Abingdon Berkshire Family History Guide

River Thames at Abingdon, Oxfordshire (formerly Berkshire), with the Church of England parish church of St Helen and its 13th century steeple in the background by Motmit. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

River Thames at Abingdon, Oxfordshire (formerly Berkshire), with the Church of England parish church of St Helen and its 13th century steeple in the background by Motmit. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.


Abingdon St Helen with St Nicholas is an Ancient Parish and a market town in the county of Berkshire. Drayton and Radley are chapelries of Abingdon St Helen with St Nicholas.

Other places in the parish include: Cholswell, Norcott, Shippen, Sandford, Pumney, Barton, Cholsall, Shippon, Northcourt, Barton Farm, and Northcot.

Parish church:

Parish registers begin:

  • Abingdon St Helen with St Nicholas: 1538
  • Abingdon St Nicholas: 1538

Nonconformists include: Baptist, Independent/Congregational, Particular Baptist, Presbyterian, Primitive Methodist, Society of Friends/Quaker, and Wesleyan Methodist.

Parishes adjacent to Abingdon St Helen with St Nicholas

  • Radley
  • Sunningwell
  • Besselsleigh
  • Culham
  • Marcham
  • Sutton Courtenay
  • Wootton

Historical Descriptions

Abingdon

The Parliamentary Gazetteer of England and Wales 1851

Abingdon, A burgh and market-town, having separate jurisdiction, in the hund, of Hormer, union of Abingdon, county of Berks; 55½ miles west-north-west of London; 25 north-west of Reading; 6 from Oxford; and 14 by water from Wallingford. It is 4 miles north of the Great Western railway, and on the post-road from Henley-on-Thames to Faringdon.

Ecclesiastical affairs.] — Abingdon is divided into the two parishes of St. Nicholas and St. Helen. The latter includes the townships of Northcourt, Sandford, Barton, and Shippon, which are without the limits of the burgh. The former is a sinecure rectory; rated at £7, and in the parliamentary returns at £18 18s. 6d.; gross income £30. Patron, the Crown. The living of St. Helen is a discharged vicarage, formerly in the archd. of Berks and dio. of Salisbury, now in the dio. of Oxford; rated at £29 15s. 3d. ; gross income £225. Patron, the Crown. The church of St. Nicholas is a very ancient structure. According to Leland, it was “of old tyme, the chefe paroche-churche of Abingdon, but (when he wrote) the gretyst resort of all the towne was to St. Helens.” The Baptists, Quakers, Congregationalists, and Wesleyan Methodists, have chapels in this town. Of these, the Baptist church in Ock street was founded in 1640. — The free grammar-school was founded in 1563 by John Roysse, citizen and mercer of London, for the educating of 63 children, natives of Abingdon. It is entitled to four exhibitions at Pembroke college, Oxford, and has received further donations, especially from Thomas Tesdale, Esq., which render its entire annual revenue £322 11s. 3d. The master has a house and salary of about £74 a-year. — In 1676, Robert Mayott bequeathed property to the corporation, now let at £120 per annum, in trust, for educating poor children in this borough. Several other mortifications for a like purpose were made in the course of the last and preceding century. There are one National and one British school attended by about 400 children. A horticultural and a philanthropic society have recently been formed here.

