Abingdon in 1833
ABINGDON, 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.
The 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.
The 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.
Abingdon 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.