Faringdon market place, with the Old Town Hall
Faringdon shown within Oxfordshire
|Population||7,121 (2011 Census)|
|OS grid reference|
|– London||78 miles (126 km)|
|Civil parish||Great Faringdon|
|District||Vale of White Horse|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|EU Parliament||South East England|
|Website||Faringdon Town Council|
Faringdon is a market town in the Vale of White Horse, Oxfordshire, England, about 18 miles (29 km) southwest of Oxford and about 10 miles (16 km) northwest of Wantage. It is a large parish, its lowest parts extending to the River Thames in the north and its highest ground reaching the Ridgeway in the south. It was part of Berkshire until the 1974 boundary changes transferred it to Oxfordshire.
On 1 February 2004, Faringdon was granted Fairtrade Town status, becoming the first Fairtrade Town in South East England. Faringdon is the base for the Faringdon Enterprise Gateway, which is run by the South East England Development Agency to help and advise businesses in rural west Oxfordshire.
The toponym "Faringdon" means "fern covered hill". The Anglo-Saxon kings of Wessex and later England had a palace at Faringdon However, claims that King Edward the Elder died there are incorrect.
The town was granted a weekly market in 1218, and as a result came to be called Chipping Faringdon. The weekly market is still held today. King John also established an abbey in Faringdon in 1202, (probably on the site of Portwell House) but it soon moved to Beaulieu in Hampshire. In 1417 the aged Archbishop of Dublin, Thomas Cranley, died in Faringdon while journeying to London.
Places of interest
All Saints' Church
The Church of England parish church of All Saints may date from the 12th century, and the clerestorey and possibly the west end of the nave survive from this period. A Norman doorway survives, although not in its original position, in the baptistery. The chancel and north transept are 13th century and the west chapel is 14th century. The north chapel is a late mediaeval Perpendicular Gothic addition with 15th century windows.
All Saints has a central bell tower, which was reduced in height in 1645 after it was damaged by a cannonball in the English Civil War. Faringdon was fought over because it commands the road to the Radcot Bridge over the River Thames. The tower now has a ring of eight bells. The three oldest bells were cast in 1708. James Wells of Aldbourne, Wiltshire cast the tenor bell in 1779 and another bell in 1803. The three youngest bells, including the treble, were cast in 1874 by Mears and Stainbank.
The churchyard is reportedly haunted by the headless apparition of naval officer Hampden Pye. According to local legend, Pye was decapitated in a battlefield explosion while fighting in the War of the Spanish Succession after being convinced to enlist by his mother who sought to separate him from a local girl she considered an unsuitable match. An alternate local legend states that Pye was an unfaithful husband who was decapitated by his wife with a gun. The ghost was reportedly exorcised shortly after Pye's death.
Old Town Hall
Just east of the town is Folly Hill or Faringdon Hill, a Greensand outcrop (at grid reference SU298957). In common with Badbury Hill to the west of the town, it has an ancient ditched defensive ring (hill fort). This was fortified by supporters of Matilda sometime during the Anarchy (1135–1141) – her campaign to claim the throne from King Stephen – but was soon razed to the ground by Stephen. Oliver Cromwell fortified it in his unsuccessful campaign to defeat the Royalist garrison at Faringdon House. The Pye family had Scots pines planted around the summit, around the time that Faringdon House was rebuilt in the late 18th century. This is a conspicuous and recognisable landmark that can be seen from afar, including from the Vale of White Horse, White Horse Hill, the Berkshire Downs near Lockinge and the Cotswolds to the north.
The folly on Folly Hill was designed by Gerald Wellesley, Marquess of Douro for Lord Berners and built in 1935. It is 140 feet (43 m) high and affords panoramic views of the Vale of White Horse. It once had a sign saying "Members of the public committing suicide from this tower do so at their own risk". During the Second World War the Home Guard used it as an observation post. In 1982 Robert Heber-Percy restored it and gave it to the town in trust. It has been a Grade II listed building since 1986.
Near the top of London Street near Faringdon Folly is the pub bearing the same name. Resembling a small living room with a bar placed in the middle, it is a popular haunt for those that like an "old-fashioned" pub.
