Home >> Encyclopedia-britannica-volume-01-a-anno >> Abhidhamma to Acanthocephala >> Abingdon

Abingdon

Loading


ABINGDON, municipal borough, Berkshire, lying in the flat Thames valley on the Oxford border, where the small river Ock, draining the Vale of White Horse, joins the Thames. Pop. (1931) 7,240. Abingdon (Abbedun, Abendun) was famous for its abbey, which was of great wealth and importance, and is be lieved to have been founded in A.D. 675 by Cissa, one of the subreguli of Centwin. Abundant charters from early Saxon mon archs are extant confirming various laws and privileges to the abbey, and the earliest of these, from King Ceadwalla, was granted before A.D. 688. In the reign of Alfred the abbey was destroyed by the Danes, but it was restored by Edred, and an imposing list of possessions in the Domesday survey evidences recovered prosperity. William the Conqueror in 1084 celebrated Easter at Abingdon, and left his son, afterwards Henry I., to be educated at the abbey. After the dissolution in 1538 the town sank into decay, and in 1555, on a representation of its pitiable condition, Queen Mary granted a charter establishing it as a free borough corporate with a common council. The council was empowered to elect one burgess to parliament, and this right continued until the Redistribution of Seats Act of 1885. The abbot seems to have held a market from very early times, and charters for the holding of markets and fairs were granted by various sovereigns from Edward I. to George II. In the 13th and 14th centuries Abingdon was a flourishing agricultural centre with an extensive trade in wool, and a famous weaving and cloth ing manufacture. The latter industry declined before the reign of Queen Mary, but has since been revived.

Remains of the Benedictine Abbey include a beautiful Perpen dicular gateway, ruins of buildings called the prior's house, and the guest house. The narrow arched bridge over the Thames dates from 1416, and was doubtless an important feature in the town's growth. Near the bridge is St. Helen's church, the fine Early English tower and Perpendicular spire of which are the principal objects in the views of the town from the river. There may be mentioned further the old buildings of the grammar school, founded in 1563, and of the charity called Christ's Hospital (1583) ; while the town hall in the market-place is attributed to Inigo Jones.

Abingdon has manufactures of clothing and carpets and a large agricultural trade. The borough is under a mayor, four aldermen and 12 councillors. Area, 73o acres. For purposes of parlia mentary representation it is included in the Abingdon county division.

abbey, borough, town and granted