Wallingford, Oxfordshire

The Corn Exchange (left), the war memorial (centre), the Town Hall (centre-right) and St Mary-le-More church (right)
Wallingford town council coat of arms.jpg
Wallingford Town Council coat of arms
Wallingford is located in Oxfordshire
 Wallingford shown within Oxfordshire
Population 7,918 (2011 census)[1]
OS grid reference SU6089
   – London  47.5 miles (76.4 km) 
Civil parish Wallingford
District South Oxfordshire
Shire county Oxfordshire
Region South East
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town Wallingford
Postcode district OX10
Dialling code 01491
Police Thames Valley
Fire Oxfordshire
Ambulance South Central
EU Parliament South East England
UK Parliament Wantage
Website Wallingford Town Council

Wallingford is a market town and civil parish in the upper Thames Valley in England. Until 1974 it was in Berkshire, but was transferred to Oxfordshire in that year. The town's royal but mostly ruined Wallingford Castle held high status in the early medieval period as a regular royal residence until the Black Death hit the town badly in 1349. Empress Matilda retreated here for the final time from Oxford Castle in 1141. The castle declined subsequently, much stone being removed to renovate Windsor Castle. Nonetheless the town's Priory produced two of the greatest minds of the age, the mathematician Richard of Wallingford and the chronicler John of Wallingford.


Wallingford is on the west bank of the River Thames downstream of Oxford and lies at the foot of the Chilterns. On the opposite bank are the villages of Crowmarsh Gifford and Newnham Murren, connected to the town by Wallingford Bridge, a 900 ft long medieval stone bridge crossing the river and adjacent flood plain. At southern end of the town, though officially part of the parish of Cholsey is the settlement of Winterbrook. The town bypass crosses the river to the southwest over Winterbrook Bridge.

Character and local government

Castle Street and High Street corner

The centre of Wallingford has the feel of a typical old market town, with a large open town square around the war memorial, the 17th century arcaded town hall, and numerous shops. There are some alleyways and a number of historic inns.[2] Although only a small town, Wallingford has three ancient churches within the Parish of St Mary-le-More and St Leonard, a modern Roman Catholic church as well as a Quaker Meeting House dating from 1724 and Baptist, Methodist and Community churches. It once had 14 churches. Amenities include the Wallingford Museum, the Corn Exchange theatre, the Cholsey and Wallingford steam railway, public parks - one with the castle ruins. A blues festival, the annual BunkFest folk festival and a carnival are popular annual events. In recent years, the town has been used as a location for filming, notably Midsomer Murders which has also featured the Parish Church Choir. Wallingford is run by a town council consisting of 16 councillors. It is part of the South Oxfordshire district and the county of Oxfordshire having formerly been represented by the Municipal Borough of Wallingford. The current Mayor is Jane Titchener and the county councillor is Lynda Atkins, one of four Independent members of Oxfordshire County Council.


As with the rest of the British Isles and Oxfordshire, Wallingford experiences a maritime climate with cool summers and mild winters. There has been a weather station at the nearby Centre for Ecology & Hydrology collecting data on the local climate since 1961. Temperature extremes at Wallingford vary from −21.0 °C (−5.8 °F) in January 1982,[3] up to 35.2 °C (95.4 °F) in July 2006.[4] Recent low temperature's include −17.6 °C (0.3 °F) during January 2010[5] and −17.5 °C (0.5 °F) during December 2010.[6]

Climate data for Wallingford 67m asl, 1971-2000, Extremes 1960- (Sunshine Benson 1961-2000)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 14.8
Average high °C (°F) 7.0
Average low °C (°F) 1.2
Record low °C (°F) −21.0
Average precipitation mm (inches) 56.36
Mean monthly sunshine hours 52.7 67.8 114.7 150.0 198.4 201.0 210.8 192.2 147.0 102.3 66.0 46.5 1,549.4
Source #1: Royal Dutch Meteorological Institute[7]
Source #2: RMets[8]


Wallingford grew up around an important crossing point of the River Thames. The place has been fortified since at least Anglo-Saxon times, when it was an important fortified borough of Wessex with the right to mint Royal coinage. It was enclosed with substantial earthworks by King Alfred the Great in the 9th century as part of a network of fortified towns known as burhs or "burghs" to protect Wessex against the Vikings. These defences can still be clearly discerned as a group of four roughly square areas around the centre of the town and are probably the best preserved such fortifications in England. Wallingford became the chief town of Berkshire and the seat of the county's Ealdorman. During the Norman conquest of England in 1066, the Anglo-Saxon lord Wigod allowed William the Conqueror's invading armies to cross the Thames unopposed from west to east in order that his army might march on Berkhamsted, where he received the English surrender before marching on London. At that time, the river at Wallingford was the lowest point at which the river could be forded. The town subsequently stood in high favour with the Normans. The Domesday Book of 1085 lists Wallingford as one of only 18 towns in the kingdom with a population of over 2,000 people.

