kids encyclopedia robot

Wantage facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Quick facts for kids
Wantage Market Place.jpg
Wantage Market Place and statue of King Alfred the Great
Wantage is located in Oxfordshire
Population 11,327 (2011 census)
OS grid reference SU3987
• London 57 miles (92 km)
Civil parish
  • Wantage
Shire county
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town Wantage
Postcode district OX12
Dialling code 01235
Police Thames Valley
Fire Oxfordshire
Ambulance South Central
EU Parliament South East England
UK Parliament
  • Wantage
Website 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 is a historic market town and civil parish in the ceremonial county of Oxfordshire, England. Historically, part 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, about 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 north-west of Newbury.

It was the birthplace of King Alfred the Great in 849.


St Peter and St Paul, Wantage - - 1547576
Saints Peter and Paul parish church

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

In the 19th century, Lord Wantage became a notable local and national benefactor. He was very involved in founding the British Red Cross Society. 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. He also donated the Victoria Cross Gallery to the town. 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. Since 1848, Wantage has been home to the Community of Saint Mary the Virgin, 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.


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.


Stagecoach Gold bus in Wantage
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 Reading and Cirencester and the A338 road between Hungerford (and junction 14 of the M4 motorway) and Oxford.

Bus services link Wantage with Oxford and other nearby towns and villages including Abingdon, Didcot, Faringdon and Grove. Thames Travel provide the main buses every 12–18 minutes between Wantage and Oxford/Didcot via Grove, Harwell Campus, East Hanney, Marcham and Abingdon, and the Faringdon to Wantage service which runs every hour. Most of which are operated under the Connector brand. Stagecoach West provide a service between Wantage and Oxford via Grove, East Hanney, Cumnor and Botley up to every 20 minutes Monday to Saturday and up to every 30 minutes on Sundays and bank holidays, it is operated under Stagecoach's luxury Stagecoach Gold brand.

Wantage Tramway Company
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 Cardiff. The Great Western Mainline 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. 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. One of the tramway's locomotives, Shannon, alias Jane, is preserved at Didcot Railway Centre. Oxfordshire County Council have ambitions to re-open the former Wantage Road railway station and has stated that the station is a priority in their Connecting Oxfordshire plans. It is hoped that the station could be served by a direct service between Oxford and Bristol. The Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) published their Connecting Communities: Expanding Access to the Rail Network report and outlined Wantage and Grove as one of the top seven places where a new station would be feasible and provide economical benefits to the area.

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

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


Old buildings, Wantage Market Place - - 1321063
The Old Town Hall (left), built in 1877 and a 17th-century building (right)

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. SS Peter and Paul also contains seventeen 15th-century misericords.

King Alfred's Grammar School was designed by the architect J. B. Clacy of Reading and built in 1849–50 but incorporates a highly carved Norman doorway from a demolished chantry chapel that formerly stood in the churchyard.


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 2011, with a campaign to stop the demolition of a building close to the town centre by Vanderbuilt 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.

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, A4497 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 same road network.

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.

Sport and leisure

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.

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

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.

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.

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


Wantage is twinned with:

Nearby places


King Alfred's School - geograph-2577522-by-Bill-Nicholls
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. The secondary school converted into an academy in 2011 and was rated Outstanding by Ofsted in that year.

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. A former independent preparatory school, St Andrew's, established in 1926, closed permanently in 2010.

Fitzwaryn School, a school catering for pupils with special needs, is situated in Wantage. The school caters for children aged 3–19 and was rated Outstanding by Ofsted in 2014. 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. 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. Since the trust was formed in 2013, three other primary schools in the area have joined. 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).

Notable people

Statue of King Alfred in Wantage Market Square
Statue of Alfred the Great, by Prince Victor of Hohenlohe-Langenburg
  • King Alfred the Great was born in Wantage in 849.
  • Leigh Bedwell, former goalkeeper for Swindon Town (currently playing for Didcot Town), was born in Wantage in 1994.
  • John Betjeman, Poet Laureate from 1972 to 1984, lived in Wantage and his book Archie and the Strict Baptists is based in the town. Wantage has a memorial park named after him, which includes extracts from his poems in a peaceful wooded area.
  • Roy Burton, former Oxford United and Witney Town goalkeeper, was born in Wantage in 1951.
  • Joseph Butler (1692–1752), Bishop of Bristol, Bishop of Durham, and author of The Analogy of Religion, was born and educated in Wantage.
  • William John Butler, Vicar of Wantage, Dean of Lincoln.
  • Edward Cawston, former English cricketer, born in Wantage in 1911.
  • Alice FitzWarin, wife of Dick Whittington, three-time Lord Mayor of the City of London, grew up in Wantage. Her father's brass memorial is in the church.
  • Hugh Johns, former ITV football commentator, was born in Wantage in September 1922.
  • Isaac Kimber, born in Wantage, on 1 December 1692, English General Baptist minister, biographer, historian and journalist.
  • Archie Kirkman Loyd, former MP, lived in Wantage during the 19th century.
  • Robert Loyd-Lindsay, 1st Baron Wantage
  • Mother Maribel of Wantage, Anglican nun, artist and sculptor
  • Frances O'Connor, Anglo-Australian actor, was born in Wantage in 1967 where she lived for two years before moving to Perth, Australia.
  • Caroline Voaden, British Liberal Democrat former MEP.
  • Lester Piggott, jockey, was born in Wantage in 1935.
  • Thomas William Shore, former geologist and antiquarian, was born in Wantage in 1840.

Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Wantage para niños

kids search engine
Wantage Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.