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Wallingford, Oxfordshire facts for kids

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Wallingford St Peters Bridge.JPG
Wallingford Bridge with St Peter's Church
Wallingford town council coat of arms.jpg
Wallingford Town Council coat of arms
Wallingford is located in Oxfordshire
Area 3.10 sq mi (8.0 km2)
Population 11,600 
• Density 3,742/sq mi (1,445/km2)
OS grid reference SU6089
• London 44 miles (71 km)
Civil parish
  • Wallingford
Shire county
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town Wallingford
Postcode district OX10
Dialling code 01491
Police Thames Valley
Fire Oxfordshire
Ambulance South Central
EU Parliament South East England
UK Parliament
  • Wantage
Website Wallingford Town Council
List of places
51°35′56″N 1°07′30″W / 51.599°N 1.125°W / 51.599; -1.125

Wallingford is an historic market town and civil parish located between Oxford and Reading on the River Thames in England. Although belonging to the historic county of Berkshire, it is within the ceremonial county of Oxfordshire for administrative purposes (since 1974) as a result of the 1972 Local Government Act. Wallingford is 12 miles (19 km) north of Reading, 13 miles (21 km) south of Oxford and 11 miles (18 km) north west of Henley-on-Thames. The town's population was 11,600 in the 2011 census.

The town has played an important role in English history starting with the surrender of Stigand to William the Conqueror in 1066, which led to his taking the throne and the creation of Wallingford Castle. The castle and the town enjoyed royal status and flourished for much of the Middle Ages. The Treaty of Wallingford, which ended a civil war known as The Anarchy between King Stephen and Empress Matilda, was signed there. The town then entered a period of decline after the arrival of the Black Death and falling out of favour with the Tudor monarchs before being called on once again during the English Civil War. Wallingford held out as the last remaining Royalist stronghold in Berkshire before surrendering after a 16-week siege. Fearing that Wallingford Castle could be used in a future uprising, Oliver Cromwell ordered its destruction.

Since then Wallingford has become a market town and centre of local commerce. At the centre of the town is a market square with the war memorial and Wallingford Town Hall to the south, the Corn Exchange theatre to the east and numerous shops around the edges. Off the square there are alleyways and streets with more shops and a number of historic inns. Although it was a small town, Wallingford once had 14 churches; now, there are three ancient churches within the Parish of St Mary-le-More and St Leonard, a modern Roman Catholic church, a Quaker Meeting House dating from 1724 and Baptist, Methodist and community churches.


Wallingford is on the west bank of the River Thames downstream of Oxford and lies at the foot of the Chilterns. On the opposite bank are the villages of Crowmarsh Gifford and Newnham Murren, connected to the town by Wallingford Bridge, a 300 yard long medieval stone bridge crossing the river and adjacent flood plain. At southern end of the town is the settlement of Winterbrook. The town bypass crosses the river to the southwest over Winterbrook Bridge.

Character and local government

Castle Street and High Street corner, Wallingford - - 62137
Castle Street and High Street corner

The centre of Wallingford has the feel of a typical old market town, with a large open town square around the war memorial, the 17th century arcaded town hall, and numerous shops. There are some alleyways and a number of historic inns. Although only a small town, Wallingford has three ancient churches within the Parish of St Mary-le-More and St Leonard, a modern Roman Catholic church as well as a Quaker Meeting House dating from 1724 and Baptist, Methodist and community churches. It once had 14 churches. Amenities include Wallingford Museum, the Corn Exchange theatre, Cholsey and Wallingford steam railway, public parks - one with the castle ruins. A blues festival, the annual BunkFest folk festival and a carnival are popular annual events. In recent years, the town has been used as a location for filming, notably Midsomer Murders which has also featured the Parish Church Choir. Wallingford is run by a town council consisting of 16 councillors. It is part of the South Oxfordshire district and the county of Oxfordshire having formerly been represented by the Municipal Borough of Wallingford. The Member of Parliament is Ed Vaizey and the County Councillor is Lynda Atkins, one of four Independent members of Oxfordshire County Council.


