Coordinates: 51°35′20″N 1°25′37″W / 51.589°N 1.427°W / 51.589; -1.427
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Wantage Market Place and statue of King Alfred the Great
Wantage is located in Oxfordshire
Location within Oxfordshire
Population13,106 (2021 Census)[1]
OS grid referenceSU3987
• London57 miles (92 km)
Civil parish
  • Wantage
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townWantage
Postcode districtOX12
Dialling code01235
PoliceThames Valley
AmbulanceSouth Central
UK Parliament
WebsiteWantage.com Gateway to Wantage
List of places
51°35′20″N 1°25′37″W / 51.589°N 1.427°W / 51.589; -1.427

Wantage (/ˈwɒntɪ/) is a historic market town and civil parish in Oxfordshire, England. Although within the boundaries of the historic county 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, 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-west of Newbury.

It was the birthplace of King Alfred the Great in 849.[2]


Saints Peter and Paul Parish Church

Wantage was a small Roman settlement[3] but the origin of the toponym is somewhat uncertain. It is generally thought to be from an Old English phrase meaning "decreasing river".[3] King Alfred the Great was born at the royal palace there in the 9th century,[2] in what was originally known as Wanating.[4] 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.[3] Markets are now held twice weekly on Wednesdays and Saturdays.[5] Royalist troops were stationed in Wantage during the English Civil War.[3]

In the 19th century, Lord Wantage became a notable local and national benefactor.[6] He was very involved in founding the British Red Cross Society.[6] 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.[3][6] He also donated the Victoria Cross Gallery to the town.[3][6] 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.[3] 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.[7]


Former head office of Wantage Urban District Council in Portway

Wantage Town Council consists of 16 councillors, all of whom (as of the May 2023 elections) are Liberal Democrats. The parish forms 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,[8] Wantage and Wantage Urban District, which had its headquarters in Portway.[9] These bodies were both abolished as part of the Local Government Act 1972 and became part of the Vale of White Horse District Council. It was at this point that Wantage was transferred from Berkshire to Oxfordshire.

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.[10][11] The nearby towns of Didcot, Faringdon and Wallingford are also part of the Wantage constituency.[12] At the time of the 2019 general election, the Wantage constituency had a total electorate of 90,876.[10]


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.[13]


Stagecoach Gold bus in Wantage Market Place on former route X30 (now S9)

Wantage is at the crossing of the B4507 valley road, the A417 road between Streatley and Cirencester, the A338 road between Hungerford (and junction 14 of the M4 motorway) and Oxford, and the B4494 road to Newbury.[14]

Wantage is well connected by bus services linking the town with Oxford and other nearby towns and villages.[15] Stagecoach West run the S9 service up to every 20 minutes between Oxford and Wantage.[16] Oxford Bus Company run the cityX1 service up to every 30 minutes between Oxford, Abingdon and Wantage.[17] Thames Travel run the connector X35 service up to every 30 minutes between Didcot, Harwell Campus and Wantage, and every hour to Faringdon, and the connector X36 service up to every 30 minutes between Didcot, Milton Park and Wantage Monday to Saturday daytimes, [18][19] and Pulhams Coaches run the 68 service 2-4 times a day to Faringdon.[20] There are up to seven buses per hour operating between Wantage and Oxford, and up to four buses per hour operating between Wantage and Didcot. Night buses NS9 and cityNX1 also operate on Friday and Saturday evenings, providing late night services between Wantage, Abingdon and Oxford.[21]

The former head office of the Wantage Tramway Company in Mill Street

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 Cheltenham. The Great Western Main Line 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.[22] 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.[23] One of the tramway's locomotives, Shannon, alias Jane, is preserved at Didcot Railway Centre.[24] Oxfordshire County Council have ambitions to open a railway station on the former Wantage Road site.[25] In 2018 a feasibility study was carried out for a new Wantage & Grove Parkway station with the hope that the proposed station could be served by a new service operating between Bristol and Oxford.[26] The proposed station received backing from Network Rail in 2021 after a new Oxfordshire rail study was published, which recommended a new station at Wantage/Grove, subject to additional main line infrastructure.[27]

The nearest public airport to Wantage is London Heathrow, approximately 42 miles (68 km) east of the town.[28]

A section of the Wilts & Berks Canal passes through the parish.[29]


Front of King Alfred's Academy Centre Site

There is one state secondary school in Wantage, King Alfred's Academy, and approximately ten primary schools.[30] The secondary school converted into an academy in 2011 and was rated Outstanding by Ofsted in that year.[31][32]

Between 1873 and 2006, an Anglican private girls' school, St Mary's School, was located in Wantage. The school closed in 2006 when St. Mary's merged with Heathfield School, Ascot.[33] A former independent preparatory school, St Andrew's, established in 1926, closed permanently in 2010.[34]

Fitzwaryn School, a school catering for children with special needs aged 3–19, is situated in Wantage.[35] The school was rated Outstanding by Ofsted in 2014.[36] 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.[37] The trust was founded by local heads, governors and other stakeholders in the hope of creating quality partnerships among the schools to ensure higher quality education for the area.[38] Since the trust was formed in 2013, three other primary schools in the area have joined.[39] 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).[40]


Local news and television programmes are provided by BBC South and ITV Meridian. Television signals are received from the Oxford TV transmitter.[41]

Wantage’s local radio stations are BBC Radio Oxford on 95.2 FM, Heart South on 102.6 FM and Jack FM on 106.4 FM.

Local newspapers are the Wantage & Grove Herald [42] and Oxfordshire Guardian.


The Old Town Hall, Wantage, completed in 1878

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.[43] Saints' Peter and Paul contains seventeen 15th-century misericords.[43]

King Alfred's Grammar School was designed by the architect J. B. Clacy[44] of Reading[45] and built in 1849–50[44] but incorporates a highly carved Norman doorway[44] from a demolished chantry chapel that formerly stood in the churchyard.[3][43] The Old Town Hall in Wantage was completed in 1878.[46]


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 in 2011, with a campaign to stop the demolition of a building close to the town centre by Vanderbilt 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.[47]

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 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 the same road network.[48]

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.[49]

Sport and leisure[edit]

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.[50]

Wantage & Grove Cricket Club's first recorded match was in 1863. The club has three teams and play in Charlton, Wantage.[51]

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.[52]

White Horse Harriers AC is an athletics club based in Wantage and Grove. They organise the annual White Horse Half Marathon, which starts and finishes in Grove.[53]

Corallian Cycling Club was founded in 2016 and organises regular sociable cycle rides from Wantage Market Place.[54]

Notable people[edit]

Statue of Alfred the Great, by Prince Victor of Hohenlohe-Langenburg



Wantage is twinned with:[74]

Nearby places[edit]

See also[edit]


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  4. ^ Hamerow, Helena (31 March 2011). The Oxford Handbook of Anglo-Saxon Archaeology. p. 995. ISBN 9780199212149. Retrieved 19 February 2020.
  5. ^ "OXTowns: Wantage Local Information". OXLink Ltd. 2003. Retrieved 5 October 2011.
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External links[edit]