The Vale of White Horse is a local government district of Oxfordshire in England. South and west of the upper Thames, on its right bank it was long a north-west projection of Berkshire. The area is commonly referred to as the 'Vale of the White Horse' and is crossed by the Ridgeway National Trail in its far south, across the North Wessex Downs AONB at the junction of four counties. The 'White Horse' as a name and emblem features in sports clubs and organisations, but is also emblematic of Kent and appears in lesser known hill figures elsewhere.
Vale of White Horse
Vale of White Horse District
Characteristic landscape of farmland, hills and woodlands
Vale of White Horse shown within Oxfordshire
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Region||South East England|
(north of River Thames)
(south of River Thames)
|Incorporated||1 April 1974|
|• Type||Non-metropolitan district council|
|• Body||Vale of White Horse District Council|
|• Leadership||Emily Smith Leader & Cabinet (Liberal Democrats)|
|• MPs||Layla Moran|
|• Total||223.4 sq mi (578.6 km2)|
|Area rank||76th (of 317)|
|• Rank||166th (of 317)|
|• Density||600/sq mi (230/km2)|
|• Ethnicity||95.6% White|
1.2% Chinese or other
1.1% Mixed Race
0.7% Black British
|Time zone||UTC0 (GMT)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC+1 (BST)|
|ONS code||38UE (ONS)|
|OS grid reference|
The area has been long settled as a productive fertile chalklands above well-drained clay valleys and well-farmed with many small woodlands and hills between the Berkshire Downs and the River Thames on its north and east sides. It is named after the prominent and large Bronze Age-founded Uffington White Horse hill figure.
The district had essentially been the majority of Wantage Rural District and three small towns in the county of Berkshire from their late 19th century inception as districts until local government re-organisation in 1974 when its parishes of Ardington, Blewbury, Childrey, Chilton, Denchworth, East Challow, East Hanney, East Hendred, Goosey, Grove, Harwell, Letcombe Bassett, Letcombe Regis, Lockinge, Sparsholt, Upton, West Challow, West Hanney and West Hendred became the new district in Oxfordshire. The rest became part of Newbury (later West Berkshire)'s district of the rump county. The towns (and predecessor urban districts) are, in size order, Abingdon, Faringdon and Wantage. There are 68 parishes in the district.
The district formed on 1 April 1974 from: the Municipal Borough of Abingdon, Wantage Urban District, Abingdon Rural District, Faringdon Rural District and part of the Wantage Rural District of Berkshire.
The Vale of White Horse District Council is based in Milton Park, Milton. The district council was run by the Conservative Party from 2007 until the 2019 UK local elections, at which the Liberal Democrats overcame the Tories' 20-seat majority.
The Vale is the valley of the Ock, a stream which joins the Thames from the west at Abingdon. It is almost flat and well wooded, its green meadows and foliage contrasting richly with the bald summits of the Berkshire Downs, which flank it on the south. The numerous elm trees that once were a major feature of the Vale were lost to Dutch Elm Disease. To the north, a low ridge separates it from the upper Thames Valley, holding back the soft Jurassic sedimentary deposits (Greensand, Gault and Kimmeridge Clay) behind a hard corallian limestone escarpment ridge, in what is technically a hanging valley; but local usage sometimes extends the vale to cover all the ground between the Cotswolds (on the north) and the Berkshire Downs. According to the geographical definition, however, the Vale is from two to five miles wide, and the distance by road from Abingdon to Shrivenham at its head is 18 miles.
Wantage is the only town in the foot or slopes of the vale (Faringdon, on the northwestern rim, is closely associated). Wantage is in a sheltered hollow at the foot of the hills, along which villages concentrate often in long strip parishes. Numerous springs, the run-off from the chalk hills were main local water sources, and an accessible water table enabled the growing of fruits, grains and vegetables.
Towards the west, above Uffington, the hills reach a culminating point of 261 m (856 ft) in White Horse Hill. In its northern flank, just below the summit, a gigantic figure of a horse is cut, the turf being removed to show the white chalky soil beneath. This figure gives name to the hill, the range and the Vale. It is 114 m (374 ft) long and highly stylised, the neck, body and tail varying little in width.
The origin of the figure is unknown. Tradition asserted it to be the monument of a victory over the Danes by King Alfred, who was born at Wantage, but the site of the Battle of Ashdown (871 CE), has been variously located. Moreover, the figure has been dated to the Bronze Age, so it pre-dates the battle by many centuries. Many ancient remains occur in the vicinity of the Horse.
