Thursday, 2 December 2010

The historic small town of Wantage in Oxfordshire UK. Part 1

As  I promised that I would post at least once a month on places in the UK while I am here, I took quite a lot of pictures of the beautiful small town of Wantage in Oxfordshire the other day. There is quite a bit of historic interest here, so I will stretch the account over two, or maybe three, posts.

The village name could possibly be an early Celtic word, something like Gwynedd-ing, or 'White Hills Place' referring to the Berkshire Downs, just south of the village. Alternatively, it could have have referred to two rivers (the Letcombe Brook and a second parallel one, now defunct), so there seems little reason to doubt the standard interpretation of it being Saxon for 'Waning River'. Wantage Church was a Saxon Minster and the Saxon Kings had a Palace here. King Aethelred the Unready drew up the 'Wantage Code' of laws when the Witan (early court) met there in AD 995. King Alfred the Great (of "burning the cakes" fame) was born there in AD 847. His statue, by Count Gleichen, has stood in the market place since 1877. Wantage is thus known to the literary World as 'Alfredston'. Thomas Hardy sent Jude the Obscure here as an apprentice stone-cutter.  For more history of the town see http://www.berkshirehistory.com/villages/wantage.html

King Alfred the Great
Written at the base of the statue
The site on which the parish of Wantage stands is a very ancient one. It is known from the will of a certain Lady Wynflaed that there was a church there as early as AD 950; and it seems likely that King Alfred was christened in the same building just over a hundred years earlier.

The present building is huge, indicating the town’s great importance as the market centre of the Vale of the White Horse. The nave and base of the tower in the present structure date from the the early 13th century, but the remainder was much altered over the next two hundred years. It is cruciform in plan, with a chunky central tower. The interior seems very light and modern, yet houses some ancient treasures. There are remnants of medieval glass near the entrance in the south transept: saints, including Stephen with his martyrial stones. The nave, to the left , has wall monuments, a 15th century hammer-beam roof on its lively corbel faces and a magnificent dominating organ built in 1997. Going forward, the central crossing acts as a kind of meeting space between nave, quire and small chapels off the transepts. Here, we find, on the vast pillars, a number of tiny crusader crosses, carved by soldiers going to the Middle East to fight in the Crusades. Were they to pray for their safe return or to blunt their swords when they got back? 
Wantage Church
There was a service in progress when I was there but I managed to take this photo from the door with the flash off.
View inside the Church
Shops around the Market Square with the Church in the background.


See HERE for more Information on the Baptists of Wantage (also larger print!)

Wantage Baptist Church
The Bell Inn, and note the French bread shop to the left of the picture - Le Petit Pain

Rowan tree - a couple of days after taking this photo, I drove past and saw that the leaves had all departed but the berries were still there and the birds were having a feast.

The homes just beyond the Rowan Tree


54 comments:

  1. Thanks for this interesting and informative post Diane - I just love the architecture and those rock churches ... wow! ... I suspect I might have been a stonemason in a previous life ...

    ... jeepers, I'd love to take a photographic tour through England and Europe ...

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  2. Thanks for showing us the surrounding near your area, they look beautiful.

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  3. Graham I know how much you love the stone buildings, so glad you were back in time to see this post. I will do you a swop, I will take you around the UK and France and you can show me Nabibia LOL. If only the travel costs were not so high! Diane

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  4. Hi Diane~ I love learning the history of places. I have a David Austin rose named "Jude the Obscure" & didn't know where the name came from.
    The little village looks lovely.
    xx
    Dianne

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  5. Dianne, it is certainly one of the prettiest market towns I have seen for a while (not counting France :-)). I guess your rose may well have originated here in Wantage! Diane x

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  6. Another town to add to my list for next summer, DIane... it is lovely and Athelred the unready has always been one of my favorites ( how can you beat that name?>>) Thanks for the tour... lovely place!

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  7. lostpastremembered I suspect you will love this little town. Watch out for the other pictures. There is a little museum in Wantage which has masses of info. Diane

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  8. These are beautiful structures! I so love your header Diane!

    Thank you for being one of the top ten commenters at my <a href="http://www.spice-up-your-life.net</a> blog. The link is displayed at the right side bar of the blog.

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  9. Some of the pictures could so easily have been taken in France. Its not a town Ive ever been to before - thanks for showing me. xxxxx

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  10. I love all the photos. Thanks for showing us around! It looks beautiful!

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  11. Thanks chubskulit, I have to admit to liking that header myself!! Diane

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  12. Diane there are so many lovely villages in the UK, most of which I have not seen which is why I enjoy your blog so much. I see parts of England that I have never been to :-) Diane

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  13. Lyndsey, glad you enjoyed the tour of Wantage, more to come :-) Diane

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  14. Great footage, Diane!
    A bit of interesting history!
    I like the Rowan tree pic, it is gorgeous! Happy to know the birds had a feast with the berries!
    I know it soooooo cold in England, I always have an eye on England when the weather news are on!!
    Parts of France also have huge problems since some regions are not prepared!
    It reminds me of a severe winter in North Carolina (USA) when we had snow over the knees and the following night, an ice storm! Naturally, no school for 3 weeks! Our son was thrilled but had to catch up anyway!!!
    By for now!
    Keep warm!!

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  15. Noushka it really is cold her at the moment. I have just come back from the hairdresser and I feel like I have been walking in a deep freeze!! I worry about the birds here as there is not a lot of food around and very few people feed them in this area. I am doing my best to keep warm, but I think my blood thinned living in Africa for so many years and I seem to feel it more than most. Mind you Nigel also feels it as well! Hope that all is well with you. Diane x

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  16. Hi Diane .. Wantage is actually a town .. used to be a village apparently named Wanating .. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_the_Great

    Like the tour .. no way could this be mistaken for a place in France .. :-)

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  17. What a beautiful place. I so love the Baptist Church, and thank you for sharing its history.