There is a manor house and estate, close to the edge of Faringdon, called Faringdon House. The original house was damaged during the civil war. Its owner at the time, Sir Robert Pye, who was a Royalist, was put under siege by his own son Robert who was a Parliamentarian colonel. Building of the current, smaller, began about 1780 and was not completed until after 1785. It was the home of Lord Berners in the middle part of the 20th century. It currently belongs to the writer Sofka Zinovieff, the granddaughter of Berners' friend, Robert Heber-Percy, who inherited it in on Berners' death in 1950, though she does not live there.
Faringdon is the site of the noted Faringdon Sponge Gravel Member, part of the Cretaceous Lower Greensand Group. It is rich in fossil sponges, other invertebrates, a few vertebrate bones and teeth, and good examples of bioerosion.
Faringdon is linked with Swindon and Oxford by the half-hourly 66 bus service run by Stagecoach in Swindon. Faringdon is linked with Wantage by the regular 67 bus service operated by Thames Travel. The journey takes about 30 minutes and serves villages between the two towns. A service to Wantage is also provided by the Stanford in the Vale Community Bus.
A 3.5 miles (5.6 km) Faringdon branch line was opened in 1864, between Faringdon and the Great Western Railway (GWR) at Uffington, with construction funded by the Faringdon Railway Company (bought outright by the GWR in 1886). Passenger traffic peaked in 1913, but later declined to such extent that the passenger service was withdrawn in 1951. Goods traffic continued to use the line until the Beeching closures of 1964. The Faringdon railway station building is still extant, having been used for various commercial purposes (currently a nursery school).
Faringdon is notable for the dyed pigeons at Faringdon House. The custom of dyeing pigeons was originally started by the eccentric Lord Berners. Around the town one can see a number of stone plaques with comments such as "Please do not throw stones at this notice" reflecting Lord Berners' ongoing influence on the town.
Since 2004, Faringdon has held an annual festival over one summer weekend. The festival, known as "FollyFest" is generally runs on the first weekend in August by a committee of volunteers as a not for profit event.
International professional wrestler Mark Haskins, who fights as the "Star Attraction", lives in Faringdon.
Faringdon is twinned with:
- "Area: Great Faringdon (Parish): Key Figures for 2011 Census: Key Statistics". Neighbourhood Statistics. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 25 November 2014.
- ...for example in Goodrich (1928)
- The relevant reference to Fearndune in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is now thought instead to refer to Farndon in Cheshire.
- Plea Rolls of the Court of Common Pleas; National Archives; CP 40/647; online here; John Terry of Chepyng Farendon, Berks, the defendant; first entry
- Page & Ditchfield, 1924, pages 489–499
- All Saints', Faringdon
- Pevsner, 1966, page 139
- Oxford Diocesan Guild of Church Bell Ringers: Vale of the White Horse Branch: Branch Towers
- "Highworth Historical Society Ghost of Faringdon Churchyard". Highworth Historical Society. Retrieved 6 April 2013.
- Sullivan, Paul (2012). "Legends, Superstition and the Supernatural – Grave News". The Little Book of Oxfordshire. The History Press. ISBN 978-0752477381.
- Historic England. "Old Town Hall, Market Place (Grade II*) (1048440)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 24 November 2014.
- Pevsner, 1966, page 142
- John Burke A genealogical and heraldic history of the commoners of Great Britain
- Faringdon On Line: Faringdon House
- Pevsner, 1966, page 140
- British Geological Survey. "Faringdon Sand Formation". The BGS Lexicon of Named Rock Units. Natural Environment Research Council. Retrieved 24 November 2014.
- Stanford in the Vale Community Bus
- Lord Berners, Faringdon.org
- "Home page". FollyFest.
- "British towns twinned with French towns [via WaybackMachine.com]". Archant Community Media Ltd. Archived from the original on 5 July 2013. Retrieved 2013-07-20.
- Goodrich, PJ (1928). Great Faringdon: Past and Present. Oxford: privately circulated.
- 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. 489–499.
- Pevsner, Nikolaus (1966). Berkshire. The Buildings of England. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. pp. 139–142.
- Faringdon Town Council
- Faringdon Community Website
- Faringdon Chamber of Commerce
- The Faringdon Loyalty Card
- Focus On Faringdon
- Faringdon Folly Tower & Woodland
- Faringdon Dramatic Society
- Google 360° panorama of the chancel of All Saint's parish church
- Google 360° panorama of the nave of All Saint's parish church
- FollyFest on Facebook