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Wallingford, Berkshire

Historical Description

Wallingford, an ancient market-town, municipal borough, and four parishes, in Berks. The town stands on the river Thames at the terminus of a short branch of the G.W.R., 15 miles NW by N of Reading, 11 NW from Henley, and 46 from London. It was known to the ancient Britons as Gualhen, signifying "the old fort;" had defensive earthworks constructed by the Romans, forming three sides of a parallelogram down to the Thames, of which there are still considerable remains. It was called by the Saxons Wealingaford, by corruption of the ancient British name and by allusion to a ford on the river; was burnt by the Danes in 1006, but rose speedily from its ashes, and was the birthplace of the Danish king Sweyn in 1013. It acquired from William the Conqueror a, reconstructed strong castle, which figured prominently in the subsequent stormy ages, and is noticed in the following article, and had 276 houses at Domesday. It sent two members to Parliament from the time of Edward I. till 1832, when the number was reduced to one, and it continued to send one until 1885, when its representation was merged in that of the county. In the time of Henry VIII. it had fourteen churches, but now has only four. It received its first charter from Henry II., and is governed by a mayor, 4 aldermen, and 12 councillors, who also act as the urban sanitary authority; gave birth to the monkish historian John of Wal-lingford of the 12th century and to Abbot Richard of Wallingford, who died in 1335, and gave the title of Viscount to the Earl of Banbury. The town presents a well-built and pleasant appearance, is well paved, and has a good supply of water derived from an artesian well The principal business centre is the market-place, where is the corn exchange and town-hall. The Corn Exchange, erected in 1856, is a spacious building of brick in the Italian style. The Town-Hall was built in 1670, was repaired in 1822, and was greatly restored and improved in 1887. It has a large hall and council chamber, and contains a good collection of portraits. There is a free library and public institute in St Mary Street which was founded in 1871, and there is a temperance hall which was erected in 1887. The market-day is Friday, weekly for corn and fortnightly for cattle. A fair for pleasure and the hiring of servants is held on 29 Sept. The town is the head of a petty sessional division and county court district, has two banks, a head post office, some good hotels, and publishes two weekly newspapers. The headquarters of the Royal Berks Horticultural Society, established in 1831 under the patronage of William IV., are at Wallingford. The four parishes are All Hallows, St Leonard, St Mary Ie More, and St Peter. The parish of All Hallows is a sinecure attached to St Mary Ie More; it has no church. The living of St Leonard is a rectory of the gross value of £165 with residence, in the gift of the Bishop of Oxford, within whose diocese the town stands. The church of St Leonard, which is the handsomest of the churches of Wallingford, was restored and partly rebuilt in 1849-50, is a building of rubble and flint, consisting of apsidal chancel, nave, S aisle, and western tower, and contains some interesting Norman remains. The living of St Mary Ie More with All Hallows is a rectory of the net value of £200, in the gift of the Bishop of Oxford. The church of St Mary stands in the market-place, and is a very ancient structure, dating probably from Saxon times. It is built of flint with dressings of stone, consists of chancel, nave, aisles, and an embattled western tower, and contains some ancient and interesting tombs and monuments, and a marble pulpit with bronzes by Onslow Ford, R.A. The living of St Peter is a vicarage of the net value of £90, in the gift of the Bishop of Oxford. The church, which stands in Thames Street near the bridge, is an inelegant structure, consisting of nave only, without aisles, and a square flint tower with a lofty spire. It contains the tomb of Sir William Blackstone the distinguished judge and author of the Commentary, who died 14 Feb. 1780. There are also two Baptist, Primitive Methodist, and Wesleyan chapels, and a place of meeting for the Brethren. There are numerous charities, which are distributed in money, clothing, blankets, and in the payment of apprenticeship fees and marriage portions for poor maids, and there are six endowed almshouses. A cottage hospital with eight beds stands in the Reading Road. The grammar school enjoys an endowment bequeathed by Walter Bigg, paid through the Merchant Taylors Company, and occupies a fine block of buildings. The scholars comprise sixty boys and thirty-five girls. The General Cemetery has an area of 2¼ acres, and contains two mortuary chapels. The workhouse stands in the parish of St Mary, and is a building of brick capable of holding 882 inmates.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient CountyBerkshire 
Poor Law unionWallingford 

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.

Church Records

The register of St. Leonard's dates from the year 1711, but marriages solemnised here in the years 1690, 1691 and 1695 are found in the register of St. Mary's.

The register of St. Mary for baptisms dates from the year 1638; marriages, 1653; burials, 1671; there are also records of marriages, solemnised at St. Leonard's church in 1690, 1691 and 1695, and of marriages at Sotwell chapelry in 1692.

The register of St. Peter for baptisms and burials dates from the year 1711; marriages, 1769.