As with the rest of the British Isles and Oxfordshire, Wallingford experiences a maritime climate with cool summers and mild winters. There has been a weather station at the nearby Centre for Ecology & Hydrology collecting data on the local climate since 1961. Temperature extremes at Wallingford vary from −21.0 °C (−5.8 °F) in January 1982, up to 35.2 °C (95.4 °F) in July 2006. Recent low temperatures include −17.6 °C (0.3 °F) during January 2010 and −17.5 °C (0.5 °F) during December 2010.

Climate data for Wallingford 67m asl, 1971-2000, Extremes 1960- (Sunshine Benson 1961-2000)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 14.8
Average high °C (°F) 7.0
Average low °C (°F) 1.2
Record low °C (°F) −21.0
Average precipitation mm (inches) 56.36
Mean monthly sunshine hours 52.7 67.8 114.7 150.0 198.4 201.0 210.8 192.2 147.0 102.3 66.0 46.5 1,549.4
Source 1: Royal Dutch Meteorological Institute
Source 2: RMets


Wallingford grew up around an important crossing point of the River Thames. The place has been fortified since at least Anglo-Saxon times, when it was an important fortified borough of Wessex with the right to mint Royal coinage. It was enclosed with substantial earthworks by King Alfred the Great in the 9th century as part of a network of fortified towns known as burhs or "burghs" to protect Wessex against the Vikings. These defences can still be clearly discerned as a group of four roughly square areas around the centre of the town and are probably the best preserved such fortifications in England. Wallingford became the chief town of Berkshire and the seat of the county's Ealdorman. During the Norman conquest in 1066, the Anglo-Saxon lord Wigod allowed William the Conqueror's invading armies to cross the Thames unopposed from west to east in order that his army might march on Berkhamsted, where he received the English surrender before marching on London. At that time, the river at Wallingford was the lowest point at which the river could be forded. The town subsequently stood in high favour with the Normans. The Domesday Book of 1085 lists Wallingford as one of only 18 towns in the kingdom with a population of over 2,000 people.

Wallingford castle ruins
Ruins in the Wallingford Castle Gardens

Wallingford Castle was built soon afterwards and became a key strategic centre for the Empress Matilda's party during the civil war that began after her father Henry I's death. After the fall of Oxford Castle to Stephen in 1141, Matilda fled to Wallingford, according to some historic accounts in the snow under a moonlit sky. As such the place was besieged a number of times and the Treaty of Wallingford ending the conflict was concluded there in November 1153. The town was granted a Royal Charter in 1155 by the new king, Henry II, being the second town in England to receive one. The castle was a regular royal residence until the Black Death hit the town badly in 1349. The castle declined subsequently, much stone being removed to renovate Windsor Castle, but it became a Royalist stronghold during the English Civil War. It was the last holdout of the Royalists in Berkshire, and the castle withstood a 65-day siege. Oliver Cromwell subsequently ordered the destruction of what was left of the castle and little now remains. Some of the castle rubble was used to construct a tower for the church of St Mary-le-More.

Wallingford flourished as a trading centre throughout most of the Middle Ages, and Wallingford Priory produced two of the greatest minds of the age, the mathematician Richard of Wallingford and the chronicler John of Wallingford. After the opening of Abingdon Bridge in 1416 the town went into economic decline. This was only revived in the 18th century when the legal writer and Wallingford resident, William Blackstone, established two turnpike roads through the town. The brewing industry was important with two breweries and 17 maltings in the town. This link was ended with the demolition of Paul's Malt in 2001.

On 9 September 1944 a Halifax bomber of No. 426 Squadron RCAF, returning from an abandoned raid over the French port of Le Havre whilst still carrying a full bomb load, caught fire over Wallingford after its port outer engine exploded. Ordering most of his crew to bail out, the pilot, 23 year old Flying Officer John Archibald Wilding, and his flight engineer, 22 year old Sergeant John Francis Andrew, remained at the controls in order to steer the plane away from the town, crashing into the fields at Newnham Murren and thus preventing loss of many civilian lives. Both Wilding and Andrew were mentioned in dispatches for their bravery with Wilding being posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. They are commemorated by a memorial at the junction of Wilding Road and Andrew Road in Wallingford and by the Canadian flag that is flown over Wallingford Town Hall every year on 9 September in their memory.



