Wantage Parish

The Parish of Wantage

Welcome to the Parish of Wantage...

We are a Church of England parish serving the people of our wonderful market town in Oxfordshire.

Standing within the Catholic tradition of the Church of England we offer our worship to God in the beauty of holiness as we seek to follow and serve Jesus Christ in our daily lives. We look forward to welcoming you to an event or service soon.

We have two churches within the parish: the imposing medieval Parish Church of SS. Peter and Paul in the centre of town and the Edwardian daughter church of Holy Trinity, Charlton.

The parish church is an imposing and ancient building just off the market place in Wantage. Dean Butler, the illustrious Victorian reformer, was our most famous vicar of the past, and John Betjeman worshipped here.

Holy Trinity, Charlton C. late 1800's

Ss. Peter & Paul. Parish Church C. late 1800's

Wantage Parish Church, dedicated to Saints Peter & Paul.

By Dick Peters

There has been a place of Christian Worship on this site for over 1300 years but the building we see today dates largely from the thirteenth century. However, like many medieval buildings it has undergone many alterations and changes of fortune in its history, from the splendour of early liturgy through years of puritanism and apathy, and the neglect and decay of the eighteenth century.

The church is cruciform in shape with a robust tower in the crossing. It is interesting to note that a careful look from West to East reveals that the Chancel is not quite in line with the Nave (it goes off to the North slightly) The Nave has thirteenth century arcades and pillars except for the last bay at the West End. This is because the architect William Butterfield extended the Nave by one bay in 1881 by taking down and rebuilding the West wall and the South West porch because the church was deemed to be too small.

The central tower dating from the 13th century contains a ring of eight bells with the heaviest (Tenor) bell weighing just over 21cwt or 1159 kilograms The oldest bell was cast in 1669 (just three years after the Great Fire of London). An even older call bell dates from 1609

The clock was added by public subscription in 1897 to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. It chimes the Westminster Chimes and, every third hour a carillon plays a hymn tune known as Angel Song by Orlando Gibbons.

The nave roof is of 15th century, of hammer beam construction with interesting corbels one of which is an animal rather than human. The addition of clerestory windows at high level in the 15th century, called for the roof pitch to be changed from the original the line of which can still be seen on the tower wall.

The nave once contained galleries which have long since been removed. A Rood Loft in front of the tower was also removed although the outline of an access door can still be seen on the tower staircase.

In the centre of the nave hangs a 24 candle chandelier dating from 1711.

The base of the font is late thirteenth century with a later bowl and the canopy was added by Butterfield in the 1800's.

The Chancel was subjected to a major re-design by the architect G E Street in 1895. On the North side is the Fitzwaryn tomb to Sir William and Amica Fitzwaryn, parents of Sir Ivo who was the Father in Law of Sir Richard (Dick) Whittington of pantomime fame. There is a brass of Sir Ivo on the North transept wall.

The Chancel contains eighteen 15th Century choir stalls with misericords which were the largest parish church set in the old county of Berkshire. Some of which are finely carved

There is a second smaller chandelier dating from 1709.

To the South of the Chancel are two 15th century chapels, one is the Lady Chapel, where weekday Masses are said and where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved for administration to the sick. The other is the Holy Souls Chapel where Requiem Masses are still celebrated from time to time. This area was restored by Bodley in 1895 in memory of Butler (Vicar of Wantage 1847-1881).

To the North of the Chancel is the Fitzwaryn chantry, also 15th century. This space in its present form was largely created as a result of the most recent re-ordering of the church in the late 1990's when the organ was removed from the South side of the choir and re-built in a new oak case at the West end of the nave together with a new set of choir stalls. At this time, the church was re-decorated with a new lighting system and facilities such as a kitchen area and storage cupboards.

He stained glass windows are mainly Victorian. An exception is the small window above the South-west porch which contains two 15th century figures, St Stephen and a Bishop

Although the church is a fine building it has to be seen to provide for worship in modern times. In the mid19th century, the church and the parish were in a very poor state. The Town was even known as Black Wantage. In 1847 a brilliant young vicar, William Butler, was appointed who worked tirelessly to improve both the town and the church. He was a supporter of the Oxford Movement or Tractarians promoting the High Church or Anglo-Catholic style of worship which is still our tradition today supported by a strong musical tradition with a very competent choir.

The church provides a venue in the town for concerts and is used by the Wantage Choral Society and the Wantage Orchestra on frequent occasions.

Churches have always adapted to accommodate changing styles of worship. Wantage and its lively congregation are no exception to this and so we have a nave altar and associated furniture at the front of the nave to better involve congregations with the liturgy. We extend a warm welcome to new faces at services from all whether resident in the town or just visiting.