Stitching Wantage

The Vale and Downland Museum own about 20 samplers, some of which date back to the 17th century. Most were donated by the St. Mary's Convent stitching room in Wantage when it was scaled down some years ago. These samplers have not been exhibited since 1986 in part due to their fragile nature and the fact that they cannot be exposed to the light for long periods. The museum has now raised funds to pay for the samplers to be mounted and framed and they are almost ready to be put on display. Some of those which will be displayed are pictured below.

The exhibition, 'Stitches in Time' which will run from 1st June – 16th July 2016 will also include samplers owned or made by local residents. Three of my own will be included

The aim of this project is to encourage the town's residents to stitch a series of the most iconic buildings. These will not only include the most picturesque older structures and provide a document to their change of use but also show the new buildings which are important to the life and community in the town today.

In addition to the funding obtained from the Friends of the Museum, we have also obtained grants from the Vale of the White Horse District Council and the Tanner Trust and local haberdashery store Blanchards have contributed the materials for the project.

I am also endebted to local historian Trevor Hancock, for his assistance in selecting the buildings to depict and his vast knowledge of Wantage and to local artist Bill Fuller whose book 'A Visitor's Guide to Wantage' (available from the museum) has been an invaluable source of background material on the buildings.

Workshops were held at the Museum on 15th March between 10.30-12.00 and 13.00-14.30 and on 19th March between 10.30-12.00 when nearly 20 ladies came to discuss the project and start work on the panels. The backgrounds shown below were displayed and taken away for stitching. In addition there were cross stitch and tent stitch patterns and materials to assist in creating the borders and dividing sections.

The start of the project has certainly caught the attention of the press this week with an article in The Oxford Mail and an interview with Oxfordshire TV.

The final sampler will not be finished until late 2017, however the panels are now temporarily mounted, as shown below for the "Stitch in Time" exhibition which continues in the museum until July 15th. Some panels are still unfinished, and the cross stitch borders and dividers are still to complete. Any visitors to the exhibition are invited to add a cross stitch or two to the borders.

The Panels

Backgrounds for each of the panels were painted onto calico in order to give a consistency in size and materials as well as a guide to the structure of the building. Embroiderers were able to treat this background in any way they wished, adding as little or as much embellishment as they desired. Do click on the images to see the detail in these beautiful stitched pieces.

The Bay Tree Cafe

The Bay Tree Cafe is located in what used to be the Wantage Post Office, in fact the disused letter box and stamp dispensing machine are still installed in the side of the building.

Background Anne Griffiths. Stitched by Suzie Tilbury.

The Beacon

The Beacon was formally known as the Civic Hall. The name “The Beacon” was chosen by the popular vote of visitors to events at the centre and the reflects on the beacons that surround the town of Wantage. The beacon is a positive, illuminating and welcoming symbol and it is intended that this should be a gathering place for the local community.

Background Anne Griffiths. Stitched by Dorothy Burrows.

The Bear Hotel

Background Anne Griffiths. Stitched by and Anne Griffiths.

Butler Sherborn

Butler Sherborn Estate Agents is housed in the old Tramway Building. The Wantage Tramway Company formed in 1875 was responsible for building the two and a half mile tramway from Wantage Road station to Besselsleigh Turnpike Road. The passenger terminus was in Mill Street where the company built an office and waiting room in 1904. The passenger service ran until 1925 however the freight part of the business continued until 1945.

Background Anne Griffiths Work in Progress by Jean Kraushaar.

Further reading on the Tramway Building.


Blanshards is a family business established in the late 60’s. They sell a range of fabrics, yarn, haberdashery & needlecraft supplies and we are hugely grateful for their support in the supply of materials for this project.

Background Anne Griffiths and Work in Progress by Carol Pascoe.

Costa Coffee

The Arbery was situated at 11-12 Market Place. The pub closed in 2009 and has now been converted into a branch of Costa Coffee.

Background Anne Griffiths and Stitched by Alison Boyd

The Community Hospital

Background Anne Griffiths.

The Fire Station

The Fire Station moved to this custom built building was completed in 1967 and the brigade moved here from the Victoria Cross Gallery.

Background Anne Griffiths.


The Victoria Cross Gallery now home to Greggs bakery has, in its time been a pub, a cornmarket, a picture gallery and the town's Fire Station as well as a billet for soldiers during the First World War and as home to the Wantage museum for a period beginning in 1963.