Wallingford St Peters Bridge
Wallingford Bridge and St Peter's Church
Thames from Wallingford
Thames as seen from Wallingford Bridge

The River Thames has been a transport route for centuries and Wallingford's growth as a town relied partly on it. Coal was supplied from North East England by coaster to London and then by barge upriver to Wallingford. This supply could be unreliable in seasons when river currents were too strong or water levels were too low. In 1789 the Oxford Canal reached Oxford from Warwickshire and the Duke's Cut at Wolvercote gave it a connection to the Thames. This allowed coal from the Midlands to reach Wallingford by a shorter and more reliable route than by sea and river from the northeast. In 1799 the Oxford Canal consolidated its commercial position by buying an eighty-year lease on a wharf on the Thames just above Wallingford Bridge. Chalmore Lock, a summer or low-water lock and weir, was built at Chalmore Hole, Wallingford in 1838, However, much of the time the fall was only 18 inches, and the lock was open at both ends. It fell into disrepair, and the lock was removed in 1883. The missing lock is the subject of confusion in Jerome K. Jerome's "Three Men in a Boat". A ferry had operated at the site from 1787 to transport horses across the river where the towpath changed banks. As the removal of the lock and weir meant that this was the longest clear stretch of the upper river, it was an ideal site for rowing, and so the Oxford University Boat Club which had long trained here built a boathouse at Chalmore in 2006. In addition to the old Wallingford Bridge, a new bridge was built at Winterbrook in 1993 to carry the A4130 bypass around Wallingford.


On 2 July 1866, the Wallingford and Watlington Railway was opened between Cholsey and Wallingford. Its relative speed and reliability enabled it to take a large share of goods previously carried on the Thames. Unfortunately, two months earlier, in May 1866, the Overend, Gurney & Co bank had crashed causing one of the severest financial crises of the 19th century. The Bank Rate was raised to 10%, making it impossible for the W&WR to raise the capital for its planned continuation to Watlington. The company sold the line to the Great Western Railway in 1872, and it became known as the "Wallingford Bunk". British Railways closed the line to passengers in 1959 and to goods traffic in 1965, but the track between Hithercroft Road and Cholsey continued in use to serve the maltings (now demolished) until 1981 when BR removed the junction at Cholsey. However, the line has been preserved as the Cholsey and Wallingford Railway.

Presently, the closest regular railway station to Wallingford is in Cholsey, about three miles away.


Bus services for the town are operated by Thames Travel, including:

  • The X39/X40 between Oxford and Reading
  • The X2 for Didcot (and thus the mainline railway station) and continuing via Abingdon to Oxford.

There are other local services to Benson and then Henley-on-Thames or Abingdon; Streatley and Goring-on-Thames; and Cholsey.


Town Centre - Retail - - 12273
Waitrose branch

The main employers based in the town are primarily on the Hithercroft Trading Estate, established in the 1970s. These include Rowse Honey, Royal Mail, HR Wallingford, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and Fugro. To the south east of the town is the headquarters for the non-profit agricultural organisation CABI.

Sport and leisure

Hithercroft sports facility - - 1149312
Wallingford Sports Park

A number of sports societies, clubs and associations are co-located at the Wallingford Sports Park. Wallingford Hockey Club traces its beginnings to 1894 and now comprises nine senior teams as well as the Wallingford Wildcats youth setup. Since 1995 the club has been based in the Wallingford Sports Centre. Wallingford Town F.C. was founded in 1922 is the local football club. They currently play in the Hellenic Football League, and their home games are played at the Wallingford Sports Centre.

