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St. Mary's parish church
Cholsey is located in Oxfordshire
Location within Oxfordshire
Area16.52 km2 (6.38 sq mi) [1]
Population3,380 (2001 census)[2]
• Density205/km2 (530/sq mi)
OS grid referenceSU5886
• London45 mi (72 km)
Civil parish
  • Cholsey
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townWallingford
Postcode districtOX10
Dialling code01491
PoliceThames Valley
AmbulanceSouth Central
EU ParliamentSouth East England
UK Parliament
WebsiteCholsey Parish Council
List of places
51°34′26″N 1°09′04″W / 51.574°N 1.151°W / 51.574; -1.151Coordinates: 51°34′26″N 1°09′04″W / 51.574°N 1.151°W / 51.574; -1.151
Gravestone of Dame Agatha Christie at St. Mary's church

Cholsey is a village and large civil parish two miles (3 km) south of Wallingford, in South Oxfordshire. In 1974 it was transferred from Berkshire to the county of Oxfordshire, and from Wallingford Rural District to the district of South Oxfordshire.

Cholsey's parish boundaries, some 17 miles (27 km) long, reach from the edge of Wallingford into the Berkshire Downs. The village green is known as The Forty and has a substantial and ancient walnut tree. Winterbrook was historically at the north end of the parish adjoining Wallingford and became within Wallingford parish (run by its Town Council) since 2015. It is the site of Winterbrook Bridge, which carries a by-pass road across the Thames, and was one of the two main residences of the late author Dame Agatha Christie (the other being the village of Galmpton on the south Devon coast). John Masefield, poet laureate, was a resident of Cholsey.


A Bronze Age site has been found beside the River Thames at Whitecross Farm in the northeast of the parish.[3] A pre-Roman road, the Icknield Way, crosses the River Thames at Cholsey.

A recent find has been a substantial Roman site in Celsea Place. Archaeologists have discovered the best examples of corn dryers they have seen, with precision suggesting they were built by an engineer. Sites of burials and cremation pots have also been found. There is also part of a Roman villa, the majority of which appeared to have extended out under the existing road and houses and will have suffered significant unrecorded damage. The section of villa remaining within the archaeologically excavated area has been preserved in situ.

The village itself was founded on an island (Ceol's Isle) in marshy ground close to the Thames. There is evidence that the House of Wessex royal family owned land in Cholsey in the 6th and 7th centuries. At this time the town was home to a Saint Wilgyth who was venerated locally in the Middle Ages.

A royal nunnery, Cholsey Abbey, was founded in the village in 986 by Queen Dowager Ælfthryth on land given by her son, King Ethelred the Unready. The nunnery is thought to have been destroyed by invading Danes in 1006 when they camped in Cholsey after setting nearby Wallingford ablaze. However, Saxon masonry still survives in the Church of England parish church of St Mary. Most of this flint and stone church was built in the 12th century. The church is cruciform; additions were made to it in the 13th-14th centuries.[4]

In the 13th-century a tithe barn was built in the village. It was, at the time, the largest aisled building in the world, being 51 feet (16 m) high, 54 feet (16 m) wide and over 300 feet (91 m) long.[5] It was demolished in 1815.

Fair Mile Hospital, a former lunatic asylum, originally opened near Cholsey in 1870 and closed in 2003.[6] Its Victorian buildings were converted to housing between 2011 and 2014, whilst portions of the site were given over to newly built accommodation.

Notable residents[edit]

Writer and poet John Masefield lived in the parish, for several years during World War I, as tenant of Lollingdon Farm, at the foot of the Berkshire Downs. He was Poet Laureate from 1936 to his death in 1967 and is most famous for a series of poems and sonnets entitled Lollingdon Downs and his poem Sea-Fever, which has been set to music by John Ireland.[citation needed]

The grave of novelist Dame Agatha Christie is in the churchyard of St Mary's. She lived with her second husband, archaeologist Sir Max Mallowan, at Winterbrook House, in the north of the parish, from about 1934 and died there in 1976.[7] She and her husband Sir Max had chosen a burial plot in the mid 1960s just under the perimeter wall of the churchyard. About 20 journalists and TV reporters attended her funeral service, some having travelled from as far away as South America. Thirty wreaths adorned her grave including one from the cast of her long-running play The Mousetrap, and another sent 'on behalf of the multitude of grateful readers' from the Ulverscroft Large Print Book Publishers.[8]

Edward Prioleau Warren (1856–1937), lived at Breach House, in Halfpenny Lane, Cholsey, built in 1906, which he designed for himself.[9]


Cholsey is served by Cholsey railway station, a calling point for Great Western Railway stopping services on the Great Western Main Line between Reading and Didcot.

The station was also the junction for a branch line to Wallingford, known as the Wallingford Bunk, which the heritage Cholsey and Wallingford Railway now operates on Bank Holidays and some weekends.

In addition, Cholsey is also served by a bus service operated by Thames Travel.[10]


  1. ^ 2011 United Kingdom Census; note, reduced figure, less Winterbrook, not known.
  2. ^ "Area: Cholsey CP (Parish): Parish Headcounts". Neighbourhood Statistics. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 21 March 2010.
  3. ^ Cromarty, Barclay, Lambrick & Robinson, 2006
  4. ^ Betjeman, J. (ed.) (1968) Collins Pocket Guide to English Parish Churches: the South. London: Collins; p. 112
  5. ^ Samuel Lysons, Magna Britannia, Berkshire volume, page 264
  6. ^ Sloan, Liam (22 September 2010). "Pictures shed light on history of Cholsey psychiatric hospital". Oxford Mail. Retrieved 21 January 2016.
  7. ^ Oxfordshire Blue Plaques,; accessed 21 September 2015.
  8. ^ Marilyn Yurdan Oxfordshire Graves and Gravestones - The History Press 2010
  9. ^ A. Stuart Gray, Edwardian Architecture: A Biographical Dictionary (1986) p. 371
  10. ^ [1]

Sources and further reading[edit]

External links[edit]