“An abbey of five hundred monks,” says Tanner in his ‘Notitia Monastica,’ “is said to nave been here in the time of the Britons, or Romans, where in Constantine the Great had his education; but it is more certain, that pretty early in the Saxon times, a small monastery was founded in Bagley-wood, upon a hill called Abendune, 4 miles nearer Oxford than the present town of that name. Not prospering there, it was removed to a place lower down upon the river Thames, then named Sevkisham, since Abingdon. This religious house being destroyed in the Danish wars, was, A. D. 955, restored by the care of Ethelwald, its abbot, afterwards bishop of Wincester. The monks were of the order of St. Benedict; numerous benefactions contributed to raise it to the highest rank among the monastic institutions of the kingdom; it became one of the mitred abbeys, and the landed property belonging to the abbot and convent was so extensive that, so early as the time of the Norman survey, they possessed above 30 manors in the county of Berks, besides others which they held as lords of the see; and their revenues were valued, 26° Henry VIII., at £1,876 10s. 9d. per annum, according to the clear valuation printed by Sir William Dugdale, at the end of the first volume of the ‘Monastieon;’ but, according to the gross valuation in Mr. Speed, at £2,042 2s. 8d. ob. q. per annum.” According to Godwin, Geoffrey of Monmouth, the monkish historian, was abbot of Abingdon; and his remains are said to have been entombed in the abbey here, whence they were translated to St. Helen’s church. He died in 1417. Scarcely any remains of the abbey are now observable. Leland, however, describes it as being, in his times, a very magnificent building, and even when Camden wrote it exhibited obvious marks of its ancient grandeur. Richard Symons, who visited Abingdon in 1644, and whose manuscripts are in the Harleian collection, says: “Farther eastward, and near adjoining to the church (St. Nicholas) still remaine part of the abbey, and much of the ruynes towards the river.” The site of this abbey was granted, 1° Edward VI., to Sir Thomas Scimoc; and 5° Edward VI., to Sir Thomas Wroth. The hospital of St. Helen here, was founded by Geoffrey Barbour and Sir John de St. Helena, in the reign of Henry V. — Sir John Mason, one of the masters of requests, and a native of this place, obtained the lands of this hospital, and therewith founded the present hospital, called Christ’s hospital, on the 19th of May, 1553, for the maintenance of 13 poor men and women. Christ’s hospital consists of a long range of apartments, with cloisters in front, and a turret and dome in the centre — Geoffrey Barbour bequeathed 50 marks for the marriage-portions of 10 poor women, all his wood and coals to be divided among his poor neighbours, and the rest of his estate for the relief of the poor and the repair of highways. Sir Peter Besils, who flourished about the same time, bequeathed money and divers fair manors and lordships as portions to marry maidens. He founded also a college of White monks at Oxford, and gave £600 to repair any wrong that he or any of his ancestors had done to any one; and what was not claimed on that score he gifted to the poor. — The hospital of St. John the Baptist, without the abbey-gate, over against St. Nicholas’ church, is said by Leland to have been founded by one of the abbots. It is yet in being, under the government of the mayor and aldermen, who maintain therein six poor people. The hospital of St. John was rebuilt by the corporation in 1801, in the Vineyard; and in 1826, E. Beasley added £600 to its endowments A third hospital was erected here in 1707, by Charles Twitty, and farther endowed with £600, in 1825, by E. Beasley, and by J. Bedwell and Samuel Cripp, for the maintenance of 3 men and 3 women; a fourth in 1781, for 3 men and 15 women, with the surplus funds of Christ’s hospital; and, in 1823, F. Klein bequeathed £1,000 for behoof of the poor in Abingdon. Besides these, there is a range of handsome alms-houses in Ock street, built by the late B. Tomkins, Esq., for dissenters.

Town, trade, &c] — The town of Abingdon is pleasantly situated at the influx of the Ock into the Thames; and consists of several large streets diverging from the market-place. The market-house is a spacious and elegant building, erected in 1678, with a commodious county-hall, in which the Nisi Prius court is held at the summer-assizes. The county- bridewell is a handsome stone edifice in the parish of St. Helen, erected in 1811-12, at an expense of £26,000. Number of cells 84. Total expense in 1836, £849. It includes a chapel and a court-house, in which the summer-assizes and county-sessions are held. The assizes are held alternately at Reading and Abingdon, and the prisoners for trial are conveyed from the one place to the other, as it happens. The petty-sessions are held at Abingdon for the division of Abingdon. The town of Abingdon received a charter in 3° and 4° Philip and Mary, 1557. The old corporation consisted of a mayor, 12 principal burgesses, and 16 secondary burgesses. The mayor had a salary of £150. Under the 5° and 6° William IV. c. 76, a commission of the peace has been granted to Abingdon, and a court of quarter-sessions appointed. The style of the corporate body — which now consists of a mayor, 4 aldermen, and 12 councillors — is, ‘The mayor, bailiffs, and burgesses of the borough of Abingdon.’ The town sends one member to parliament, who is chosen by all the inhabitants paying scot and lot; the mayor is the returning officer. The number of parliamentary electors, on the register in 1837, was 324; of municipal electors, 275; and the borough has usually been considered as an open and unshackled one. Amount of assessed taxes, in 1830, £1,355 5s. 9d. Average annual revenue of the borough, £750 ; expenditure £600. The corporation has no debt. The principal trades now carried on in Abingdon, are those of malting and carpeting. Leland refers to a considerable manufactory of clothing as carried on at Abingdon, and indeed says expressly that the town “standeth by clothing;” but this had declined even before the time of Queen Mary. During the late war, it was a place of considerable trade in sail-cloth and sackings; but owing to the competition of the establishments in the north of England and in Scotland, this source of employment has materially diminished. The sacking manufactory, however, is again on the increase, the poor rates of the burgh are decreasing, and the general prospects of the town are improving. The market-days are Monday, chiefly for corn, and Friday, which latter, however, is rather a nominal market-day, or the day when corn sold on the Monday is delivered. Fairs for horses and horned cattle are held on the first Monday in Lent, the 6th of May, 20th June, 5th August, 19th September, Monday before old Michaelmas, statute, and the 11th December. Races are held here in September. — From its connection, by canal navigation, with Bath, London, and Bristol, this town is well calculated for inland traffic A branch railway is contemplated betwixt this place and the Great Western railway, which it will join in the parish of Didcott. Pop., in 1801, 4,356; in 1831, 5,259. Houses 1,206. Acres 3,930. A. P. £9,023. Poor rates, in 1837, £1,911 — The Abingdon poor-law union embraces a district of 77 square miles, containing 38 parishes, with a population, in 1831, of 16,674. The average annual expenditure for the poor in this district during the three years preceding the union, was £14,467; expenditure, in 1838, £8,335. A work-house has lately been erected at Abingdon for this union, at an expense of about £8,500.