On the summit of the hill there is an extensive and well-preserved circular camp, apparently used by the Romans but of much earlier origin. It is an Iron Age hill fort named Uffington Castle, after the village in the vale below. Within a short distance are Hardwell Castle, a near-square work and, on the southern slope of the hills near Ashdown House, a small camp traditionally called Alfred's Castle. Further to the West, there is Liddington Castle.
A smooth, steep gully on the north flank of White Horse Hill is called the Manger, and to the west of it rises a bald mound named Dragon Hill, the traditional scene of St George's victory over the dragon, the blood of which made the ground bare of grass for ever. But the name may derive from Celtic Pendragon ("dragon's head"), which was a title for a king, and may point to an early place of burial.
To the west of White Horse Hill lies a long barrow called Wayland's Smithy, said to be the home of a smith who was never seen, but who shod the horses of travellers if they were left at the place with payment. The legend is elaborated, and the smith appears as a character, in Sir Walter Scott's novel Kenilworth, and in Rudyard Kipling's Puck of Pook's Hill. The Vale as a whole appears at the beginning of Tom Brown's Schooldays, as the scene of innocent Saxon boyhood adventures, before the eponymous hero is sent away to school at Rugby. Rosemary Sutcliff's 1977 historical novel Sun Horse, Moon Horse takes place in the Vale, telling the tale of the White Horse's creation in ancient Celtic times.
The White Horse has been carefully cleared of vegetation from time to time. The figure has remained clear of turf throughout its long existence, except for being covered as a precaution during the Second World War. The cleaning process, known as the Scouring of the White Horse, was formerly made the occasion of a festival. Sports of all kinds were held, and keen rivalry was maintained, not only between the inhabitants of the local villages, but between local champions and those from distant parts of England. The first of such festivals known took place in 1755 and they died out only subsequently to 1857.
A grassy track represents the Ridgeway, claimed as the oldest road in Europe, perhaps five thousand years old or more. It travels along the crest of the hills, far above what would then have been marshy lowlands or forests, continuing Icknield Street, from the Chilterns to Goring and Streatley on the River Thames. It links The Wash and Salisbury Plain, and would have been an important artery for trade.
Other earthworks, in addition to those near the White Horse, overlook the Vale, such as Letcombe Castle (also known as Segsbury Camp) above Wantage. At the foot of the hills, not far east of the Horse, is preserved the so-called Blowing Stone of Kingston Lisle, a mass of sandstone (a sarsen) pierced with holes in such a way that, when blown like a trumpet, it produces a loud note. It is believed that, in earlier times, the stone served the purpose of a bugle.
Farming is mostly arable. In livestock the range is mixed. The area had a large dairy industry, especially in the 1960s, but it was much reduced by the 21st century, with the large fertile fields supported by subsidies. The Lockinge Estate is a longstanding agricultural employer within the region.
With the closure of British Leyland's long-established MG works at Abingdon in 1980, there is no motor industry, apart from some specialist car makers and component factories. Macdermid Autotype in Wantage remains one of the few large industrial employers in the region.
The length of the Vale is traversed by the Great Western Main Line and the Cherwell Valley Line. Appleford railway station and Radley railway station are now the only stations within the Vale, although there used to be stations at Challow, Uffington, Grove (near Wantage), Abingdon and Steventon. These all closed as part of the Beeching cuts, in the early 1960s. The nearest mainline stations are now Swindon, Oxford and Didcot Parkway.
The Harwell Science and Innovation Campus is a large employer, particularly for scientists and engineers.
Elections to Vale of White Horse District Council were held on 6 May 1999. The whole council was up for election and the Liberal Democrats stayed in overall control. The next full council elections took place on 1 May 2003.2003 Vale of White Horse District Council election
Elections to Vale of White Horse District Council were held on 1 May 2003. The whole council was up for election with boundary changes having taken place since the last election in 1999. The Liberal Democrats lost seats, but stayed in overall control of the council.2007 Vale of White Horse District Council election
Elections to Vale of White Horse District Council were held on 3 May 2007. The whole council was up for election and the council stayed under Liberal Democrat control with an increased majority. Turnout was significantly higher in many wards than it was in 2003.2011 Vale of White Horse District Council election
Elections to the Vale of White Horse District Council were held on 6 May 2011. The entire council was up for election and resulted in the Liberal Democrats losing control of the council to the Conservatives, who regained control for the first time since 1995.2015 Vale of White Horse District Council election
The 2015 Vale of White Horse District Council election took place on 7 May 2015 to elect members of Vale of White Horse District Council in England. This was held on the same day as other local elections. In 2015, the council seats were contested against redrawn ward boundaries. The whole council was up for election and the Conservatives retained control, with an increased majority of seats.Ardington and Lockinge
Ardington and Lockinge are two civil parishes within the Vale of White Horse district, centred about 2 miles (3 km) east of Wantage, Oxfordshire, that share a parish council.
