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Fortified Town of Fluctuating Fortunes


King William the Conqueror fording the Thames at Wallingford -  Nash Ford Publishing

 

  • Wallingford was a small Romano-British settlement. It grew up around an important crossing on the River Thames. The name means 'Welsh People's Ford'. Welsh is a Saxon word for the Romano-British.

  • In the 9th century, the Saxon King, Alfred the Great, beat the Vikings who had invaded Wessex. To make sure they could not return, he built lots of forts or 'burghs'. There was one at Wallingford. You can still see its banks and ditches today.

  • The burgh grew into an important trading town. It was the capital or 'county town' of Berkshire. The Ealdorman lived there. It had 14 churches!

  • King William the Conqueror invaded England in 1066. His army was unable to cross the River Thames at London. Lord Wigod let them cross at Wallingford. Important people, like the Archbishop of Canterbury, came and saw William in the town and told him they accepted him as their new King.

  • Wigod's son-in-law built a castle at Wallingford. It was an important base for the Empress Matilda during the Civil War with her cousin, King Stephen. It was besieged 3 times.

  • Wallingford flourished during the medieval period. It had a stone bridge carrying the the main road from London to Gloucester. Its shops and merchants became very rich.

  • In 1416, the people of Abingdon built their own bridge and the road was moved. Wallingford wasn't so popular any more. The two towns hated each other and there were lots of fights.

  • The King's men held the castle during the English Civil War and they kept two big cannons in the town. General Cromwell beat them after a long siege.

  • In the 18th century, a famous judge called Sir William Blackstone came to live in Wallingford. He helped the town become rich again by getting two 'turnpike' roads built through it. Roads were very muddy and bumpy in those days, but you could pay to ride on good 'turnpikes'.

 

    Nash Ford Publishing 2004. All Rights Reserved. This location is now administered by Oxfordshire County Council.