The small market town of Wantage has a long and rich history, dating back to the 1800s. Located in the Vale of White Horse district in Oxfordshire, it was originally known as “Wænta” – an old English name meaning “hill of observation”.
In 1845 Wantage was granted a charter to become a borough by Queen Victoria. This is when it started to grow into the prosperous town we know today. In fact, some of the original buildings have survived; most notably the Market House which was built in 1847 and stands proudly at the heart of Wantage’s historic high street.
The 19th century saw some great advances for Wantage in terms of industry and trade. The coming of the railway opened up new opportunities for residents and businesses alike. The station building in its present form dates from 1899 but dates back to 1863 when it was first opened as part of the Didcot-Witney line.
Wantage had long been a centre for dairy farming with cheese being made from locally produced milk and sold throughout Oxfordshire and beyond. This tradition continues with Wyvols Cheese still being produced here today using traditional methods.
The 1800s also saw the rise of iron foundries with two significant ones located in Wantage; one at East Challow (1871-1963) and another at Grove (1844-1967). These two companies played an important role in local industry, producing cast iron goods such as drainpipes, columns, balustrades and gates which were used widely across Britain and exported overseas too.
Closer to home, these industries helped contribute to the growth and prosperity of Wantage during this time while helping shape its unique character. Today you can still find reminders of its industrial past scattered around town including some beautifully preserved Victorian cottages nestled between shops on Market Place Street; testament to Wantage’s unique history stretching back over 200 years!