Tours > Royal County of Berkshire Towns > Wantage |
Royal County of Berkshire Towns
by David Nash Ford BA, Editor, History on Britannia
a typical English market town. It has a
large main square surrounded by a miriad
of local shops intermingled with a few
High Street names. The market still meets
in the central sqaure every Wednesday and
Saturday below Count Gleichen's majestic
statue of King Alfred the Great.
Wantage grew up
around a Saxon Royal Palace and it was
here that King Alfred was born in AD 847.
His influence can be seen throughout the
town. Wantage's many pubs, for example,
include the 'King Alfred's Head'. Perhaps
the most historic is the Bear Hotel, a
large coaching inn dating back to the
16th century. It adjoins the Victoria
Cross Arcade, a very narrow passage
forming a modern undercover shopping
arcade with excellent eating facilities.
The Church of St.
Peter & St. Paul is a dominant
feature of the town, but not always open
for inspection. Its huge size reminds us
of Wantage's importance as a cloth centre
in Medieval Times. Inside are some
amusing corbels, beautifully carved 15th
century choir-stalls with delightful
misericords and a number of good brasses.
The largest is to Lord Ivo FitzWaryn -
father-in-law of Dick Whittington. The
large effigial monument is to his
parents. His father died of the plague in
1361. A Norman arch from an adjoining
chapel can been seen reset in King
Alfred's School.Just outside the
churchyard sits Wantage's excellent Vale
and Downland Museum, housed in a 16th
century merchant's house. Exhibits cover
history and rural life from across the
Vale of the White Horse. There is an
interactive auditorium, many hands-on
activities and a regular programmme of
exhibitions. There is a superb tourist
information centre in the same building
and the cafe is listed by Egon Ronay!
There is a good
Leisure Centre in Portway with a varied
programme of swimming facilities; and,
for a small town, a surprising number of
well sign-posted car parks scattered
around the centre.
Next Stop: Faringdon
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Pubs & Restaurants