Church of England

St Mary the More, Market Place (parish church)

The church of St. Mary, called "St. Mary the More," stands on the site of a Roman basilica: it occupies the south side of the market place and appears from Dugdale (Monasticon) to have been in existence shortly after the Conquest: it is a structure of flint with stone dressings, and consists of chancel, two chapels, nave of six bays, aisles and an embattled western tower of Perpendicular date, with octagonal turrets at the angles, surmounted by tall panelled and crocketed pinnacles, each terminating in a crown, above which rises a vane; it is probable that the upper part of the tower was rebuilt and the fabric repaired about 1653 with the materials of the Castle, which had been demolished by Cromwell in the previous year, and the crowned pinnacles are supposed to mark the era of the Restoration: the tower contains an illuminated clock, fixed in 1868 at a cost of about £230, and a peal of 8 bells, hung on a massive timber frame of oak or Spanish chestnut, which, from its ornamental mouldings, may also have been brought from the Castle; over the staging appears the upper part of a piscina, built into the western wall of the belfry: the bells are highly finished and were cast in 1738: the chancel is debased Perpendicular, the nave arcades are Decorated, the arches springing from octagonal pillars with moulded caps: the south doorway and porch are Early English: on the north side of the tower, at a considerable height from the ground and now obscured from view by the south aisle, is a stone slab fixed in the wall, with the figure, in low relief, of a knight on horseback, in complete armour, with an escutcheon on his breast, in the act of fording a tempestuous river: the church contains some mural monuments, among which on the north wall is one of grey marble to Thomas Bendal esq. of Wallingford Castle, several times M.P. for Wallingford, d. 1722; near it is a marble monument to John Cottingham esq. d. 1746, and Elizabeth, his wife; and at the west end of the church is a monument to Walter Bigg esq. alderman of London, a benefactor to the town, ob. 1659; on the north wall is a marble tablet to Henry Stumpe, ob. 1619, and there is also a memorial to the Rev. Thomas Pentycross, 34 years rector of St. Mary's, d. 1808; the marble pulpit with three panels in bronze, designed by the late E. Onslow Ford R.A. is a memorial to Mr. W. R. Lybbe Powys Lybbe (d. 1888), a former mayor of Wallingford: the church was repaired and enlarged in 1854, under a faculty dated 3rd September, 1853, at a cost of £2,484; the sanctuary was restored at a later date in memory of the historian of Wallingford, J. Kirby Hedges esq. of Wallingford Castle: it contains sittings for 564 persons.

St. Leonard, St. Leonard's Lane (parish church)

The church of St. Leonard, near the river and the lower wharf, at the south-east end of the town in a street formerly called Little Fish street, but now St. Leonard's lane, is a small and plain building of rubble flint, probably erected in the eleventh century, and consists of apsidal chancel, nave of three bays, south aisle and a western tower containing one bell: two arches in the chancel exhibit some interesting and perhaps unique Norman work; there is a Norman doorway on the north side of the nave, and in the chancel an ancient priest's door: during the siege of Wallingford the church was converted into barracks and greatly injured; the south aisle and original apse were, it is said, destroyed by fire: after remaining for years in a dilapidated state, it was restored and reopened at Michaelmas, 1704, previous repairs and repewing having been effected in, 1685, 1695 and 1700: in 1850 the structure was enlarged and partially restored and re-pewed, the apse and the south aisle rebuilt and the tower added, the churchyard being at the same time extended; this work was effected at a cost of about £1,100, defrayed by voluntary contributions: the churchyard is bounded on the east by a brook, which once formed part of the circumvallation of the town: there are 260 sittings.

St. Peter, Thames Street (parish church)

St. Peter's church, in Thames street, near the bridge, was rebuilt in 1769, the original structure having been laid in ruins during the siege by the Parliamentary forces in 1642 or 1643, and it was reopened on 29th June, 1769, being St. Peter's day: it consists of chancel, aisleless nave, with four large circular-headed windows on either side, and a western tower, with lofty spire, rising from an open octangular base, and containing one bell, with a clock, said to have been formerly in the Horse Guards tower, Whitehall, and presented by Sir William Blackstone: the lower stage serves for a porch and the total height to the top of the vane is 118 feet: the chancel and organ chamber, built in 1904-5, at a cost of nearly £1,400, were dedicated by the Bishop of Oxford, 27 June, 1905: in a vault beneath the chancel is buried Sir William Blackstone kt. elected Recorder of Wallingford in 1749, and afterwards a distinguished judge and author of the well-known "Commentaries on the Laws of England:" he died 14th Feb. 1780; a black marble slab at the foot of the chancel steps, bearing his crest, but without inscription, marks the spot, and there is a mural monument to him on the exterior south wall: at the west end are memorials to Mrs. Ann Crouche, widow, ob. 1620, and Mrs. Eleanor Crouche: and in the porch to the Golding family: the communion plate includes a chalice, paten and plate of silver, double gilt, presented in 1769 by Mr. Justice Blackstone, who resided at Castle Priory, on the banks of the Thames, within this parish: there are about 220 sittings.


Baptist Chapel, Thames Street

The Baptist chapel, Thames street, erected in 1794, is of stone, and has 350 sittings.

Particular Baptist Chapel, Wood Street

The Particular Baptist chapel, Wood street, is a building of flint and stone, with 160 sittings.


Brethren meeting room, Castle Street

The Brethren have a meeting room in Castle street.


Primitive Methodist Chapel, St. Mary's Street

The Primitive Methodist chapel, St. Mary's street, erected in 1888, is a structure of red brick with stone dressings, and will seat 200 persons.

Wesleyan Chapel, St. Leonard's Square

The Wesleyan chapel, St. Leonard's square, is an edifice of brick, erected in 1870, and has 250 sittings.

Civil Registration

Wallingford was in Wallingford Registration District from 1919 to 1974

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Wallingford from the following:

Land and Property

The Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Berkshire is available to browse.


Online maps of Wallingford are available from a number of sites:

Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following Berkshire papers online:

Villages, Hamlets, &c

Wallingford Castle

Visitations Heraldic

The Visitations of Berkshire 1532, 1566, and 1665-6 is available online.

DistrictSouth Oxfordshire
RegionSouth East
Postal districtOX10
Post TownWallingford