|This article needs additional citations for verification. (June 2011)|
Wantage shown within Oxfordshire
|Population||9,767 (2001 census)|
|OS grid reference|
|- London||72.3 miles (116.4 km)|
|District||Vale of White Horse|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|EU Parliament||South East England|
|Website||Wantage.com Gateway to Wantage|
Wantage (//) is a market town and civil parish in the Vale of the White Horse, Oxfordshire, England. The town is on Letcombe Brook, about 8 miles (13 km) south-west of Abingdon and a similar distance west of Didcot.
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 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. 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.
Wantage has a town council consisting of sixteen councillors, eleven of whom (as of 2011) are Conservatives with the remaining five councillors being made up of four Liberal Democrats and one Labour Party. 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.
Wantage is at the foot of the Berkshire Downs escarpment in the Vale of the White Horse, amidst prime horse racing country. There are gallops at Black Bushes and nearby villages with racing stables include 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. Because of its central location in the Vale and proximity to the Downs, Wantage tends to be the main touring centre for the area and is home to the Vale and Downland Museum. There is a large market square containing the famous statue of King Alfred, surrounded by many shops with 18th-century facades. Quieter streets radiate out from there, including towards the large Church of England parish church. Wantage is the 'Alfredston' of Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure.
Regular bus services link Wantage with Oxford, Didcot, Abingdon and Faringdon. These services also serve villages en route including East Hanney and Grove. The quickest scheduled bus journey between Wantage and Oxford takes about 45 minutes, the slowest can take over 1 hour 15 minutes. The regular local bus route 38 linking Wantage, Challow, Childrey, Chilton and Grove is operated by White's Coaches under contract to Oxfordshire County Council. Stagecoach in Oxfordshire run the X30 (Wantage - Grove - Cumnor - Oxford), 31 (Wantage - Grove - East Hanney - Marcham - Abingdon - Oxford) and 34 (Wantage - Harwell Campus - Steventon - Abingdon - Oxford). Thames Travel also operate routes in Wantage including the X1/X32 (Wantage - Didcot - Abingdon - Oxford) and 67 (Wantage - Stanford in the Vale - Faringdon).
Wantage Road railway station on the Great Western Main Line was at Grove about 2 miles (3 km) north of the town, on what is now the A338 road. The Wantage Tramway used to link the town with Wantage Road. 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.
Part of the Wilts & Berks Canal remains within the parish.
There is one state secondary school in Wantage, King Alfred's Academy, and some ten primary schools. The secondary school recently converted into an academy. A former independent preparatory school, St Andrew's, established in 1926, closed permanently in 2010. Between 1873 and 2007, an Anglican private girls' school, St Mary's School, was a located in Wantage.
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 also 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.
A water-powered mill with an undershot water wheel still stands from the time that Wantage was a major centre of the wool trade following the building of the Wiltshire and Berkshire Canal at the end of the 18th century.
As of 2007, Wantage is developing and changing. In recent years four or more significant housing developments have been constructed bringing large increases in population to the town. 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. While making the town tidier, the impact on the wildlife, particularly around the Letcombe Brook, may not be positive.
In 2006, a large commercial development began construction with a Sainsbury's supermarket as a central 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. Although the impact was projected as being positive, aimed at preventing the town becoming a commuter town and retaining some commercial activity, it has proved to have a negative effect, driving many of the few remaining independent retailers out of business. 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.
Activism in the town regarding development is increasing in 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. Following initial planning permissions for conversion, 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 (Source: Wantage and Grove Review Issue No 401, 3 October 2011).
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. The area for the Wantage development is farmland and used by local walkers, cyclists and dog owners.
Sport and leisure
- King Alfred the Great was born in Wantage in 849.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Robert James Loyd-Lindsay, Baron Wantage of Lockinge (see above).
- Frances O'Connor, Anglo-Australian actor, was born in Wantage in 1967.
- Lester Piggott, jockey, was born in Wantage in 1935.
Wantage is twinned with:
- "Area selected: Vale of White Horse (Non-Metropolitan District)". Neighbourhood Statistics: Full Dataset View. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 3 April 2010.
- 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.
- "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.
- "Brass Tacks: Shire Wars".
- "Wantage Rural District Council". London Gazette. Retrieved 2012-05-29.
- "Wantage Urban District Council". London Gazette. Retrieved 2012-05-29.
- 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.
- Ellery, Ben (8 December 2009). "Anger as Wantage is chosen for 1,500-home development". Oxford Mail. Retrieved 2 September 2013.
- Ford, David Nash (2003). "Joseph Butler, Bishop of Bristol (1692-1752)". Royal Berkshire History. Nash Ford Publishing. Retrieved 11 June 2011.
- 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.
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, Volume 4. Victoria County History. pp. 319–332.
- Pevsner, Nikolaus (1966). Berkshire. The Buildings of England. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. pp. 252–256.
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