Wantage Market Place and statue of King Alfred the Great
|Population||11,327 (2011 census)|
|OS grid reference|
|• London||57 miles (92 km)|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Website||Wantage.com Gateway to Wantage|
Wantage (//) 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.
Wantage was a small Roman settlement but the origin of the toponym is somewhat uncertain. It is generally thought to be from an Old English phrase meaning "decreasing river". King Alfred the Great was born at the royal palace there in the 9th century, in what was originally known as Wanating. 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. Markets are now held twice weekly on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Royalist troops were stationed in Wantage during the English Civil War.
In the 19th century, Lord Wantage became a notable local and national benefactor. He was very involved in founding the British Red Cross Society. 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. He also donated the Victoria Cross Gallery to the town. 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. Wantage is home to the Community of Saint Mary the Virgin, founded by the vicar of Wantage William John Butler in 1848; it was once 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.
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, Wantage and Wantage Urban District, which had its headquarters in Portway. 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. The nearby towns of Didcot, Faringdon and Wallingford are also part of the Wantage constituency. At the time of the 2019 general election, the Wantage constituency had a total electorate of 90,876.
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.
Bus services link Wantage with Oxford and other nearby towns and villages including Abingdon, Didcot, Faringdon and Grove. Stagecoach West 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. Thames Travel provide buses every 12–18 minutes between Wantage and Didcot via Harwell Campus and East Hanney, the Faringdon to Wantage service which runs every hour, and a local service to Grove which runs up to every 30 minutes on weekdays only, two of which are operated under the Connector brand.
Wantage does not have a railway station; Didcot Parkway, 8 miles to the east, is the nearest station, with services towards Reading, Oxford, 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. 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. One of the tramway's locomotives, Shannon, alias Jane, is preserved at Didcot Railway Centre. 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. 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.
There is one state secondary school in Wantage, King Alfred's Academy, and approximately ten primary schools. The secondary school converted into an academy in 2011 and was rated Outstanding by Ofsted in that year.
A former independent preparatory school, St Andrew's, established in 1926, closed permanently in 2010.
Fitzwaryn School, a school catering for pupils with special needs, is situated in Wantage. The school caters for children aged 3–19 and was rated Outstanding by Ofsted in 2014. 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. 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. Since the trust was formed in 2013, three other primary schools in the area have joined.
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 hoped to open in 2019 in preparation for large scale housing developments that are planned for Wantage and Grove but has not yet been built (March 2021).
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. SS Peter and Paul contains seventeen 15th-century misericords.
King Alfred's Grammar School was designed by the architect J. B. Clacy of Reading and built in 1849–50 but incorporates a highly carved Norman doorway from a demolished chantry chapel that formerly stood in the churchyard.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Wantage & Grove Cricket Club's first recorded match was in 1863. The club has three teams and play in Charlton, Wantage.
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.
Corallian Cycling Club was founded in 2016 and organises regular sociable cycle rides from Wantage Market Place.
- King Alfred the Great was born in Wantage in 849.
- Leigh Bedwell, former goalkeeper for Swindon Town (currently playing for Didcot Town), was born in Wantage in 1994.
- John Betjeman, Poet Laureate from 1972 to 1984, lived in Wantage and his book Archie and the Strict Baptists is based in the town. Wantage has a memorial park named after him, which includes extracts from his poems in a peaceful wooded area.
- Roy Burton, former Oxford United and Witney Town goalkeeper, was born in Wantage in 1951.
- Joseph Butler (1692–1752), Bishop of Bristol, Bishop of Durham, and author of The Analogy of Religion, was born and educated in Wantage.
- William John Butler, Vicar of Wantage, Dean of Lincoln.
- Edward Cawston, former English cricketer, born in Wantage in 1911.
- Alice FitzWarin, wife of Dick Whittington, three-time Lord Mayor of the City of London, grew up in Wantage. Her father's brass memorial is in the church.
- Hugh Johns, former ITV football commentator, was born in Wantage in September 1922.
- Isaac Kimber, born Wantage, on 1 December 1692, English General Baptist minister, biographer, historian and journalist.
- Archie Kirkman Loyd, former MP, lived in Wantage during the 19th century.
- Robert Loyd-Lindsay, 1st Baron Wantage
- Mother Maribel of Wantage, Anglican nun, artist and sculptor
- Frances O'Connor, Anglo-Australian actor, was born in Wantage in 1967 where she lived for two years before moving to Perth, Australia.