Ruins in the Wallingford Castle Gardens

Wallingford Castle was built soon afterwards and became a key strategic centre for the Empress Matilda's party during the civil war that began after her father Henry I's death. After the fall of Oxford Castle to Stephen in 1141, Matilda fled to Wallingford, according to some historic accounts in the snow under a moonlit sky.[9] As such the place was besieged a number of times and the Treaty of Wallingford ending the conflict was concluded there in November 1153. The town was granted a Royal Charter in 1155 by the new king, Henry II, being the second town in England to receive one. The castle was a regular royal residence until the Black Death hit the town badly in 1349. The castle declined subsequently, much stone being removed to renovate Windsor Castle, but it became a Royalist stronghold during the English Civil War. It was the last holdout of the Royalists in Berkshire, and the castle withstood a 65-day siege. Oliver Cromwell subsequently ordered the destruction of what was left of the castle and little now remains. Some of the castle rubble was used to construct a tower for the church of St Mary-le-More.

Wallingford flourished as a trading centre throughout most of the Middle Ages, and Wallingford Priory produced two of the greatest minds of the age, the mathematician Richard of Wallingford and the chronicler John of Wallingford. After the opening of Abingdon Bridge in 1416 the town went into economic decline. This was only revived in the 18th century when the legal writer and Wallingford resident, William Blackstone, established two turnpike roads through the town. The brewing industry was important with two breweries and 17 maltings in the town. This link was ended with the demolition of Paul's Malt in 2001.

On 9 September 1944 a Halifax bomber of No. 426 Squadron RCAF, returning from an abandoned raid over the French port of Le Havre whilst still carrying a full bomb load, caught fire over Wallingford after its port outer engine exploded. Ordering most of his crew to bail out, the pilot, Flying Officer John Archibald Wilding, and his flight engineer, Sergeant John Frank Andrew, remained at the controls in order to steer the plane away from the town, crashing into the fields at Newnham Murren and thus preventing loss of many civilian lives. Both Wilding and Andrew were Mentioned in Dispatches for their bravery with Wilding being posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. They are commemorated by a memorial at the junction of Wilding Road and Andrew Road in Wallingford and by the Canadian flag that is flown over Wallingford Town Hall every year on 9 September in their memory.[10]



Thames as seen from Wallingford Bridge

The River Thames has been a transport route for centuries and Wallingford's growth as a town relied partly on it. Coal was supplied from North East England by coaster to London and then by barge upriver to Wallingford. This supply could be unreliable in seasons when river currents were too strong or water levels were too low. In 1789 the Oxford Canal reached Oxford from Warwickshire and the Duke's Cut at Wolvercote gave it a connection to the Thames.[11] This allowed coal from the Midlands to reach Wallingford by a shorter and more reliable route than by sea and river from the northeast. In 1799 the Oxford Canal consolidated its commercial position by buying an eighty year lease on a wharf on the Thames just above Wallingford Bridge.[12] Chalmore Lock, a summer or low-water lock and weir, was built at Chalmore Hole, Wallingford in 1838, However, much of the time the fall was only 18 inches, and the lock was open at both ends. It fell into disrepair, and the lock was removed in 1883. The missing lock is the subject of confusion in Jerome K. Jerome's "Three Men in a Boat". A ferry had operated at the site from 1787 to transport horses across the river where the towpath changed banks. As the removal of the lock and weir meant that this was the longest clear stretch of the upper river, it was an ideal site for rowing, and so the Oxford University Boat Club which had long trained here built a boathouse at Chalmore in 2006. In addition to the old Wallingford Bridge, a new bridge was built at Winterbrook in 1993 to carry the A4130 bypass around Wallingford.


On 2 July 1866, the Wallingford and Watlington Railway was opened between Cholsey and Wallingford. Its relative speed and reliability enabled it to take a large share of freight previously carried on the Thames. Unfortunately, two months earlier, in May 1866, the Overend, Gurney & Co bank had crashed causing one of the severest financial crises of the nineteenth century. The Bank Rate was raised to 10%, making it impossible for the W&WR to raise the capital for its planned continuation to Watlington, Oxfordshire. The company sold the line to the Great Western Railway in 1872, and it became known as the "Wallingford Bunk". British Railways closed the line to passengers in 1959 and to goods traffic in 1965, but the track between Hithercroft Road and Cholsey continued in use to serve the maltings (now demolished) until 1981 when BR removed the junction at Cholsey. However, the line has been preserved as the Cholsey and Wallingford Railway.[13]

Presently, the closest regular railway station to Wallingford is in Cholsey, about three miles away.