Originally founded in 1967 as Cholsey RFC, the club changed its name to Wallingford Rugby Club when it moved to the Hithercroft sports ground in 1997. The club has a senior set up which includes fielding three competitive men's senior teams as a development squad and three women's teams known as the Maidens. The club is still headquartered on the Hithercroft which is now known as the Wallingford Sports Park. There are two Squash clubs in Wallingford. Wallingford Squash Club is in the town centre and the second is located at the Wallingford Sports Park. Pétanque Wallingford is based at the Park.

All together now - - 1117509
Wallingford Rowing Club
Dancing in the Market Square, Wallingford, at BunkFest


Wallingford Regatta, formerly the Wallingford Skiff Regatta, was the only organised boating competition in 1949 on the longest stretch of the Thames between locks (Benson to Cleeve Locks). It had taken place every year in peacetime since the late 1890s, and there is evidence that it existed as early as 1861. In 1949 the regatta committee founded the Wallingford Rowing Club, which started competing in other regattas. The regatta was developed as a conventional regatta although it still awards the Wallingford Skiff Regatta Cup. The town hosts the Wallingford Rowing Club, the Oxford Brookes University Boat Club. and the Oxford University Boat Club.

The regatta was held on the same reach at Wallingford for most of its existence, but river conditions caused problems, and there was a growing need for larger facilities. In 2001 the Regatta moved to a new home at Dorney Lake in Windsor where it is still held. The event is the largest single day rowing regatta in the UK. In 2008 the new Oxford University Boat Club opened in Wallingford. Located on the site of the disused Wallingford marina on the Thames Path, the building designed by Tuke Manton Architects LLP replaced the club's historic home on the Isis, which was destroyed by fire in 1999.

Wallingford festival of cycling

The Wallingford Festival of Cycling started in 2015 with an attendance of 3000. In 2018 British cycling billed the event one of the largest cycling events of the year with events including both the 50 km and 110 km road sportives. In excess of 7500 were expected to attend. The event in 2015 was used as the backdrop for the filming of the Midsomer Murders episode called breaking the Chain. Breaking the Chain was the third episode of the 18th series.

Music festivals

Starting in 2002 in the Cross Keys pub, BunkFest usually being held in the first week of September, has become the largest free multi-day festival in the UK with an attendance of over 25,000 in 2017. The Bunk Fest folk music festival combines a broad range of folk music, dance displays, a beer festival and the local Bunk steam railway. It is a not-for-profit festival. The festival is intended to appeal to a wide audience. The main stage features light music and dancing during the day and lively folk-rock and world music acts in the evening.

Other venues around the town feature a wide variety of acts, ranging from quiet, contemplative folk artists and singer-songwriters to raucous rock bands. It attracts between thirty and fifty dance sides. The dance programme has included Cotswold and Border Morris, Appalachian and Eastern European forms, as well as traditional Irish, Scottish and Welsh forms. Rug Fest is Wallingford's summer music festival located at the Wallingford Sport Park on the Hithercroft. Founded in 2008, RugFest took two years off due to site refurbishments, returning in 2018. The 2018 festival was headlined by Scouting for Girls.

Vintage Car Rally

Founded in 2002 the Wallingford vintage car rally takes place on the Kinecroft in mid May with a parade that includes the whole town. In 2018 the number of cars in the parade increased to over 350 with the total number of vehicles on show being just over 400. The event is run for local charitable causes and raised £14,000 in 2018, which brought the cumulative total to over £100,000.

Town twinning

Wallingford has formal town twinning links with Luxeuil-les-Bains, France and Bad Wurzach, Germany; and informal links with Wallingford, Connecticut, United States.

In 2009 the town requested an end to the twinning relationship with Luxeuil-les-Bains following several years of non-contact. The request prompted a renewal of the relationship.

Wallingford School pupils take part in the German exchange programme with the school in Bad Wurzach.

Nearby places


Castle Street and High Street corner, Wallingford - - 62137
Castle Street and High Street corner
Town Centre - Retail - - 12273
Waitrose branch

Historically, Wallingford was a centre for local trading in livestock and corn as well as the general trade of other goods. This decreased after the construction of the bridge at Abingdon. The town developed as a centre for the production of iron and machinery in the 18th century; this continued until the 1980s. The brewing industry was important with two breweries and 17 maltings in the town. This link was ended with the demolition of Paul's Malt in 2001. The Lamb arcade was originally known as the Lamb Coaching Inn and in 1980 after being derelict for some years was converted into an Antiques Arcade. Champions hardware store has been serving the residents of the town since 1869.