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  18. It's a beautiful village! I loved the plaque on the statue of King Alfred. Thanks for the tour.

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  19. What wonderful photos, Diane. And I really appreciate the bit of history along with them...very fascinating! That Rowan tree is gorgeous!

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  20. Anne I know it is a town, I sometimes call it that but it is village size to me so I invaviably slip up :-):-) I have to agree it looks very English.

    Hope we can meet up soon, I am still busy with clearing the flat, it just seems to go on and on! I think I have finished one room then another cupbard just seems to appear..... Diane

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  21. Indie.Tea, thanks for the comments, the whole town is very pretty and there is so much history there. Diane

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  22. Marjie it is a beautiful village, well used to be a village as Anne has just reminded me it is now a town!! I am not sure when a hamlet becomes a village or a village becomes a town, or for that matter when a town becomes a city. I think a city has a mayor but maybe I am dreaming:-) too complicated for my simple mind :-))))) Diane

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  23. Faith I was particularly taken by that Rowan tree, it was spectacular on the day I was there. Diane

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  24. The architecture is fascinating! Thank you very much for all your photos. I wonder what it looks like inside the French bread shop.

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  25. Also did you know that Wantage used to be in Berkshire until 1974 when boundary changes transferred it to Oxfordshire!

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  26. This is a great piece of history. I am amazed how well these old stone structures hold up over time.

    Sure looks like winter in your header shot.

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  27. Olga the little French Bread shop is quite good, they make excellent croissants. The bread is OK but somehow does not taste like the bread we have in France, it has a very special touch there especially if you have a good baker. We have one which is superb. Diane

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  28. Yes Anne I did know but thanks for reminding me. Diane

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  29. Gaelyn it feels like winter as well it is soooooooo cold :-(

    It also amazes me how these buildings survive, they used to do things properly inb the olden days! Nothing new seems to last as well. Diane

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  30. Thank so much for photographing and sharing information about another incredible place.

    I hope you are warm and safe - my sister and her partner are snowed in at the partner's parents' home in Lincolnshire. They are well and truely staying put until it is safe and clear enough to drive home to London. I'm feeling guilty that Staurday will bring 24C (very warm for here) to Wellington NZ.

    Sending care and snuggly warm huggles, Michelle and Zebby Cat, xxx from me and happy, cosy sleeping from Zeb

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  31. Hi Diane .. we must try and catch up soon .. but yep both have busy busy days.

    It has been fun seeing Wantage through your eyes ... very interesting how one town can appear different to two people. :-)

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  32. What a charming town. I'm so glad you shared some of its history with us. I hope you are having a great day. Blessings...Mary

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  33. Michelle I really envy you your summer months, it really is very cold here and pretty unpleasant! For me anyway!! Thanks for warm and huggles we need them. Love to you both Diane x

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  34. Anne I now need to see Wantage through your eyes! I have enough pics for two more posts, so you may see more yet through my eyes. I have been at the flat almost everyday this week clearing and cleaning, I am not sure when I will slow down!! Diane

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  35. Thanks Mary for your kind comments. Take care Diane

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  36. I think Wantage looks an attractive town, I know you are not happy to be in the UK for the winter but you could be in a worse area. Even a French bakery in the vicinity in case you get homesick for France. :)

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  37. Lindy Wantage is very pretty, but it does not make up for how we feel being here in the UK! We both just want to get out and the faster the better. Hopefully 2011 will solve our problems and we can both escape :-) Diane

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  38. We lived in the UK before we moved to Australia 5 years ago. I feel nostalgic looking at photos of all the older buildings.

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  39. Hi Gina, thanks for visiting my blog. Being nostalgic is one thing, but sitting in the sunshine rather than the snow is another. I wish I was in NSW. My sister-in-law lives there as do our best friends.

    Never mind soon we will be living in France :-) but they also have masses of snow at the moment :-( Diane

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  40. Beautiful, quaint and charming town. Certainly, with a lot of history too.

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  41. Fantastic post, Diane! Great photos. The white and black houses are what I most enjoy, they are gorgeous.

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  42. Velva it has masses of history, there must be a lot still that I have not read!! Diane

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  43. Yes JM the black and white houses are lovely and very old. Diane

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  44. very informative post and it makes me long to go back to England to discover all these areas that I have not seen!

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  45. Taste of Beirut there are so many beautiful places in the British Isles but I will never get to see most of them. I only saw Scotland fairly recently, and that was only because I cycled from the bottom of the UK to the top of Scotland on a charity ride! Diane

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  46. Ian thanks for visiting and for your kind Comment. Hope to see you back again. Diane

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  47. I'm blown away by the beauty of the places in the world you get to live! Just gorgeous. =)

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  48. Another wonderful post and lovely pictures DianeThere is a Stylish Blogger Award to be claimed by you at my blog. It was given to me by Elisabeth and one of the rules is to pass on to other bloggers whom I think are fantastic and you are one of them in my list. Thanks again for sharing with us all the wonderful stories and recipes. HUGS!

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  49. Ree I am lucky that I live in two countries with masses of history attached to them so the buildings in general are very old as well. Thanks for your comments. Diane

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  50. Quay Po Cooks thank you so much for your comments and the award. I have been keeping my blog award free but that does not mean that I do not enjoy receiving them! With thanks Diane

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  51. It's nice to see trees wit leaves still atached hehehe, all of the trees here are naked and bare..

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  52. chubskulit, all the leaves have gone here as well after all the snow we have had. Diane

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