History.] — Abingdon was a city of considerable importance in the time of the Britons, and distinguished as a royal residence. By the Saxons it was called Scheovesham; and the learned annotator on Camden supposes it to be the place called, in the Saxon Chronicle, Cloveshoo, where two synods were held in 742 and 822. The ‘old book of Abendon,’ a manuscript in the Cottonian library, says, that “Shovesham was, in ancient times, a famous city goodly to behold, full of riches, encompassed with very fruitful fields, green meadows, spacious pastures, and flocks of cattle abounding with milk: that the king kept his court here; and hither people resorted whilst consultations were depending about the greatest and most weighty affairs of the kingdom.” During the civil wars it was garrisoned by the king till the retreat of the royal forces to Oxford in 1644, when Waller’s army entered it, and committed many excesses. It gives the title of earl to the family of Bertie. It was the birth-place of Sir John Mason, ambassador at the court of France, and of the late Lord Colchester.

Source: The Parliamentary Gazetteer of England and Wales; A Fullarton & Co. Glasgow; 1851.

River Thames, Abingdon: St Helen's Wharf and Church. The 150-foot spire of the 14th century church was re-built 'out of perpendicular' in the mid-19th century. The copyright on this image is owned by Dr Neil Clifton and is licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license.

River Thames, Abingdon: St Helen's Wharf and Church. The 150-foot spire of the 14th century church was re-built 'out of perpendicular' in the mid-19th century. The copyright on this image is owned by Dr Neil Clifton and is licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license.

Leonard’s Gazetteer of England and Wales 1850

Abingdon, on the Isis, 56 m. N.W. London, 25 m. N.W. Reading. Mrkt., Mon. and Fri. P. 5530.

Source: Leonard’s Gazetteer of England and Wales; Second Edition; C. W. Leonard, London; 1850

Abingdon Berkshire Lewis Topographical Dictionary of England 1845

Abingdon, a borough and market-town, having exclusive jurisdiction,  and the head of a union, locally in the hundred of HORMER, county of BERKS, of which it is the county town, 6 miles (S.) from Oxford, 26 (N. W. by N.)  from  Reading, and 56 (W.N. W.) from London ; containing, exclusively of that part of the parish  of St. Helen which is in the hundred of Hormer, 5585 inhabitants; of which number 4947 are in the parish of St. Helen, and 638 in that of St. Nicholas. This place, according to a manuscript  in the Cottonian library, quoted  by Dugdale, was, in the time of the Britons, a city of considerable  importance,   and  distinguished  as  a  royal residence, to which the people resorted to assist at the great councils of the nation. By the Saxons it was called Scovechesham, or  Sewsham,  but  acquired the name of Abbendon, “ the town of the abbey,” on the removal hither,   in  680,   of a  monastic   institution  previously founded at Bagley Wood, now an extra-parochial liberty in the vicinity, by Cissa, viceroy of Centwine, ninth king of Wessex, on which Ceadwalla, his son and successor, bestowed the town and its appendages. After the establishment of the monastery, Offa, King of Mercia, on a visit to Abingdon, was so much pleased with the situation, that he erected a palace here, in which he and his immediate successors, Egferth and Cenwulf, occasionally resided. The monastery continued to flourish till 871, when it was destroyed by the Danes; in consequence of which, Edred, grandson of Alfred, in 955, laid the first stone of a new monastery, which was completed after his death by the abbot Ethelwold, and his successor Ordgar, and which, from the extent of its endowments and privileges, subsequently augmented by Edgar and Canute the Great, was raised to the dignity of a mitred abbey. William the Conqueror celebrated the festival of Easter at Abingdon, in 1084, where he was sumptuously entertained by Robert D’Oilly, one of the most powerful barons of the time, under whose care he left his son Henry to be educated in this convent, where the prince imbibed those acquirements which afterwards procured for him the surname of Beauderc. At the dissolution, the revenue of the abbey was £1876. 10. 9.  A nunnery was also founded here by Cilia, niece of Cissa, over which she presided till her death, when   it was removed to Witham : its site was afterwards given, by Edward  VI., to Christ’s  hospital  in this town. The Guild of the Holy Cross was instituted in St. Helen’s church prior to the reign of Richard II., and appears to have  been refounded in that of Henry V., when the brethren erected bridges at Burford and Culhamford, where the ferry across the river was so dangerous that passengers and cattle were frequently lost: it was dissolved in 1547, at which period its revenue amounted to £85. 15. 6., and, in 1553, was appropriated to the endowment of Christ’s hospital. In the early part of the civil war of the seventeenth century, Charles I. garrisoned Abingdon, where he established the head-quarters of his cavalry ; but on the retreat of the royal forces to Oxford, in 1644, the Earl of Essex took possession of it, and garrisoned it for the parliament; and, a few days afterwards, Waller’s army,  which had been stationed near Wantage, entered  this  town, and  among other excesses  destroyed  the cross in the market-place, at which, in 1641, the accommodation with the Scots was celebrated by 2000 choristers : this cross is particularly noticed by Camden for its beauty, and was the model of one afterwards erected at   Coventry.    Sir   Stephen Hawkins, in 1645, and Prince Rupert, in the following year, attacked the garrison unsuccessfully : on these occasions the defenders put every Irish prisoner to death, without trial, whence the expression “ Abingdon law.”

