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?
For more information see http://www.berkshirehistory.com/churches/wantage.html
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|