Farringdon, Great (All Saints)

FARRINGDON, GREAT (All Saints), a market-town and parish, and the head of a union, chiefly in the hundred of Farringdon, but partly in that of Shrivenham, county of Berks; comprising the chapelry of Little Coxwell, the tythings of Hospital and Wadley, and the hamlet of Littleworth; and containing 3593 inhabitants, of whom 2864 are in the town, 35 miles (W. N. W.) from Reading, and 68 (W. by N.) from London. Here the Saxon kings had a palace, in which Edward the Elder expired. The town acquired some celebrity during the war between the Empress Matilda and Stephen, from a castle erected by Robert, Earl of Gloucester, who defended it for the empress with distinguished bravery, until want of provisions compelled him to surrender, on which Stephen levelled it with the ground. In 1203, the site was granted by King John, for the erection of an abbey for monks of the Cistercian order, which subsequently became a cell to the monastery of Beaulieu, in Hampshire; and in 1218, a charter for a market was obtained by the abbot of Beaulieu. During the civil commotions in the reign of Charles I., Farringdon House was garrisoned for the king, and a large body of the parliamentary forces sustained a repulse before it a short time prior to the reduction of the city of Oxford: it was one of the last places which surrendered.

The town is small, but neat, well built, paved, and lighted, and abundantly supplied with water from a spring called Port-well: it is pleasantly situated in the fertile vale of White Horse, a little more than two miles from the Isis, at the junction of two great roads. Hops are cultivated in the vicinity to a considerable extent. The Isis (or Thames) furnishes a medium for the conveyance of coal from Gloucestershire and Somerset, and other heavy articles from London; and within five miles of the town is a station on the Great Western railway. The market, which is noted for corn, is on Tuesday; and fairs are held on February 13th and Whit-Tuesday, for horses and cattle; on the next Tuesdays before and after Old Michaelmas, which are statute-fairs; and October 29th, for cattle and pigs, which latter are slaughtered here and sold in large quantities. The markethouse, standing in the centre of the town, is a compact building, inclosed by iron-rails. The local affairs are managed by a bailiff, who, together with the constables, is appointed at the manorial court; and the countymagistrates hold petty-sessions every alternate Tuesday, or as occasion may require, at the town-hall. The powers of the county debt-court of Farringdon, established in 1847, extend over the registration-district of Farringdon.

The parish comprises about 4500 acres, of which the soil is principally clay, alternated with marl and sand. The living is a vicarage, formerly a prebend in Salisbury cathedral, but now a lay fee in the peculiar jurisdiction of the lord of the manor, valued in the king's books at £14. 1. 3.; net income, £265; patrons, the Trustees of the late Rev. Charles Simeon; impropriator, W. Bennett, Esq. The church is a spacious cruciform edifice, in the earliest style of English architecture, with a plain tower rising from the intersection, formerly surmounted by a spire, which was partly thrown down during the siege of Farringdon House. In the interior are some ancient monuments, especially one to the memory of Sir Henry Unton, K.G., ambassador to France in the reign of Elizabeth, and who challenged the Duke of Guise for speaking disrespectfully of that queen. An additional church has been erected at Littleworth, and at Little Coxwell is a chapel of ease. There is a place of worship for Baptists. The poor law union of Farringdon comprises 31 parishes or places, of which 27 are in the county of Berks, 3 in that of Oxford, and one in that of Gloucester; and contains a population of 15,582. In the immediate vicinity of the town is Farringdon Hill, rising gradually from the vale, and surmounted by a small grove, which is visible as a landmark at a great distance; it commands a fine view of the rich vale, and of parts of the counties of Oxford, Gloucester, and Wilts. Within the parish, about two miles northward, is Radcot Bridge, an ancient structure, near which a battle was fought in the reign of Richard II., between the insurgent barons under the command of the Earl of Derby, afterwards Henry IV., and Robert de Vere, Marquess of Dublin, the king's favourite, who was defeated, and compelled to swim across the Thames in order to effect his escape: in this battle, Sir William Vaughan and Col. Littleton were taken prisoners, with 200 men. Near the town are the remains of a causeway, supposed to be of Roman origin, but with more probability assigned to the Norman baron, Robert D'Oyley, who is believed to have constructed it soon after the Conquest.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.