The TOWN, which is pleasantly situated at the influx of the small river Ock into the Thames, is handsomely built, and consists of several spacious streets diverging from the market place ; it is also well paved and lighted, under a local act of the 6th of George IV., and is amply supplied with water. The several bridges near the town have been widened and improved by voluntary contributions, and the causeway connected with Culham bridge forms a pleasant promenade. An act for inclosing lands was passed in 1841. Races take place here in September, at which time assemblies are held in the council-chamber. The manufacture of woollen goods was formerly carried on to a great extent, but has quite declined; and during the late war it had a good trade in sail-cloth, sacking, and coarse manufactures of a similar description; but, owing to the competition of the establishments in the north of England and in Scotland, this source of employment has also declined. The trade now consists in corn and in malt, and is carried on to a considerable extent. Several wharfs and warehouses have been constructed, where the Wilts and Berks canal joins the Thames, near its confluence with the Ock. The market-days are Monday, chiefly for corn (of which a large quantity is sold), and Friday, for provision only: fairs for horses and horned cattle are held on the first Monday in Lent, May 6th, June 20th, Aug. 5th, Sept. 19th, the Monday before Old Michaelmas day (a statute fair), Monday after Oct. 12th (a great market), and Dec. 11th; and there is also a fair for wool.

The BOROUGH was incorporated by Philip and Mary in 1555-6, and subsequent charters were granted by Elizabeth, James 1., and George III., chiefly confirmatory of the original, by which the corporation was styled the “ Mayor, Bailiffs, and Burgesses of the borough of Abingdon;” but the corporation is now, under the Municipal Act of 1836, styled the “ Mayor, Aldermen, and Burgesses,” which has been adopted as the motto of their new seal; and consists of a mayor, 4 aldermen, and 12 councillors: the burgesses are about 300 in number, and the mayor, late mayor, and recorder, with four others, are justices for the borough, of which the municipal and parliamentary boundaries are the same. A court of sessions is held quarterly, with jurisdiction over felonies and misdemeanors; a court of record for the recovery of debts not exceeding £10 takes place every Tuesday, on which day the magistrates hold also a petty-session ; and courts leet and view of frankpledge are held by the mayor within a month after Easter and Michaelmas. The old borough gaol has been converted into a police station-house and other uses, and the borough justices have the privilege of committing prisoners to the county bridewell; the prisoners, however, being supported out of the borough rate. The town returns a member to parliament: the elective franchise is vested in the inhabitants paying scot and lot and not receiving alms; and the mayor is the returning officer. The members for the county are elected at Abingdon; and the county magistrates hold a petty-session on alternate Mondays for the Abingdon division. The market-house is a spacious and elegant building of freestone, erected by the corporation in 1678, having a commodious hall in which the county court and the Nisi Prius court at the assizes are held, and public business connected with the borough or county is transacted. The county bridewell, a handsome stone edifice, erected in 1811, at an expense of £26,000, comprises a neat court-house, in which the crown court at the summer assizes and the July county sessions are held ; the October sessions take place here and at Reading alternately.

