, aimed at preventing the town becoming a commuter town and retaining some commercial activity. An action group, Wantage Rejuvenated, is being sponsored by the town's chamber of commerce to try to bring business back into the area and inject new life into the town.

There was activism in the town regarding development 2011, with a campaign to stop the demolition of a building close to the town centre by Vanderbuilt Homes, who initially gained permission to convert an early Georgian bank of shops into a mixed commercial and residential block. Vanderbilt applied to have the buildings completely demolished, prompting a local petition and campaign for the application to be refused at the discretion of the Town Council, as although the building is old, it is not listed. [42]

Another area of development which has provoked local protest has been on the north of the town, where a 1,500-home estate is proposed, increasing housing in the town by 35%. Residents have raised petitions and the local MP, Ed Vaizey, has raised concerns, especially about the ability of local road infrastructure to cope. The town is served by the A338, A4497 and A417, which are single-carriageway roads. The proposed Wantage development is one mile from a similar mass of 2,500 homes proposed for the village of Grove and which will use same road network. [43]

In 2014 Wantage was nominated for the Government's Great British High Street Award whereby Wantage won the award for Britain's Best Town Centre beating several other towns nominated for the award. [44]

Sport and leisure

Wantage has a non-League football club: Wantage Town F.C., who play at Alfredian Park in the Southern Football League. Grove is also the home to Formula One constructor Williams Grand Prix Engineering. [45]

Wantage & Grove Cricket Club's first recorded match was in 1863. The club has three teams and play in Charlton, Wantage. [46]

On 12 September 2014, cyclists competing in the 2014 Tour of Britain passed through Wantage during Stage 6 of the event. The participants entered Wantage via the B4494 road and left via the A417 towards Harwell and then on towards the end of the stage at Hemel Hempstead. [47]

White Horse Harriers AC is an athletics club based in Wantage and Grove. They organise the annual White Horse Half Marathon, which starts and finishes in Grove. [48]

Corallian Cycling Club was founded in 2016 and organises regular sociable cycle rides from Wantage Market Place. [49]

Notable people

Statue of Alfred the Great, by Prince Victor of Hohenlohe-Langenburg Statue of King Alfred in Wantage Market Square.jpg
Statue of Alfred the Great, by Prince Victor of Hohenlohe-Langenburg

Twinning

Wantage is twinned with: [68]

Nearby places

Related Research Articles

Oxfordshire County of England

Oxfordshire is a county in South East England. The ceremonial county borders Warwickshire to the north-west, Northamptonshire to the north-east, Buckinghamshire to the east, Berkshire to the south, Wiltshire to the south-west and Gloucestershire to the west.

Didcot Town in England

Didcot is a railway town and civil parish in the ceremonial county of Oxfordshire and the historic county of Berkshire. Didcot is 15 miles (24 km) south of Oxford, 10 miles (16 km) east of Wantage and 15 miles (24 km) north west of Reading. The town is noted for its railway heritage, Didcot station opening as a junction station on the Great Western Main Line in 1844.

Vale of White Horse Non-metropolitan district in England

The Vale of White Horse is a local government district of Oxfordshire in England. South and west of the upper Thames, on its right bank it was long a north-west projection of Berkshire. The area is commonly referred to as the 'Vale of the White Horse' and is crossed by the Ridgeway National Trail in its far south, across the North Wessex Downs AONB at the junction of four counties. The 'White Horse' as a name and emblem features in sports clubs and organisations, but is also emblematic of Kent and appears in lesser known hill figures elsewhere.

Faringdon Human settlement in England

Faringdon is a historic market town in the Vale of White Horse, Oxfordshire, England. Within the historic boundaries of Berkshire, it is 18 miles (29 km) south-west of Oxford, 10 miles (16 km) north-west of Wantage and 12 miles (19 km) east-north-east of Swindon. The lowest parts of the parish extend to the River Thames in the north and its highest ground to the Ridgeway in the south. Faringdon was Berkshire's westernmost town until the 1974 boundary changes transferred it to Oxfordshire. The civil parish is formally Great Faringdon, to distinguish it from Little Faringdon in West Oxfordshire. The 2011 Census gave a population of 7,121. On 1 February 2004, Faringdon became the first place in south-east England to be awarded Fairtrade Town status. Faringdon Enterprise Gateway helps and advises businesses in rural west Oxfordshire.