Bus services for the town are operated by Thames Travel, including:

There are other local services to Benson and then Henley or Abingdon; Streatley and Goring; and Cholsey.


Waitrose branch

The main employers based in the town are primarily on the Hithercroft Trading Estate, established in the 1970s. These include Rowse Honey,[14] Royal Mail and Fugro. To the south east of the town is the headquarters for the non-profit agricultural organisation CABI.

Sport and leisure

A.F.C. Wallingford is the local Association Football club. Wallingford has also a Rugby Football Club,[15] Hockey Club,[16] Rowing Club,[17] Cricket Club[18] and Tennis Club.[19] All of these clubs are based at a large multi-purpose sports facility called Hithercroft Sports Park, located on the edge of town. Hithercroft is also home to a squash club. The extensive clubhouse houses changing rooms, several bars/function rooms and a skittles alley.


The town has a primary school: St John's; a junior school: Fir Tree; and an infant school: St Nicholas's. Wallingford School is the secondary school in the area, to the north of the town, which is the successor to Wallingford Grammar School, founded 1659. The majority of pupils from both Fir Tree and St John's continue to Wallingford School. Wallingford School also draws pupils from Crowmarsh, Brightwell, Cholsey and Warborough primary schools and rarely Didcot primary schools.

Town twinning

Wallingford has formal town twinning links with Luxeuil-les-Bains, France and Bad Wurzach, Germany; and informal links with Wallingford, Connecticut, United States.

In 2009 the town requested an end to the twinning relationship with Luxeuil-les-Bains following several years of non-contact.[20][21] The request prompted a renewal of the relationship.[22]

Wallingford School pupils take part in the German exchange programme with the school in Bad Wurzach.


In the British TV series, Sorry starring Ronnie Corbett, the exterior town scenes were filmed in Wallingford. Corbett's character, Timothy, drank in the Dolphin Public House. Also the Christmas special Professor Branestawm starring Harry Hill was filmed mainly in Wallingford. Some scenes for the television detective drama Midsomer Murders were filmed in Wallingford, which poses as the fictional town of Causton.

Notable people

In the town:

Wallingford used to return two Members of Parliament (cut to one in 1832 and none in 1885), and had some well-known MPs (often not resident) including:


  1. ^ "Wallingford (Oxfordshire) Built-up Area Subdivision". City Population. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 25 July 2013. 
  2. ^ "Wallingford History Gateway". Sites.google.com. Retrieved 2 December 2011. 
  3. ^ "1982 temperature". KNMI. 
  4. ^ "2006 temperature". KNMI. 
  5. ^ "Jan 2010 temp". KNMI. 
  6. ^ "Dec 2010 temp". KNMI. 
  7. ^ "Wallingford Climate". KNMI. Retrieved 11 Nov 2011. 
  8. ^ "Benson Sunshine". RMetS. Retrieved 11 Nov 2011. 
  9. ^ The Borough of Wallingford: Introduction and Castle, A History of the County of Berkshire: Volume 3 (1923), pp. 517–531, accessed 26 April 2011.
  10. ^ Fleming, Rob (2006). "The Wallingford Story". RCAF 426 (Thunderbird) Squadron Association. Retrieved 4 August 2013. 
  11. ^ Compton, 1976, page 52
  12. ^ Compton, 1976, pages 65-66
  13. ^ "History". Cholsey and Wallingford Railway. Retrieved 8 April 2007. 
  14. ^ "Rowse Honey". Rowse Honey. 18 November 2011. Retrieved 2 December 2011. 
  15. ^ "Wallingford Rugby Football Club". Wallingfordrfc.com. 13 November 2011. Retrieved 2 December 2011. 
  16. ^ Wallingford Hockey Club
  17. ^ "Wallingford Rowing Club". Wallingford.rowing.org.uk. Retrieved 2 December 2011. 
  18. ^ "Wallingford Cricket Club". Communigate.co.uk. Retrieved 2 December 2011. 
  19. ^ Portcullis Tennis Club
  20. ^ [1]
  21. ^ [2]
  22. ^ [3]

Sources and further reading