Long Wittenham

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Long Wittenham
St Mary, Long Wittenham, Berks - geograph.org.uk - 331096.jpg
St. Mary's parish church
Long Wittenham is located in Oxfordshire
Long Wittenham
Long Wittenham
 Long Wittenham shown within Oxfordshire
Population 950 (2001 census)[1]
OS grid reference SU5493
Civil parish Long Wittenham
District South Oxfordshire
Shire county Oxfordshire
Region South East
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town Abingdon
Postcode district OX14
Dialling code 01865
Police Thames Valley
Fire Oxfordshire
Ambulance South Central
EU Parliament South East England
UK Parliament Wantage
Website Welcome to Long Wittenham.com
List of places
UK
England
Oxfordshire

Coordinates: 51°38′13″N 1°12′40″W / 51.637°N 1.211°W / 51.637; -1.211

Long Wittenham is a village and civil parish about 3 miles (5 km) north of Didcot, and 3.5 miles (5.6 km) southeast of Abingdon. It was part of Berkshire until the 1974 boundary changes transferred it from Berkshire to Oxfordshire, and from the former Wallingford Rural District to the new district of South Oxfordshire.

The village is by a loop in the River Thames, on slightly higher ground than the flood-plain around it. About 1 mile (1.6 km) to the east, across the river, is the Roman town of Dorcic – now Dorchester-on-Thames. To the south-east are neighbouring Little Wittenham and the Wittenham Clumps, also called the Sinodun Hills.

History[edit]

The village is supposedly named after a Saxon chieftain, named Witta, but there is evidence of earlier settlement. Bronze Age double-ditch enclosures and middle Bronze Age pottery were identified in the 1960s,[2] and early Bronze Age items, such as an axe and spearhead, have been found in the Thames.[3] Later settlement evidence is more extensive: Iron Age and Roman presence is indicated by trackways, various buildings (enclosures, farms and villas), burials (cremation and inhumation), and pottery and coins.[4] There is also evidence of possible Frankish settlement: a 5th-century grave that contained high-status Frankish objects.[5] This early habitation was first revealed in the 1890s, in the first ever use of cropmarks to discern archaeological remains.[6]

The core of the village emerges from the Saxon ara. 6th century cropmarks outline a large group of buildings, which indicate, if not a royal palace, then certainly a high status Saxon enclosure, and the variety and number of objects found in Saxon burial sites around the village would appear to support this.[7] These large, Saxon burial sites also indicate a sizeable population that lasted for many years. Historians now recognise[7] that the general area of southern Oxfordshire was the heartland of the Gewisse. The nearness to the Iron Age hillfort of Wittenham Clumps and the Roman (and post-Roman) town of Dorchester show that the localised area was of great importance for many centuries, although the notion that Witta (and/or his family) were related to the later Royal House of Wessex, is unproven.

The Domesday Book of 1086 records the village.[citation needed] By the Tudor era, parish records show it had a population of around 200, with arable crops: wheat, oats, barley and rye being farmed.

For a time the village was called Earl's Wittenham, after its feudal overlord Gilbert de Clare, 7th Earl of Gloucester.[8]

In 1534 Sir Thomas White bought the manor and gave it to his foundation, St John's College, Oxford. Until recently, the President and scholars of St. John's owned most of the houses in the village and much of the land. Until the Enclosure Acts there were just two large, open fields, which the college leased in strips to the various villagers. In 1857, using a special government grant for agricultural communities, the village school was built.

Local legend claims that Oliver Cromwell addressed the villagers on his way to his niece's wedding, in neighbouring Little Wittenham.[citation needed]

The author and wood engraver Robert Gibbings lived at Footbridge Cottage at the end of his life (1955-8), and is buried in the churchyard. His last book, Till I end my Song (1957), is based on his life in the village.

Buildings[edit]

The base of the village preaching cross dates from the 7th century.[citation needed] Saint Birinus preached here when he brought Christianity to the area.

The Church of England parish church of Saint Mary, begun around 1120, is on the site of a previous Saxon church. The chancel arch survives from the Norman building; the aisles and tower are later additions. The font is a rare Norman lead one; it was later encased in wood, and this preserved it from iconoclastic Parliamentarian soldiers in the 17th century.[6] The church has the smallest monument in England[6] a small stone effigy of Gilbert de Clare. Cruck Cottage can be architecturally dated to being around 800 years old and consequently locals have claimed it may be the oldest house in South Oxfordshire.[citation needed]

The building housing Pendon Museum, was The Three Poplars public house.[citation needed] Declining trade forced its sale in 1954.[citation needed] It became a Youth Hostel, and then the owner Roye England turned it into a model railway museum.[citation needed]

Other pubs include The Plough, and The Vine (now The Vine and Spice Indian restaurant). North of the village is the Barley Mow Inn (nowadays just a pub), which is closer to Clifton Hampden but is on the Wittenham side of the parish boundary. The Machine Man was disfranchised in 2003.

A Methodist chapel was built in 1820, and later converted into a butcher's, a general store, and a Post Office. It was disfranchised in 2006 and is now a private house.

Amenities[edit]

The village has a sports club: Long Wittenham Athletics Club, which is based at Bodkins Field. This and other flat fields around the village have often been used as impromptu landing sites by hot-air balloonists.[citation needed]

The village has an annual fete. It used to take place at the Vicarage until the mid-1990s, when it was re-located to The Plough Inn grounds.

At the eastern edge of the village is Neptune Wood, planted in 2005 as one of 33 British Trafalgar Wood[9] commemorating the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar.

Twinning[edit]

Long Wittenham is twinned with the village of Thaon in Normandy, France.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Area: Long Wittenham CP (Parish): Parish Headcounts". Neighbourhood Statistics. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 17 March 2010. 
  2. ^ Gray, Margaret. Excavations at Northfield Farm, Long Wittenham, Berks. pp. 107–109. [clarification needed]
  3. ^ National Monuments Record Number SU59 SW 22[citation needed]
  4. ^ Baker, Steve. Prehistoric and Romano-British landscapes at Little Wittenham and Long Wittenham, Oxfordshire. [clarification needed]
  5. ^ Hawkes, S. The Early Saxon Period. p. 78. [clarification needed]
  6. ^ a b c Ford, David Nash. "Long Wittenham". Royal Berkshire History. 
  7. ^ a b Blair, John. Anglo-Saxon Oxfordshire. p. 31. [clarification needed]
  8. ^ "History". Long Wittenham.com. 
  9. ^ "Neptune Wood". Tree for All. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]