Abingdon comprises the parishes of ST. HELEN and ST. NICHOLAS ; the former including, in the out-parish; part of the townships of Shippon and Northcourt and the whole of Sandford, Barton, and Pumney; and the latter, the remainder of Shippon and Northcourt, also some lands in Stunningwell arid Bayworth, which are all without the limits of the borough. The living of St. Helen’s is a vicarage, with that of St. Nicholas and the chapelry of Drayton annexed, valued in the king’s books at £29. 11. 3., and having a net income of £225; it is in the patronage of the Crown, and the impropriation belongs to the Crown and others. The church is a handsome structure, in the early English style, with a square embattled tower, surmounted by a lofty spire. In addition to the annexed vicarage, there is also a discharged sinecure rectory belonging to the parish of St. Nicholas, and in the patronage of the Crown; net income £30. The church of St. Nicholas, built about the close of the thirteenth, or commencement of the fourteenth, century, has some remains of Norman architecture. Mr. Wrigglesworth left lands and tenements, in Abingdon, for the support of a lecture in St. Helen’s church, to be delivered every Saturday evening from Michaelmas to Lady-day, and at the church at Marcham (a village two miles and a half distant) on every Sunday morning from Lady-day till Michaelmas. There are places of worship for Baptists, the Society of Friends, Independents, and Wesleyans. The Free Grammar school, for the education of “ Threescore and thirteen” boys was founded in 1563, by John Royse, and endowed with two messuages in Birchin-lane, London, now occupied by part of the premises belonging to the London Assurance Company. In 1608, William Bennett, of “Marlborowe,” left lands in” Brodeblunsdon” for the maintenance of six poor scholars in Royse’s school, Who are elected by the master and governors of Christ’s hospital in this town, and, from the increase of the funds, are clothed, and instructed also in writing and arithmetic; and in 1609, Thomas Tesdale gave certain lands in the county of Warwick, to maintain an usher, whose salary is £120. 6. per annum. The school is entitled to six scholarships at Pembroke College, Oxford, established by Thomas Tesdale, two to be filled by the founder’s kin, and the others from Abingdon School; and to four more scholarships at the same college, instituted by Richard Wightwick, two for the founder’s kin. Preference is given to boys on Bennett’s foundation, and the master’s private pupils are eligible.
Several bequests have also been left for the education of poor boys and girls in other schools; and a national and a British school are carried on.

Christ’s Hospital, on the west side of St. Helen’s church, erected in 1446, originally belonged to the fraternity of the Holy Cross, on the dissolution of which establishment, in 1547, the inhabitants applied, through Sir John Mason, to King Edward VI., for the restoration of their lost estates, and the foundation of an hospital for the relief of the poor of the town; in compliance with which application that monarch, by letters patent in 1553, founded the hospital under its present name, and incorporated twelve persons for its government, by the name of “ The Master and Governors of the Hospital of Christ.” It consists of almshouses for six poor men and six women and a nurse, with cloisters, and a handsome hall, where prayers are read morning and evening to the inmates. An almshouse was built in 1718, for eighteen men or women; and there is another, near the river Isis, for six men or women, to which Mr. Beasley, in 1826, bequeathed £600 stock, the interest to be paid weekly, and the late Thomas Knight, Esq., in 1836, left £600 three and a half per cents. St. John’s hospital, in the Vineyard, was endowed before the Reformation, for six poor men, and rebuilt by the corporation, in 1801 ; B. Bedwell, Esq., was a liberal contributor to it, and Mr. Beasley added £600 stock to the endowment. An almshouse near St. Helen’s church was erected in 1707, by Charles Twitty, for the maintenance of three men and three women; bequests of £200 each, by John Bedwell, in 1799, and Samuel Cripps, in 1819, and of £600 three per cent, stock by Mr. Beasley, in 1826, have been added to the original endowment. There are also houses for four men and four women, endowed in 1733, by Benjamin Tomkins; and various charitable bequests have been made to the poor of the town. The union of Abingdon comprises 27 parishes or places, in the county of Berks, and 11 in that of Oxford, and contains a population of 18,789. The remains of the abbey consist chiefly of the gateway entrance, which, though greatly mutilated, displays some beautiful details of the later style of English architecture. St. Edmund, Archbishop of Canterbury ; Sir John Mason, British ambassador at the court of France, and Chancellor of the University of Oxford; and the late Lord Colchester, were natives of this place ; which confers the title of Earl on the family of Bertie.

Source: A Topographical Dictionary of England by Samuel Lewis Fifth Edition Published London; by S. Lewis and Co., 13, Finsbury Place, South. M. DCCC. XLV.

The Parliamentary Gazetteer of England and Wales 1840

Abingdon, A burgh and market-town, having separate jurisdiction, in the hund, of Hormer, union of Abingdon, county of Berks; 55½ miles west-north-west of London; 25 north-west of Reading; 6 from Oxford; and 14 by water from Wallingford. It is 4 miles north of the Great Western railway, and on the post-road from Henley-on-Thames to Faringdon.

Ecclesiastical affairs. — Abingdon is divided into the two parishes of St. Nicholas and St. Helen. The latter includes the townships of Northcourt, Sandford, Barton, and Shippon, which are without the limits of the burgh. The former is a sinecure rectory; rated at £7, and in the parliamentary returns at £18 18s. 6d.; gross income £30. Patron, the Crown. The living of St. Helen is a discharged vicarage, formerly in the archd. of Berks and dio. of Salisbury, now in the dio. of Oxford; rated at £29 15s. 3d.; gross income £225. Patron, the Crown. The church of St. Nicholas is a very ancient structure. According to Leland, it was “of old tyme, the chefe paroche-churche of Abingdon, but (when he wrote) the gretyst resort of all the towne was to St. Helens.” The Baptists, Quakers, Congregationalists, and Wesleyan Methodists, have chapels in this town. Of these, the Baptist church in Ock street was founded in 1640. — The free grammar-school was founded in 1563 by John Roysse, citizen and mercer of London, for the educating of 63 children, natives of Abingdon. It is entitled to four exhibitions at Pembroke college, Oxford, and has received further donations, especially from Thomas Tesdale, Esq., which render its entire annual revenue £322 11s. 3d. The master has a house and salary of about £74 a-year. — In 1676, Robert Mayott bequeathed property to the corporation, now let at £120 per annum, in trust, for educating poor children in this borough. Several other mortifications for a like purpose were made in the course of the last and preceding century. There are one National and one British school attended by about 400 children. A horticultural and a philanthropic society have recently been formed here.

