1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Wallingford (England)

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26326631911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 28 — Wallingford (England)

WALLINGFORD, a market town and municipal borough in the Abingdon parliamentary division of Berkshire, England, 51 m. W. by N. of London by the Great Western railway. Pop. (1901) 2808. It is pleasantly situated in the flat valley of the Thames, on the west (right) bank. The railway station is the terminus of a branch line from Cholsey. Of the churches only St Leonard's, retaining some Norman work and rebuilt approximately on its original plan, with an eastern apse, is of interest. The ancient castle has left only its mound and earthworks, and other works may be traced surrounding the town on the landward side. The town hall raised on arches, dates from 1670. The large grammar school was founded in 1659. The trade of the town is principally agricultural, and malting is carried on. The borough is under a mayor, 4 aldermen and 12 councillors. Area, 380 acres.

The site of Wallingford (Warengeford, Walynford, Walyngforth) was occupied by a Romano-British settlement, though the imposing earthworks are of uncertain date—they may be of post-Roman British origin. Wallingford was a fortified town before the Conquest, and, though burned by Sweyn in 1006, was much the largest and most important borough in Berkshire at the time of the Domesday Survey. The new castle was so extensive that eight houses had been demolished to make room for it; the market was already in existence, and perhaps also the gild merchant, which in a charter of Henry II. is said to date back to the reign of the Confessor. In the reign of Henry I. the beginning of decay is marked by the inability of the town “through poverty” to pay its aid. It is said to have suffered greatly from the Black Death, and its decline was accelerated by the building, in the early 15th century, of two bridges near Abingdon, which diverted the main road between London and Gloucester from Wallingford. Periodical reductions in the fee farm show the gradual impoverishment of the town, and in 1636 its assessment for ship-money was only £20, while that of Reading was £220. Wallingford was a royal borough held in the reign of Henry III. by Richard, king of the Romans. Edward III. granted the fee farm to the Black Prince and his successors in the duchy of Cornwall. The earliest charters were given by Henry I. and Henry II., the latter confirming the ancient privileges of the borough, which were to be held as the citizens of Winchester held theirs, and granting to the burgesses freedom from toll throughout his dominions. These charters were confirmed and enlarged by Henry III. in 1267 and by Philip and Mary in 1557–1558. In 1648 the corporation consisted of a mayor, three aldermen, a chamberlain and sixteen burgesses. This constitution was remodelled in 1650 by a charter from Cromwell, but the governing charter until the passing of the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835 was that given by Charles II. in 1663, incorporating the town under the style of a mayor, recorder, town clerk, six aldermen, two burgesses, a chamberlain and eighteen assistants of the better sort of the inhabitants. In 1571 Elizabeth issued letters patent empowering the burgesses of Wallingford to take toll of all carts passing over their bridge, in order to provide for its repair and maintenance. Wallingford sent two members to parliament from 1295 to 1832, and one from 1832 to 1885, when its representation was merged in that of the county: before 1832 the franchise was vested in the inhabitants paying scot and lot. The empress Maud took refuge at Wallingford after her escape from Oxford Castle (1142), and here peace was made between her and Stephen (1153). Wallingford Castle was one of the last fortresses to hold out for Charles I., and during the Commonwealth it was demolished by order of the government. In 1205 the king commanded the sheriff of Oxford to cause a fair to be held at Wallingford at Whitsun for four days, to be continued for three years. In 1227 Swyncombe fair was transferred from the feast of St Botolph to the feast of St Mark in order not to interfere with Wallingford fair. Fairs on the days of St Nicholas and of St John the Baptist were granted by Henry VII. in 1500, and the charter of 1663 provided for two markets and four annual fairs. All the latter have fallen into disuse except the Michaelmas fair, which is principally for hiring servants. During the 18th century the town was fairly prosperous and had a good trade in grain and malt.

See Victoria County History, Berks; T. K. Hedges, The History of Wallingford (London, 1881).