- Caroline Voaden, British Liberal Democrat former MEP.
- Lester Piggott, jockey, was born in Wantage in 1935.
- Thomas William Shore, former geologist and antiquarian, was born in Wantage in 1840.
Wantage is twinned with:
- Icknield Way Morris Men, a traditional dance troupe in Wantage.
- "Census 2011 Summary Vale of White Horse". Vale of White Horse District Council. Vale of White Horse District Council. Retrieved 1 January 2017.
- Ford, David Nash (2003). "King Alfred the Great (849–899)". Royal Berkshire History. Nash Ford Publishing. Retrieved 11 June 2011.
- Ford, David Nash (2004). "Wantage: Where the Great are Born". Royal Berkshire History. Nash Ford Publishing. Retrieved 11 June 2011.
- Hamerow, Helena (31 March 2011). The Oxford Handbook of Anglo-Saxon Archaeology. p. 995. ISBN 9780199212149. Retrieved 19 February 2020.
- "OXTowns: Wantage Local Information". OXLink Ltd. 2003. Retrieved 5 October 2011.
- Ford, David Nash (2008). "Col. Sir Robert James Loyd-Lindsay, Baron Wantage of Lockinge (1832–1901)". Royal Berkshire History. Nash Ford Publishing. Retrieved 11 June 2011.
- "Shire Wars (1988)". British Film Institute. Retrieved 1 January 2017.
- "Wantage Rural District Council" (PDF). London Gazette. Retrieved 29 May 2012.
- "Wantage Urban District Council" (PDF). London Gazette. Retrieved 29 May 2012.
- "Wantage Parliamentary constituency – Election 2019". BBC News. 13 December 2019. Retrieved 1 January 2020.
- "General Election 2019: Ed Vaizey to stand down as MP". BBC News. 6 November 2019. Retrieved 1 January 2020.
- "Constituency". Ed Vaizey. Retrieved 1 January 2017.
- Davison, Steve (2008). Walking in the Thames Valley. ISBN 9781849655378. Retrieved 1 January 2017.
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- "route 38" (PDF). Thames Travel. 3 January 2021. Retrieved 29 November 2020.
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- "The Wantage Tramway". Wantage.com. Retrieved 1 January 2017.
- "No.5 – Shannon/Jane". Didcot Railway Centre. Retrieved 1 January 2017.
- Hughes, Pete. "New railway station at Grove is a priority for Oxfordshire County Council". The Herald Series. Retrieved 1 January 2017.
- "Connecting Communities Expanding Access to the Rail Network" (PDF). Association of Train Operating Companies. Retrieved 1 January 2017.
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- "The Canal / Interactive Map". Wilts & Berks Canal Trust. Retrieved 1 January 2017.
- "Schools List". Oxfordshire County Council. Retrieved 1 January 2017.
- Wilkinson, Ben. "King Alfred's specialist sports college in Wantage moves to become academy". The Herald Series. Retrieved 1 January 2017.
- "King Alfred's (Specialist Sports College) Inspection Report" (PDF). King Alfred's Academy. Ofsted. Retrieved 1 January 2017.
- "About Us". Heathfield School. Retrieved 1 January 2017.
- "St Andrew's prep school, Wantage, faces closure in the summer". The Herald Series. 12 January 2010. Retrieved 1 January 2017.
- "Welcome to The Fitzwaryn School". Fitzwaryn School. Fitzwaryn School. Retrieved 23 August 2017.
- "Fitzwaryn School – School Report" (PDF). Ofsted. Ofsted. Retrieved 23 August 2017.
- "About Vale Academy Trust". Vale Academy Trust. Retrieved 1 January 2017.
- "Our Ethos". Vale Academy Trust. Retrieved 1 January 2017.
- "Our Academies". Vale Academy Trust. Retrieved 1 January 2017.
- Hughes, Pete (14 September 2016). "Vale Academy Trust, Wantage, reveals plans to open new secondary school in Grove". The Herald Series. Retrieved 1 January 2017.
- Ford, David Nash (2004). "Wantage: St. Peter & St. Paul's Church". Royal Berkshire History. Nash Ford Publishing. Retrieved 11 June 2011.