In 2005, Waitrose moved into a new store in the town centre after occupying an old site in the south of the town for decades. The new store has 22,000 sq ft of retail space. A Lidl supermarket opened in January 2019 on the Hithercroft Road. There are branches of Lloyds Bank and the Nationwide Building Society. The main employers are primarily on the Hithercroft Trading Estate, established in the 1970s. There are some located at Howbury Park the other side of the river and also at Winterbrook Bridge. Rowse Honey is the UK's largest manufacturer of honey and has been located in the town since 1987 after being founded in the nearby village of Ewelme in 1954. Other businesses are the Royal Mail, HR Wallingford, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and Fugro. To the south east of the town is the headquarters for the non-profit agricultural organisation CABI.


St John's (a primary school), Fir Tree, (a junior school), and St Nicholas (an infants' school) are all located within the town itself, with additional primary schools at Brightwell-cum-Sotwell, Cholsey and Crowmarsh Gifford serving the surrounding areas.

Wallingford School

Wallingford School is the successor to Wallingford Grammar School founded in 1659 when Walter Bigg left money for a school in his will. Located to the north of the town, it is an academy school and part of the Merchant Taylors’ Oxfordshire Academy Trust. The school provides the education provision for the Wallingford area for boys and girls between the ages of 11 and 18. The majority of pupils from both Fir Tree and St John's continue on to Wallingford School. Wallingford School also draws pupils from Crowmarsh, Brightwell-cum-Sotwell, Cholsey and Warborough primary schools and occasionally Didcot primary schools.

Notable people

In the town:

  • John Dreyer, football player
  • Jonathan Bailey, actor
  • Kevin Bailey, poet
  • Evelyn Barbirolli, oboist
  • William Blackstone, legal writer
  • Charlie Brooker, comedy writer and presenter
  • John Buckley, sculptor
  • Agatha Christie mystery writer and playwright lived in Winterbrook House with her second husband Sir Max Mallowan.
  • Paul Conroy, music executive
  • William Henry Davies (entrepreneur), Toronto meatpacker (peameal bacon)
  • Gary Elkins, football player
  • Edgar Field, England footballer and winner of the FA Cup in 1880
  • Peter Flannery, playwright and screenwriter
  • Dulcie Gray, actress
  • James Hayllar, artist
  • Jerome K. Jerome, author, lived near Wallingford
  • Geoffrey Keen, actor
  • Peter R. Kiff, sedimentologist and chemist
  • George Dunlop Leslie, artist
  • Max Mallowan, archaeologist, at Winterbrook House with Agatha Christie
  • James H. McClure, mystery writer
  • Ann Packer, Olympic athlete
  • Zac Purchase, Olympic athlete
  • Edmund Charles Rawlings, politician
  • Moses Roper, former slave
  • Paul Rotha, documentary filmmaker
  • Gladys Bronwyn Stern, novelist
  • Simon Watson Taylor, actor, translator and surrealist
  • Thomas Tusser, poet
  • John of Wallingford (died 1214), monk and abbot of St. Albans Abbey
  • John of Wallingford (died 1258), monk and chronicler
  • Richard of Wallingford, mathematician and clockmaker
  • Richard of Wallingford, organiser in the Peasants' Revolt
  • William of Wallingford, builder of Wallingford Screen at St Albans Cathedral
  • Rex Warner, writer
  • Peter Cathcart Wason, psychologist
  • Charles West, mystery writer
  • John Warburton B.E.M., Awarded 2015 for services to the Arts in Oxfordshire thru' the Corn Exchange, Wallingford

Members of Parliament

Wallingford used to return two Members of Parliament (MPs), cut to one in 1832 and none in 1885. Its prominent MPs, often not resident, included:

Images for kids

See also

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