“An abbey of five hundred monks,” says Tanner in his ‘Notitia Monastica,’ “is said to have been here in the time of the Britons, or Romans, wherein Constantine the Great had his education; but it is more certain, that pretty early in the Saxon times, a small monastery was founded in Bagley-wood, upon a hill called Abendune, 4 miles nearer Oxford than the present town of that name. Not prospering there, it was removed to a place lower down upon the river Thames, then named Sevekisham, since Abingdon. This religious house being destroyed in the Danish wars, was, A.D. 955, restored by the care of Ethelwald, its abbot, afterwards bishop of Wincester. The monks were of the order of St. Benedict; numerous benefactions contributed to raise it to the highest rank among the monastic institutions of the kingdom; it became one of the mitred abbeys, and the landed property belonging to the abbot and convent was so extensive that, so early as the time of the Norman survey, they possessed above 30 manors in the county of Berks, besides others which they held as lords of the see; and their revenues were valued, 26° Henry VIII., at £1,876 10s. 9d. per annum, according to the clear valuation printed by Sir William Dugdale, at the end of the first volume of the ‘Monasticon;’ but, according to the gross valuation in Mr. Speed, at £2,042 2s. 8d. ob. q. per annum.” According to Godwin, Geoffrey of Monmouth, the monkish historian, was abbot of Abingdon; and his remains are said to have been entombed in the abbey here, whence they were translated to St. Helen’s church. He died in 1417. Scarcely any remains of the abbey are now observable. Leland, however, describes it as being, in his times, a very magnificent building, and even when Camden wrote it exhibited obvious marks of its ancient grandeur. Richard Symons, who visited Abingdon in 1644, and whose manuscripts are in the Harleian collection, says: “Farther eastward, and near adjoining to the church (St. Nicholas) still remaine part of the abbey, and much of the ruynes towards the river.” The site of this abbey was granted, 1° Edward VI., to Sir Thomas Scimoc; and 5° Edward VI., to Sir Thomas Wroth. The hospital of St. Helen here, was founded by Geoffrey Barbour and Sir John de St. Helena, in the reign of Henry V. — Sir John Mason, one of the masters of requests, and a native of this place, obtained the lands of this hospital, and therewith founded the present hospital, called Christ’s hospital, on the 19th of May, 1553, for the maintenance of 13 poor men and women. Christ’s hospital consists of a long range of apartments, with cloisters in front, and a turret and dome in the centre — Geoffrey Barbour bequeathed 50 marks for the marriage-portions of 10 poor women, all his wood and coals to be divided among his poor neighbours, and the rest of his estate for the relief of the poor and the repair of highways. Sir Peter Besils, who flourished about the same time, bequeathed money and divers fair manors and lordships as portions to marry maidens. He founded also a college of White monks at Oxford, and gave £600 to repair any wrong that he or any of his ancestors had done to any one; and what was not claimed on that score he gifted to the poor. — The hospital of St. John the Baptist, without the abbey-gate, over against St. Nicholas’ church, is said by Leland to have been founded by one of the abbots. It is yet in being, under the government of the mayor and aldermen, who maintain therein six poor people. The hospital of St. John was rebuilt by the corporation in 1801, in the Vineyard; and in 1826, E. Beasley added £600 to its endowments. A third hospital was erected here in 1707, by Charles Twitty, and farther endowed with £600, in 1825, by E. Beasley, and by J. Bedwell and Samuel Cripp, for the maintenance of 3 men and 3 women; a fourth in 1781, for 3 men and 15 women, with the surplus funds of Christ’s hospital; and, in 1823, F. Klein bequeathed £1,000 for behoof of the poor in Abingdon. Besides these, there is a range of handsome alms-houses in Ock street, built by the late B. Tomkins, Esq., for dissenters.