- Pevsner, 1966, page 254
- Brodie, Antonia; Felstead, Alison; Franklin, Jonathan; Pinfield, Leslie, eds. (2001). Directory of British Architects 1834–1914, A–K. London & New York: Continuum. p. 375. ISBN 0-8264-5513-1.
- Wantage and Grove Review Issue No 401. 3 October 2011. Missing or empty
- Ellery, Ben (8 December 2009). "Anger as Wantage is chosen for 1,500-home development". Oxford Mail. Retrieved 2 September 2013.
- "Team effort wins Wantage award for best town centre". The Herald. 12 November 2014. Retrieved 30 January 2015.
- "Contact". Williams F1. Retrieved 28 February 2017.
- "Wantage and Grove Cricket Club". Wantage and Grove Cricket Club. Retrieved 1 January 2017.
- "Tour of Britain 2014 route revealed". Cycling Weekly. 31 March 2014. Retrieved 1 January 2017.
- "White Horse Half Marathon". White Horse Harriers. Retrieved 18 January 2017.
- "Corallian Cycling Club". Corallian Cycling Club. Retrieved 1 January 2017.
- "Alfred the Great (849 AD – 899 AD)". BBC History. British Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 23 August 2017.
- "Leigh Bedwell Profile". Aylesbury United Football Club. Retrieved 23 August 2017.
- "Betjeman in Wantage". Wantage (not just) Betjeman Literary Festival. Retrieved 23 August 2017.
- "The Dream Team!". BBC Oxford. British Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 23 August 2017.
- Ford, David Nash (2003). "Joseph Butler, Bishop of Bristol (1692–1752)". Royal Berkshire History. Nash Ford Publishing. Retrieved 11 June 2011.
- "William John Butler Vicar of Wantage 1847 – 1881" (PDF). Vale & Downland Museum. Retrieved 23 August 2017.
- "Edward Cawston". ESPNcricinfo. ESPN. Retrieved 23 August 2017.
- Ford, David Nash (2003). "Alice FitzWarin (c.1375-c.1410)". Royal Berkshire History. Nash Ford Publishing. Retrieved 11 June 2011.
- Ford, David Nash (2001). "Sir Ivo FitzWarin (1343–1414)". Royal Berkshire History. Nash Ford Publishing. Retrieved 11 June 2011.
- Keating, Frank (19 July 2007). "Hugh Johns". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 August 2017.
- Richards, William (24 December 1787). A Review of the Memoirs of the Protectoral-House of Cromwell by the Rev. Mark Noble. R.Marshall. p. 69. Retrieved 23 August 2017.
- Cook, Chris (1977). Sources in British Political History 1900–1951: Volume 4: A Guide to the Private Papers of Members of Parliament: L-Z. The Macmillan Press Ltd. p. 24. ISBN 9781349157624. Retrieved 23 August 2017.
- "Robert Loyd-Lindsay Lord Wantage of Lockinge" (PDF). Vale & Downland Museum. Retrieved 23 August 2017.
- Sister Janet, Mother Maribel of Wantage, Published by SPCK, London (1972) ISBN 0281027285
- "Frances O'Connor Biography". IMDB. Retrieved 23 August 2017.
- Ammon, Ulrich; Mattheier, Klaus J., eds. (13 January 2007). "English in the European Parliament: MEPs and their Language Repertoires". Sociolinguistica Jahrbuch (2007). Sociolinguistica. 21. Walter de Gruyter – Max Niemeyer Verlag. pp. 151–165. doi:10.1515/9783484605060.151. ISBN 978-3-484-60506-0.
- "Lester Piggott". Lambourn.info. Retrieved 23 August 2017.
- Stephen, Leslie (1885). Dictionary of national biography (3 ed.). London: Smith, Elder & Co.
- "Wantage Twinning". Wantage.com. 14 April 2012. Retrieved 23 August 2017.
Sources and further reading
- Aston, Michael; Bond, James (1976). The Landscape of Towns. Archaeology in the Field Series. London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd. p. 96. ISBN 0-460-04194-0.
- Page, W.H.; Ditchfield, P.H., eds. (1924). A History of the County of Berkshire. Victoria County History. 4. assisted by John Hautenville Cope. London: The St Katherine Press. pp. 319–332.
- Pevsner, Nikolaus (1966). Berkshire. The Buildings of England. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. pp. 252–256.
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