Abingdon in 1833
one of the principal towns in Berkshire, and a place of great
antiquity. Some have carried back its origin to the time of the
Britons. It received its name of Abban dun, or Abben don, the town of
the abbey, from the removal hither of a monastery previously fixed at
Bagley Wood in the neighbourhood.
It was a place of considerable importance in the period of the Saxon
Heptarchy ; and Offa, king of Mercia, had a palace here.
abbey, which was founded in the twelfth century, flourished under the
favour of successive princes ; and its revenues, at the dissolution of
religious houses, amounted to nearly £2,000 per annum. Henry I was
educated in it.
town is pleasantly situated at the junction of the Ock and the Thames,
just above where the Wilts and Berks canal joins the latter. The
streets are spacious, diverging from the market-place, and are well
paved and lighted ; the supply of water is also good. The market-house
is an elegant structure of freestone, and in it is a spacious hall for
transacting public business. The July and October sessions and the
summer assizes are held here.
returns one member to Parliament. It has a separate jurisdiction,
having obtained a charter of incorporation in the reign of Philip and
Mary, A. D. 1557.
There are two handsome churches, those of St. Helen and St. Nicholas ;
and meeting-houses for the Baptists, Independents, Quakers, and
Wesleyan Methodists. There is a free grammar-school well endowed, a
national and a British school, and some other foundations for the
purposes of education. There are many alms-houses, in the chief of
which (Christ's Hospital) thirty-two poor women are supported.
The trade of Abingdon consists of malting, hemp-dressing, and sack and sail-cloth making ; in the latter branch of manufacture there has been a considerable decline since the peace. The corn-market is large. Capacious wharfs and warehouses have been erected at the
entry of the Wilts and Berks canal into the Thames. The population of
the town was in 1831, 5,954. It is 26 miles north-west by north of
Reading, and 56 west-north-west of London, and 3 miles distant from the
Great Western Railway.