In the 1890's it was purchased by the Town Commissioners from the Corn Exchange and after having been renovated by Lady Wantage, 44 portraits of war heros who had been awarded the Victoria Cross, were donated by Lord Wantage to hang in the main hall. It is from these pictures that the gallery takes its name. During the Second World War the building was used as a central kitchen providing meals for local schools and the pictures were removed for safekeeping and have since been dispersed, with the picture depicted Lord Wantage in the act of winning his Victoria Cross during the Crimean War, being handed over to King Alfred’s School for safe keeping.

The Fire Station, which had be housed in part of the building from 1910 moved to a new building in Ormond street in 1967 and in the 1970's the Gallery was sold for redevelopment. The money raised was used to build the Civic Hall in Portway and also provided a home for Wantage Museum. The gallery was turned into a shopping mall and upper stories now house offices.

Background Anne Griffiths. Stitched by Hazel Townesend.

Further reading on the Victoria Cross Gallery.


What used to be the town hall is now HSBC bank, and the council meet in the Beacon Centre, below.

In June HSBC will be closing and the building has now been sold. We will wait who will be the next inhabitant of this.

Background Anne Griffiths. Stitched by Kerry Carter.

King Alfred's Academy

In 2014-2015 the existing King Alfred's school building was refurbished and redeveloped. This involved a new rooves, and a new entrance extension as well as similar installations in other blocks of the school using this innovative aluminium composite material.

Background Anne Griffiths. Stitched by Celia Terrill.

The Leisure Centre

An air conditioned gym, 25 metre swimming pool, sauna, exercise studios and sports hall.

Background Anne Griffiths Work in Progress by Lizzie Long.

The Library and Police Station

At one time, Wantage was served by 5 libraries. The council run public library only supplied reference books and the other 4 which were privately run catered for readers looking for novels. Today the library provides free wi-fi, lends cds as well as audio books, books in French, German, Italian, Polish and Spanish and magazines and newspapers. Other free activities include reading groups, geneology assistance and a computer buddy system.

Library Website

After the town's Police Station closed in 2014(?) this building provides a part time Police Counter, open 10.00 - 14.00 weekdays only.

Background Anne Griffiths Work. Stitched by Joyce Pack.

Oxfam and M & A Electricals

The old Kent & Son Ironmongers, was built in the early 19th century and updated in the late Victorian period with bargeboards and iron balconies. Beside the doorway on the left hand side of the building is an old family crest. This is possibly that of the Knapp family who owned property in the town and may be an illustration of the knapweed plant. It is now home to Oxfam and M & A Electricals.

Background Anne Griffiths Work in Progress by Kath Griffiths.

Parish Church of SS Peter & Paul

The ancient site of the SS Peter & Paul Church Wantage is very ancient. It is known from the will of a certain Lady Wynflaed that there was a church there as early as AD 950, and it is likely that King Alfred was christened in the same building just over a hundred years earlier.

Today the Parish Church has been restored and renovated, it is open daily for visits and prayer. The former Charlton School serves as a Parish Hall

Further readingon the history of the church.

Background Anne Griffiths Work in Progress by Catherine Lee.

The Peking Dynasty

Background Anne Griffiths Work in Progress by Caroline Atkin.

The Sackhouse

This small building was originally a weighbridge, and somewhere that coal merchants and traders could hire sacks for their produce around the SW of England. It is now owned by the Wilts & Berks Canal Trust which opens it to the public as a museum and canal information centre.

Background Anne Griffiths Work in Progress by Yvonne Cranstoun.

The Vale and Downland Museum

Background Anne Griffiths. Stitched by Glenys Deval.

Wantage C of E Primary School

Wantage C of E Primary is a School and Nursery with 449 pupils. It converted to an academy on 1st October 2013.

Background Anne Griffiths Work will be stitched by the school children and Annie Harris.

Wantage House Dental Practice

A gothic style building of red brick and cut stone it was designed by Charles Ponting between 1898-99. In 2010 St. Mary's School Chapel was sold together with the rest of the school land, for redevelopment. In 2016 it is home to Wantage House Dental Practice.

Background Anne Griffiths Work in Progress by Annie Harris.

Wantage Novel Library

Background Anne Griffiths Stitched by Valerie Jones.

Wessex Flour Mill

A mill has probably occupied this site in Wantage since Saxon times, and the oldest part is built over the Mill Stream. Steam power was installed in 1860 and has been replaced firstly by electricity and now by gas.

Background Anne Griffiths. Stitched by Caroline Atkin.


The cross and tent stitch borders are being stitched by Ronnie Bailey, Janet Parker, Brenda Vaughan and Tessa Smith. Visitors to the exhibiton are warmly invited to add a couple of stitches and contribute to the Stitch Wantage 2016 sampler. No experience is necessary!

Historic Samplers

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