Wantage Tourist Information Guide
Wantage in Oxfordshire is a lovely small market town in the Vale of White Horse, and has
a good range of shops and services, including plenty of places to eat and drink. Links
with the past are very strong too and Wantage is a great place to visit to enjoy this historic
part of England.The towns buildings are mostly 17th and 18th century with narrow cobbled
streets and passages.
market is held every Saturday and Wednesday and is well worth a
visit. If you are a walker, then try the ancient Ridgeway National
Trail which is just 3.5 kilometres out of town.. In the town are
the Vale and Downland Museum in Church Street, the 13th century
parish church and the Market Square with its statue of King
Alfred (born in Wantage in
849AD a time when Wantage was an important Saxon centre). He had
a palace at Chippenham.
Alfred statue was commissioned by Lord Wantage, designed and carved
in 1877 by Count Gleichen, (a cousin of Queen Victoria) it stands
the town centre.
On the base of the statue the following words
are to be found:-
Alfred found learning dead and he restored it
Education neglected and he revived it
The laws powerless and he gave them force
The church debased and he raised it
The land ravaged by a fearful enemy from which he delivered it
Alfred’s name will live as long as mankind shall respect
Churchill, not usually reputed for his modesty, when being
told that he must be the greatest Englishman that ever lived replied
The greatest Englishman that ever lived was King Alfred".
There are Iron Age hill forts, such as Segsbury Camp and Uffington Castle, Bronze
Age burial mounds, Wayland's Smithy, one of the Britain's most impressive prehistoric tombs
and the White Horse which gives the district its name.
Wantage has a thriving social life with many clubs and local organisations. Music is important
with a brass band in the first division and an operatic society. A month long festival
of music and arts is held in June and July. There is a Dickensian Evening before Christmas
when shops open late and the Town Mayor and Town Crier lead the townspeople and visitors
around the town.
Betjeman, Poet Laureate, lived in the town for many years and wrote a number of poems
about Wantage and the surrounding areas for example "Wantage Bells" and "On
Leaving Wantage". A Betjeman Memorial Park with a statue of the poet and several displays
of his better known works occupies a wooded area a short distance from Wantage Church.
The origins of Wantage are lost in the mist of pre-history but pot sherds found by residents
when digging their gardens betray the importance of Wantage as a Roman settlement. Nearby
villa sites and burials confirm the significance of this evidence and an important Roman
road ran south from Oxford through Frilford to Wantage.
Wantage appears in the great Domesday survey 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. The
manor eventually passed to the Fitzwaryn family. The town developed at a slower rate than
Abingdon, maintaining older fashions of architecture for a longer period than its neighbour.
From the early 17th century, it became a large centre for the processing of leather with
all the pollution and smells that this trade brought.