Faringdon is a market town formerly in the rural district of the same name in Berkshire, England. In 1974 the whole of Faringdon Rural District was transferred to Oxfordshire where it became part of the administrative district known as Vale of White Horse.
The civil parish is formally known as Great Faringdon, to distinguish it from Little Faringdon in West Oxfordshire. Faringdon is the main settlement within Great Faringdon and was the location of the offices of Faringdon Rural District Council.
The town was granted a weekly market in 1218. This is reflected in its name as Chipping Faringdon. The weekly market is still held today. King John also established an abbey in Faringdon in 1202, (probably on the site of Portwell House)but it soon moved to Beaulieu in Hampshire. In 1417 the aged Archbishop of Dublin, Thomas Cranley, died in Faringdon while journeying to London.
The Church of England parish church of All Saints may date from the 12th century, and the clerestorey and possibly the west end of the nave survive from this period. A Norman doorway survives, although not in its original position, in the baptistery. The chancel and north transept are 13th century and the west chapel is 14th century. The north chapel is a late mediaeval Perpendicular Gothic addition with 15th-century windows.
All Saints has a central bell tower, which was reduced in height in 1645 after it was damaged by a cannonball in the English Civil War. Faringdon was fought over because it commands the road to the Radcot Bridge over the River Thames. The tower now has a ring of eight bells. The three oldest bells were cast in 1708. James Wells of Aldbourne, Wiltshire cast the tenor bell in 1779 and another bell in 1803. The three youngest bells, including the treble, were cast in 1874 by Mears and Stainbank.
Faringdon churchyard is reputedly haunted by the headless apparition of naval officer Hampden Pye.
The Old Town Hall (formerly the Market Hall) dates from the late 17th or early 18th century. It remains the centre of the town and its focal point.
The £1.6 million three-mile A420 bypass opened in July 1979.
Just east of the town is Folly Hill or Faringdon Hill, a Greensand outcrop (at grid reference ). In common with Badbury Hill to the west of the town, it has an ancient ditched defensive ring (hill fort). This was fortified by supporters of Matilda sometime during the Anarchy (1135–1141) – her campaign to claim the throne from King Stephen – but was soon razed to the ground by Stephen. Oliver Cromwell fortified it in his unsuccessful campaign to defeat the Royalist garrison at Faringdon House. The Pye family had Scots Pines planted around the summit, around the time that Faringdon House was rebuilt in the late 18th century. This is a conspicuous and recognisable landmark that can be seen from afar, including from the Vale of White Horse, White Horse Hill, the Berkshire Downs near Lockinge and the Cotswold Hills to the north.
The folly on Folly Hill was designed by Gerald Wellesley, Marquess of Douro for Lord Berners and built in 1935. It is high and affords panoramic views of the Vale of White Horse. During the Second World War the Home Guard used it as an observation post. In 1982 Robert Heber-Percy restored it and gave it to the town in trust.
Near the top of London Street near Faringdon Folly is the pub bearing the same name. Resembling a small living room with a bar placed in the middle, it is a popular haunt for those that like an "old-fashioned" pub.
Online Historical References
Nineteenth Century Local Administration
English Jurisdictions is a webpage provided by FamilySearch which analyses every ecclesiastical parish in England at the year 1851. It provides, with the aid of outline maps, the date at which parish records and bishops transcripts begin, non-conformist denominations with a chapel within the parish, the names of the jurisdictions in charge: county, civil registration district, probate court, diocese, rural deanery, poor law union, hundred, church province; and links to FamilySearch historical records, FamilySearch Catalog and the FamilySearch Wiki. Two limitations: only England, and at the year 1851.
During the 19th century two bodies, the Poor Law Union and the Sanitary District, had responsibility for governmental functions at a level immediately above that covered by the civil parish. In 1894 these were replace by Rural and Urban Districts. These were elected bodies, responsible for setting local property assessments and taxes as well as for carrying out their specified duties. Thses districts continued in operation until 1974. Urban districts for larger municipalities were called "Municipal Boroughs" and had additional powers and obligations.
Poor Law Unions, established nationally in 1834, combined parishes together for the purpose of providing relief for the needy who had no family support. This led to the building of '"union poorhouses" or "workhouses" funded by all the parishes in the union. The geographical boundaries established for the individual Poor Law Unions were employed again when Registration Districts were formed three years later. In 1875 Sanitary Districts were formed to provide services such as clean water supply, sewage systems, street cleaning, and the clearance of slum housing. These also tended to follow the same geographical boundaries, although there were local alterations caused by changes in population distribution.