Abingdon : Samuel Pepys Walk

On the 9th of June 1668 Samuel Pepys stayed at the Antelope Inn in the Market Square on the night of the Custard Fair, the following day he walked down to the Thameside Christ's Hospital Alms Houses.

"At night came to Abingdon, where had been a fair of custard; and met many people and scholars going home; and there did get some pretty good musick; and sang and danced till supper'

Apparently Pepy's reference to "A Fair of Custard" actually referred to Abindon's popular "Gooseberry Tarts"

Retrace his walk with this pictorial guide, designed to help you spot plaques, curios, historical houses and industrial history that the casual eye might otherwise miss.

Start: Abingdon Market Square

All that remains of the Queens Hotel which once dominated the Market Square built on the site of the Queens Arms And the even earlier Antelope Inn

On the 9th of June 1668 Samuel Pepys stayed at the Antelope Inn

Cross the square to East St Helens behind the County Hall

Could be considered as No 1 Abingdon, but why is there a little sign Georgics V*?

Follow the pavement to St Helenís East which begins level with the Punch Bowl public house.

Unusual Plaque (Lombard Street)

How many streets must have been widened at this time, when towns lost their medieval character (return to East St Helens)

St Helenís East

Abingdon as Civil War Frontier Town.

Charles I the vain and tragic King had several connections with Abingdon. He reputedly held a war council in the upper rooms of this public house. Later he saw his wife and children for the last time at nearby Barton Court

The Tomkins family, who were Baptists, maltsters and builders and were responsible for several fine houses in Abingdon, notably Stratton House (1722), the Clock House (1728) and Twickenham House (1756).

William of Orange on his way to London

Stayed here at the house of Thomas Medlycott Recorder of Abingdon 1675-88 M.P. for Abingdon 1688-89. Governor of Christs Hospital Abingdon 1675-1716.

St Ethelwoldís house in the heart of Medieval Abingdon, in what is now recognized as also having been the centre of a medium-sized Roman town, whose origins date back to the Early Iron Age.

St Ethelwold was Abbot of Abingdon Abbey in 955. He restored the abbey after earlier disastrous Danish raids.

Rare or even unique (?) in Abingdon a Fire Insurance Shield for the Imperial Company indicating that firemen will be paid for saving this house

RRE (Richard Ely) was another proud Abingdonian, but in the parallel street West St Helens were the notorious "Inner Courts" allegedly equal to any Glasgow slum. A century ago, this was an industrialized area, with warehouses, tanneries, carpet and clothing factories

Acorn? Also to be seen at Caldecott House Lodge. The archway leads to Christs Hospital , St Helenís Wharf, the Ock , please go through the Arch into St Helenís Churchyard and Christís Hospital.

There are three blocks of Almshouses located near St Helen's Church. Long Alley Almshouses erected 1446 by the Fraternity of Holy Cross, Twitty's Almshouses erected 1708 and Brick Alley erected 1720.

Near the church of St. Helen is another Almshouse, erected in 1707 by Charles TWITTY, for the maintenance of three men and three women; to which John BEDWELL in 1799, and Samuel CRIPPS in 1819, bequeathed £200 each; and in 1826 E. BEASLEY £600.

River Front St Helenís Wharf 1668 Samuel Pepys visited the Almshouses and donated half-a-crown, the Collection Box is still there. Abingdon once had a famous town cross which was used by Cromwellís troops as target practice

Abingdonís Great Flood 1894 The waters got to the top of the river front steps in the winter of 2002/3. The opposite bank of the Thames disappeared under a huge lake

Christ's Hospital, on the west side of St. Helen's church, erected in 1446, on the site of the ancient nunnery, by Geoffry Barbone and Sir John de St. Helen, originally belonged to the brethren of the Holy Cross. The dome in the centre is Jacobean.

No this is not the former canal just a bridge built to cross the River Ock (Salmon) to get to the former canal, which was a hundred meters further on

Hereís where the canal met the Thames. The Wilts & Berks Canal allowed trade with Bristol and the Somerset coal fields. It closed in the early 1900ís and is now much regretted. Walkers can still follow its trace most of the way to the Kennet.

Now look back at Abingdon, for one of the famous postcard views of Abingdon. On a nice day you may care to eat your sandwiches here. The canal has come and gone since Samuel Pepysí walk, but he would surely recognize much of what still exists today. (Many of the house fronts have been remodeled , Mieneke Cox) Return by the same route

* Georgics V : The answer has to with Pigs and the poems of Vergil!

© 2006-2010 David Rayner