Grove, Oxfordshire Human settlement in England

Grove is a village and civil parish on Letcombe Brook, about 1 12 miles (2.4 km) north of Wantage in the Vale of White Horse. Historically, a part of Berkshire until the 1974 boundary changes transferred it to Oxfordshire. The 2011 Census recorded the parish's population as 7,178. It is also home to ROKiT Williams Racing.

Wantage (UK Parliament constituency) Parliamentary constituency in the United Kingdom, 1983 onwards

Wantage is a constituency in Oxfordshire represented in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom by Conservative MP David Johnston.

Wantage was a rural district of Berkshire, England from 1894 to 1974.

Kingston Lisle Human settlement in England

Kingston Lisle is a village and civil parish in the Vale of White Horse, England, about 4 12 miles (7 km) west of Wantage and 5 miles (8 km) south-southeast of Faringdon. The parish includes the hamlet of Fawler, about 12 mile (800 m) west of Kingston Lisle village. The 2011 Census recorded the parish population as 225.

Childrey Human settlement in England

Childrey is a village and civil parish about 2 12 miles (4 km) west of Wantage in the Vale of White Horse. The parish was part of the Wantage Rural District in Berkshire until the 1974 boundary changes transferred the whole of the Vale of White Horse from Berkshire to Oxfordshire. The 2011 Census recorded the parish population as 582.

King Alfreds Academy Academy in Wantage, Oxfordshire, England

King Alfred's Academy is a Secondary school in Wantage, Oxfordshire, recognised as an Academy. It is named after King Alfred the Great, who ruled Wessex from 871 to 899 and was born in Wantage in 849 AD. The school has approximately 140 teachers and 1,800 students spread across two sites.

Wantage Road railway station

Wantage Road railway station was a railway station on the Great Western Main Line in the Vale of White Horse district in Oxfordshire. The station was actually at the village of Grove, Oxfordshire, more than two miles north of Wantage. The station closed in December 1964 as part of the Beeching cuts.

Letcombe Regis Human settlement in England

Letcombe Regis is a village and civil parish in the Vale of White Horse. It was part of Berkshire until the 1974 boundary changes transferred the Vale of White Horse to Oxfordshire. The village is on Letcombe Brook at the foot of the Berkshire Downs escarpment about 1 mile (1.6 km) southwest of the market town of Wantage. The 2011 Census recorded the parish population as 578.

Letcombe Brook river in the United Kingdom

Letcombe Brook is a 7.5-mile (12 km) stream in the Vale of White Horse in Oxfordshire, England. It rises at the foot of the Berkshire Downs in Letcombe Bassett and flows through Letcombe Regis, Wantage, Grove and East Hanney to join Childrey Brook, which is a tributary of the River Ock, which is a tributary of the River Thames.

Letcombe Bassett Human settlement in England

Letcombe Bassett is a village and civil parish about 2 miles (3 km) southwest of the market town of Wantage in the Vale of White Horse. It was part of Berkshire until the 1974 boundary changes transferred the Vale of White Horse to Oxfordshire. The 2011 Census recorded the parish population as 148.

West Challow Human settlement in England

West Challow is a village and civil parish about 2 miles (3 km) west of the market town of Wantage in the Vale of White Horse. The village is on Childrey Brook, which is a tributary of the River Ock. West Challow was part of Berkshire until the 1974 boundary changes transferred the Vale of White Horse to Oxfordshire. The 2011 Census recorded the parish's population as 184.

Ardington and Lockinge

Ardington and Lockinge are two civil parishes in the Vale of White Horse district, centred about 2 miles (3 km) east of Wantage, Oxfordshire, that share a single parish council.

The Lockinge Estate is 3035 hectare agricultural and housing estate near Wantage that today includes most of the land and property encompassing the villages of West Lockinge, East Lockinge and Ardington. The current manager of the Lockinge Estate is Thomas Loyd. Almost the entire estate is included within the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

The National Cycle Route 544 is a Sustrans regional route in the North Wessex Downs of southern Oxfordshire, linking Wantage and Didcot. The route is 12 miles (19 km) long, and overlaps with part of the ancient Icknield Way and frequently links to The Ridgeway National Trail.

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Sources and further reading