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Wantage in 1843

WANTAGE, a market-town in the hundred of Wantage in Berkshire, 63 miles from the General Post-office, London, by the coach-road through Maidenhead, Henley-on-Thames, and Wallingford.

Wantage was a place of some importance in the time of the Saxons, when it formed, with the neighbouring lands, part of the patrimony of the West Saxon kings, who had a residence here. It was the birthplace of King Alfred the Great.

The parish of Wantage has an area of 7,530 acres, and comprehends the town of Wantage and the hamlets of Charlton and Grove. It contained, in 1831, 729 inhabited houses, 36 uninhabited, and 6 building ; together 771 houses, with 748 families, and 3,282 persons : rather less than a third of the population was agricultural. The town stands at the intersection of the London and Cheltenham road, with a cross-road from Oxford to Hungerford : the streets are irregularly built, and contain but few good houses. The parish church, dedicated to St. Peter and St. Paul, is an ancient cross church, with a square embattled tower rising from the intersection : it contains some ancient tombs and monumental brasses, partly of the Fitzwarren family. There is an ancient building of Norman architecture, called by Leland a church, now or lately used as a school-house ; and an ancient market-cross, with the inscription, ‘Pray for the good Earl of Bath, and for Master William Burnabe, the builder hereof, 1580, and for William Lord Fitzwarren.' The manufacture of sacking and twine is carried on, also some malting, and trade in corn, flour, malt, and coal. A branch of the Wilts and Berks Canal comes up to the town. The market is on Saturday for pigs, cattle, and corn ; there are a monthly cheese fair, and in the year two fairs for cattle and cheese, one for cherries, and a statute-fair. There are two banking-houses.

The living is a vicarage, of the clear yearly value of £503, with a glebe-house ; in the rural deanery of Abingdon, in the archdeanery of Berks, and diocese of Oxford. The perpetual curacy of Grove in the parish, of the clear yearly value of £75, with a glebe-house, is in the gift of the vicar. There are places of worship for Independents, Baptists, and Wesleyan Methodists.

There were in the parish, in 1833, nine day-schools, with 231 children, namely, 106 boys, 56 girls, and 69 children of sex not stated ; making about one in fourteen of the total population under daily instruction. One of the day-schools, with 44 boys, was partly supported by endowment. There was at the same time one Sunday-school with 80 boys and 90 girls. Bishop Butler, author of ‘The Analogy of Religion,’ and Isaac Kimber, a dissenting minister and an historical and biographical writer of some reputation, were natives of Wantage.


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