Wantage has a long and fascinating history, dating back to the 1000s. During this time, Wantage was an important agricultural settlement situated in the Vale of White Horse in Oxfordshire.
In 1011, King Aethelred the Unready granted a charter to his brother-in-law, Ethelmar, who founded the town of Wantage. From then on, Wantage quickly became an important market center for local farmers, as well as a religious hub with several churches being established over the following centuries.
In 1086 William I ordered that “a survey be made of all manors in England” which became known as the Domesday Book. The survey revealed that Wantage was one of only six places at that time with a population of more than 1,000 people. As such it had become one of the major towns of its region by this time.
The 12th century saw major developments for Wantage when extensive rebuilding took place around St Peter and St Paul’s Church and a new town hall was built in 1150. This period also marked a major expansion of sheep farming and wool production which consequently increased the wealth of many landowners in Wantage and its surrounding areas.
During this prosperous era many significant buildings were erected such as King Alfred’s Tower which towers above the town today and is believed to have been built during this period as part of an abbey complex dedicated to St Mary Overy Church nearby. By 1200 Wantage had grown significantly to become one of most influential towns in southern England at that time due to its lucrative wool trade and agricultural industry.
Today, much evidence remains from this pivotal period in British history including Alfred’s Tower which still stands tall above the town along with many other historic buildings scattered throughout producing a unique atmosphere still enjoyed by locals today.