Town, trade, &c. — The town of Abingdon is pleasantly situated at the influx of the Ock into the Thames; and consists of several large streets diverging from the market-place. The market-house is a spacious and elegant building, erected in 1678, with a commodious county-hall, in which the Nisi Prius court is held at the summer-assizes. The county-bridewell is a handsome stone edifice in the parish of St. Helen, erected in 1811-12, at an expense of £26,000. Number of cells 84. Total expense in 1836, £849. It includes a chapel and a court-house, in which the summer-assizes and county-sessions are held. The assizes are held alternately at Reading and Abingdon, and the prisoners for trial are conveyed from the one place to the other, as it happens. The petty-sessions are held at Abingdon for the division of Abingdon. The town of Abingdon received a charter in 3° and 4° Philip and Mary, 1557. The old corporation consisted of a mayor, 12 principal burgesses, and 16 secondary burgesses. The mayor had a salary of £150. Under the 5° and 6° William IV. c. 76, a commission of the peace has been granted to Abingdon, and a court of quarter- sessions appointed. The style of the corporate body — which now consists of a mayor, 4 aldermen, and 12 councillors — is, ‘The mayor, bailiffs, and burgesses of the borough of Abingdon.’ The town sends one member to parliament, who is chosen by all the inhabitants paying scot and lot; the mayor is the returning officer. The number of parliamentary electors, on the register in 1837, was 324; of municipal electors, 275; and the borough has usually been considered as an open and unshackled one. Amount of assessed taxes, in 1830, £1,355 5s. 9d. Average annual revenue of the borough, £750 ; expenditure £600. The corporation has no debt. The principal trades now carried on in Abingdon, are those of malting and carpeting. Leland refers to a considerable manufactory of clothing as carried on at Abingdon, and indeed says expressly that the town “standeth by clothing;” but this had declined even before the time of Queen Mary. During the late war, it was a place of considerable trade in sail-cloth and sackings; but owing to the competition of the establishments in the north of England and in Scotland, this source of employment has materially diminished. The sacking manufactory, however, is again on the increase, the poor rates of the burgh are decreasing, and the general prospects of the town are improving. The market-days are Monday, chiefly for corn, and Friday, which latter, however, is rather a nominal market-day, or the day when corn sold on the Monday is delivered. Fairs for horses and horned cattle are held on the first Monday in Lent, the 6th of May, 20th June, 5th August, l9th September, Monday before old Michaelmas, statute, and the 11th December. Races are held here in September. — From its connection, by canal navigation, with Bath, London, and Bristol, this town is well-calculated for inland traffic. A branch railway is contemplated betwixt this place and the Great Western railway, which it will join in the parish of Didcott. Pop., in 1801, 4,356; in 1831, 5,259. Houses 1,206. Acres 3,930. A. P. £9,023. Poor rates, in 1837, £1,911 — The Abingdon poor-law union embraces a district of 77 square miles, containing 38 parishes, with a population, in 1831, of 16,674. The average annual expenditure for the poor in this district during the three years preceding the union, was £14,467; expenditure, in 1838, £8,335. A work-house has lately been erected at Abingdon for this union, at an expense of about £8,500.

History. — Abingdon was a city of considerable importance in the time of the Britons, and distinguished as a royal residence. By the Saxons it was called Scheovesham; and the learned annotator on Camden supposes it to be the place called, in the Saxon Chronicle, Cloveshoo, where two synods were held in 742 and 822. The ‘old book of Abendon,’ a manuscript in the Cottonian library, says, that “Shovesham was, in ancient times, a famous city goodly to behold, full of riches, encompassed with very fruitful fields, green meadows, spacious pastures, and flocks of cattle abounding with milk: that the king kept his court here; and hither people resorted whilst consultations were depending about the greatest and most weighty affairs of the kingdom.” During the civil wars it was garrisoned by the king till the retreat of the royal forces to Oxford in 1644, when Waller’s army entered it, and committed many excesses. It gives the title of earl to the family of Bertie. It was the birth-place of Sir John Mason, ambassador at the court of France, and of the late Lord Colchester.

Source: The Parliamentary Gazetteer of England and Wales; A Fullarton & Co. Glasgow; 1840.

A Topographical Dictionary of the United Kingdom 1808

Abingdon, a market and borough town in the hundred of Hormer, Berks, 55½ miles from London; containing 867 houses and 4356 inhabitants, of whom 1847 were returned employed in various trades. It stands on a branch of the Isis, and derives its name from an ancient abbey founded in 675, before the building of which it was called Shrovesham: Geoffry of Monmouth, was one of its abbots. Here also, at the time of the heptarchy, was a considerable nunnery; but it being a frontier town it was soon after garrisoned, and the nuns removed to Wytham. This place has often been the residence of the British kings. The town consists of several streets well paved, which terminate in a spacious area in which the market is held, being reckoned one of the most considerable in England for grain, in the center is the market-house supported on lofty pillars, with a hall of freestone above, in which the summer assizes for the county are held; the Lent assizes being held at Reading. It has two churches: one, the church of the abbey, dedicated to St. Nicholas, is a rectory, value 7l.; the other, dedicated to St. Helen, is a vicarage, value 29l. 11s. 3d. Patron to both, the king. To the last is annexed the chapel of Drayton. St. Helen’s is adorned with an elegant spire. Here are two hospitals, one for 6 and the other for 13 poor men, and as many poor women, a free school, and a charity school. Much business is done here in the malting line. Market on Monday and Friday. It sends two members to parliament. - Maton’s Tour.

