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About Wantage

Wantage is located at the foot of the Berkshire Downs escarpment. This is prime horse racing country with gallops at Black Bushes and racing stables in several nearby villages including East Hendred, Letcombe Bassett, Lockinge and Uffington.

For the latest information about shopping, eating out, accommodation and things to do in Wantage visit the town team website at Love Wantage where you'll also find links to other useful sites.

In 2014 the town won a Great British High Street award from the Department for Community and Local Government’s Future High Streets Forum. Wantage won the Town Centre Category in the awards, which recognises innovative town centres. The judges were impressed with the strength of local partnership working resulting in the complete transformation of the town centre.
Anglo-Saxon, King Alfred the Great, was born here in the 9th Century at the Wanating royal palace. He encouraged education, was known as a merciful ruler and successfully defeated the Viking Conquest. By the time of his death he was England’s dominant ruler.  If you have a day to spend in Wantage, follow our history trail - we recommend exploring the 30 acre ditch and ramparts of the Iron Age Hillfort at Segsbury Camp.
Wantage also appears in the Domesday Book of 1086 with a value of £61. The town was granted weekly trading rights in 1246 by Henry III and modern markets are held on Wednesdays and Saturdays. 

Local resident and Poet Laureate, Sir John Betjeman, wrote a little known short historical article describing 13th century Wantage Parish Church and the ringing chamber contains a handwritten copy of "Wantage Bells", written for the wedding of his daughter Candida, during which the bells were rung.
The town’s buildings are mostly 17th and 18th century with narrow cobbled streets and passages. The Grade 2 listed converted 17th century cloth-merchant’s house which houses the Vale and Downland Museum is good starting point for exploring the town and surrounding area.
In 1900, Lord Wantage bought the former Corn Exchange to display a collection of pictures depicting all the Victoria Cross heroes, including himself during the Crimean War. The building and collection were given to the Town Council but the 1930’s depression meant the duty of care costs outweighed the long-term value. The building was used as a dance hall and eventually the collection removed to storage. By this stage in quite a poor state of repair, it was subsequently broken up and given/loaned to other institutions.
Claims to Fame:
Both King Alfred the Great in 849AD and legendary horse-racing jockey Lester Piggott in 1935 were born in Wantage.
Wantage is the 'Alfredston' of Thomas Hardy's "Jude the Obscure".
John Betjeman, Poet Laureate from 1972 to 1984, lived in Wantage for many years. His book, 'Archie and the Strict Baptists' is based in the town, as are poems "Wantage Bells” and "On leaving Wantage” and is the inspiration behind the creation of the Betjeman Wantage trail.
Berkshire pigs, said to be "Britain's oldest pig breed", were originally bred around the market-towns of Faringdon and Wantage. A change of county boundaries in 1974 means both towns are now part of Oxfordshire.

Six things to do in Wantage:
Three things to do near Wantage:
  • The Ridgeway National Trail - is just 3.5 kilometres out of town
  • Tour pre-history – Iron Age hill forts  at Segsbury Camp and Uffington Castle, Bronze Age burial mounds, Wayland's Smithy, one of the Britain's most impressive prehistoric tombs and the famous White Horse
  • Walk to White Horse Hill- This long day’s walk of almost 18 miles/28.5 km from Wantage to White Horse Hill and back, passes through the Vale and returns on the Ridgeway. Pubs and Inns along the way and a chance to see birds of prey
What’s on in Wantage:

Music is important in Wantage. There are many established music and dance groups, including the Icknield Way Morris Men and the Vale Islanders, a brass band and an operatic society. 

A month long festival of music and arts is held in June and July. The Wantage 'not just' Betjeman Literary Festival takes place in early November and brings national authors and celebrities to the town. There is a Dickensian Evening before Christmas when independent shops open late and the Town Mayor and Town Crier lead the townspeople and visitors around the town.
Browse the Wantage events on the Southern Oxfordshire What's On Events Calendar or  Families will love our Wantage family trail or our outdoor trail.

Shopping in Wantage:

Wantage has a wealth of independent shops. The What's in Store Shopping Guide and Food, Drink & Accommodation Guide will help you find your way around the town and to discover the brilliant retail offer. You can also explore Wantage's retail offering through the Shop Wantage films

Discover Wantage’s wonderful restaurants, cafés, sandwich bars, pubs and bars through these town videos.
Where to stay in Wantage:
An interactive See, Do & Stay map can be found at Love Wantage, listing the various accommodation options in and around Wantage.

Tourist Information:

Wantage Information Point 
Vale & Downland Museum
Church Street
T: 01235 760176.

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