Wantage and District Chamber of Trade, as it was originally known, has a long history dating from the early 1930’s to the current day. The first President being T G Henderson from 1933 to 1950.
The objectives of the Chamber in the early days, as it still is today, included measures to benefit and protect the trading interests of its members, to hold meetings when matters of public interest arose and to support employers in the district of Wantage and popularise the district as a shopping centre.
In addition the Chamber supports entertainment or social functions for the benefit of the Chamber and local charitable organisations.
Over the years many members have benefited from the commradship of like minded people united in efforts to make the commercial life of the town as best it could be.
Today, meetings take place in various locations in and around Wantage. In the 60’s meetings often took place in what used to be the museum, above the old Fire Station, now the Victoria Arcade.
The Chamber has been involved in a variety of events for the town. These have included trade fairs, shopping weeks, Wantage Rejuvenated, and the annual Dickensian evening. For many years the Chamber supplied Christmas trees and lights for the town, even forming a group to set them starting at 5am on a Sunday morning.
Today, as always the Chamber meets on the second Tuesday each month, see our calendar for information. If you would like to find out more about joining the Chamber then please use the contact details here.
Wantage is a market town and civil parish in the Vale of the White Horse, Oxfordshire, England. The town is on Letcombe Brook, about 8 miles (13 km) south-west of Abingdon, a similar distance west of Didcot and 14 miles (23 km) south-west of Oxford.
Historically part of Berkshire, it is notable as the birthplace of King Alfred the Great in 849. In 1974 Berkshire County Council was abolished, and Wantage became part of a considerably enlarged Oxfordshire.
Wantage was once a small Roman settlement but the origin of the toponym is somewhat uncertain. It is generally thought to be from an Old English phrase meaning "decreasing river". King Alfred the Great was born at the royal palace there in the 9th century. Wantage appears in the Domesday Book of 1086. Its value was £61 and it was in the king's ownership until Richard I passed it to the Earl of Albemarle in 1190. Weekly trading rights were first granted to the town by Henry III in 1246. Markets are now held twice weekly on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Royalist troops were stationed in Wantage during the English Civil War.
In the 19th century, Lord Wantage became a notable local and national benefactor. He was very involved in founding the British Red Cross Society. In 1877 he paid for a marble statue of King Alfred by Count Gleichen to be erected in Wantage market place, where it still stands today. He also donated the Victoria Cross Gallery to the town. This contained paintings by Louis William Desanges depicting deeds which led to the award of a number of VCs, including his own gained during the Crimean War. It is now a shopping arcade.
Wantage once had two breweries which were taken over by Morlands of Abingdon. In 1988 the town was thrust into the headlines after a Brass Tacks programme entitled "Shire Wars" exposed the drunken behaviour that plagued the town and surrounding villages at that time.
John Betjeman, Poet Laureate from 1972 to 1984, lived in Wantage and his book Archie and the Strict Baptists is based in the town. Wantage has a memorial park named after him, which includes extracts from his poems in a peaceful wooded area.
Today Wantage has a growing community, with active groups working hard to improve the town for the benefit of the whole community. In 2014 Wantage was nominated for the Government's Great British High Street Award whereby Wantage won the award for Britain's Best Town Centre beating several other towns nominated for the award