Source: A Topographical Dictionary of the United Kingdom. Benjamin Pitts Capper. 1808.

Complete Pocket Gazetteer of England and Wales 1807

Abingdon, (Berks), the county town, and a place of considerable antiquity, haying been famous for the residence of some of the old British kings, as well as for a synod held there in the time of the Saxons. Its abbey, also, in point of wealth and magnificence, was once equalled by few in the kingdom, but the gate and a small tower are the only parts of that building now remaining. The town is neatly built, and consists of several well-paved streets, which centre in a spacious area, where the market is held. Here are 2 churches, 3 meeting houses for Dissenters, a good free-school founded in 1563, two seminaries for young ladies, and an extensive one for boys on a general plan. The market-house is a noble structure, and above it is the town-hall, supported by arches and lofty pillars, and remarkable for a door of exquisite workmanship. A new bridewell is also erecting on a very extensive scale. Abingdon is a free borough, which sends 1 member to parliament; also a town corporate, consisting of a mayor, 2 bailiffs, 9 aldermen, and 16 assistants. The inhabitants are computed at 2000, many of whom are employed in an extensive manufactory of floor and sail cloths, sacking, biscuit, bagging, &c. But the principal article of trade, for some years past, has been malt, great quantities of which are annually sent down the Thames to London; and, for the convenience of the barges, a commodious wharf has been formed at the extremity of the town, beyond which the new cut forms a small curve, and joins, the main river below Culham Bridge. Culham Heath, on which the races are held early in autumn, is about 2 miles distant.

Market Days and Fairs. Mon. and Fri. are the market days, principally for corn and barley. Fairs, the first Mon, in Lent, May 6, June 20, Aug. 5, Sep. 19, Mon. before Old Michaelmas Day for servants, and Dec. 11.

Post. The office opens at 8 in the morning, and shuts at 8 in the evening. The bags are carried to Oxford, where they meet the mail.

Bankers. Messrs. Knapp, Tomkins, and Goodall, draw on Brown, Cobb, and Co. Lombard-street; and Messrs. Child, & Co. draw on Williams, Son, & Drury, Birchin-lane, Cornhill; & Messrs. Tombs & Co. draw on Sansom & Co. Lombard-st.

Principal Inns. Crown & Thistle, New Inn, Lamb, and Red Lion.

Coaches, Waggons, Barges, &c. The Abingdon coach goes to London every Tu. Th. and Sa. and returns every Mon. Wed. and Fri. Two coaches from Stroud pass every day in summer, and one in winter, to London; and a coach passes 3 times a week from Oxford to Winchester and Southampton. Three stage waggons go regurarly from hence to London; and 10 or 12 pass through, from all parts of Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, and Monmouthshire. Several barges also go from Abingdon to Brook’s Wharf, Queenhithe, every week.

Gentlemen’s Seats. Culham, (J. Phillips, esq.) 1 mile; Skipper, (M. Anthony, esq.) 2 miles; Sheepstead, (J. Bunce, esq) 3 miles;. Oakley, (Rev. J. Jones) 3½ miles; Nuneham, (earl of Harcourt) 3 miles; Radley, (Sir G. Bowyer, bart.) 2 miles; & Wytham,(earl of Abingdon) 5 miles.

Abingdon is distant from London 55 miles 5 furlongs; from Oxford, 6 miles; from Wantage, Wallingford, and Benson, 10 miles; from Ilsley, 11; Woodstock, Farringdon, and Brampton, 14; Lambourn, 16; Hungerford, 20, and Reading, 26 m.

Source: Complete Pocket Gazetteer of England and Wales; Crosby Rev. J. Malham; 1807

Barton

The Parliamentary Gazetteer of England and Wales 1851

Barton, a hamlet contiguous to Abingdon, in the parish of St Helens, county of Berks. Pop., in 1801, 13; in 1831, 14. House 1.

Source: The Parliamentary Gazetteer of England and Wales; A Fullarton & Co. Glasgow; 1851.

Directories

Abingdon - Kelly’s Post Office Directory of Northamptonshire, Huntingdonshire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, and Oxfordshire 1869 - Google Books

Abingdon - The Universal British Directory 1791 - Google Books

Administration

  • County: Berkshire
  • Civil Registration District: Abingdon
  • Probate Court: Court of the Archdeaconry of Berkshire
  • Diocese: Pre-1836 - Salisbury, Post-1835 - Oxford
  • Rural Deanery: Abingdon
  • Poor Law Union: Abingdon
  • Hundred: Abingdon Borough; Hormer
  • Province: Canterbury