The combined parish council was created through the merger of previously separate parish councils for Ardington and Lockinge in 2012. It covers the villages of Ardington, East Lockinge and West Lockinge, as well as the hamlets of Ardington Wick and some remnants of Betterton, a 'lost', depleted small settlement. Running through the area is a stretch of the Great Western Main Line between Didcot and Swindon which in common with the Vale of White Horse is drained by the Ock. The majority of land and property in the area is owned and managed by the Lockinge Estate. The total area is 26.12km².Bourton, Vale of White Horse
Bourton is a village and civil parish in the Vale of White Horse about 4 miles (6.4 km) southeast of Highworth in neighbouring Wiltshire. The western boundary of the parish is a stream that also forms the county boundary.
Bourton was part of the parish of Shrivenham until 1867. Bourton was part of Berkshire until the 1974 local government boundary changes transferred the Vale of White Horse to Oxfordshire. The 2011 Census recorded the parish population as 326.Chilton, Oxfordshire
Chilton is a village and civil parish in the Vale of White Horse about 3.5 miles (5.6 km) southwest of Didcot. The parish was part of Berkshire until the 1974 local government boundary changes transferred the Vale of White Horse to Oxfordshire. The 2011 Census recorded the parish population as 894.The village is just off the A34 road.Grade II* listed buildings in Oxfordshire
The county of Oxfordshire is divided into five districts. The districts of Oxfordshire are Oxford, Cherwell, South Oxfordshire, Vale of White Horse, and West Oxfordshire.
As there are 694 Grade II* listed buildings in the county they have been split into separate lists for each district.
Grade II* listed buildings in Cherwell (district)
Grade II* listed buildings in Oxford
Grade II* listed buildings in South Oxfordshire
Grade II* listed buildings in Vale of White Horse
Grade II* listed buildings in West OxfordshireIdstone
Idstone is a hamlet in the civil parish of Ashbury in the Vale of White Horse. Idstone was part of Berkshire until the 1974 boundary changes transferred the Vale of White Horse to Oxfordshire. Idstone is about 6 miles (10 km) east of Swindon in neighbouring Wiltshire.Letcombe Bassett
Letcombe Bassett is a village and civil parish about 2 miles (3 km) southwest of the market town of Wantage in the Vale of White Horse. It was part of Berkshire until the 1974 boundary changes transferred the Vale of White Horse to Oxfordshire. The 2011 Census recorded the parish population as 148.The village is a spring line settlement, being the source of Letcombe Brook at the foot of the Berkshire Downs escarpment.
Hackpen, Warren & Gramp's Hill Downs Site of Special Scientific Interest is in the parish.Letcombe Regis
Letcombe Regis is a village and civil parish in the Vale of White Horse. It was part of Berkshire until the 1974 boundary changes transferred the Vale of White Horse to Oxfordshire. The village is on Letcombe Brook at the foot of the Berkshire Downs escarpment about 1 mile (1.6 km) southwest of the market town of Wantage. The 2011 Census recorded the parish population as 578.Littleworth, Vale of White Horse
Littleworth is a small village and civil parish off the A420, almost 2 miles (3 km) northeast of Faringdon. It was part of Berkshire until the 1974 boundary changes transferred it to Oxfordshire. The parish includes the hamlets of Thrupp and Wadley. The 2011 Census recorded the parish's population as 239.Milton, Vale of White Horse
Milton is a village and civil parish about 3 miles (5 km) west of Didcot and a similar distance south of Abingdon. The 2011 Census recorded the parish's population as 1,290.St. Helen Without
St Helen Without is a civil parish in the Vale of White Horse district in the English county of Oxfordshire. In 1974 it was transferred from Berkshire. It is immediately west of Abingdon and includes the villages of Dry Sandford and Shippon. A large part of the parish is occupied by Dalton Barracks and its associated airfield (formerly RAF Abingdon). According to the 2001 census the parish had a population of 2,623.The parish was created by the Local Government Act 1894, by the division of the parish of Abingdon St. Helen. The part inside Abingdon Municipal Borough became part of Abingdon parish, whilst that part outside became St. Helen Without. It became part of the Abingdon Rural District of Berkshire in 1894, and then part of the Vale of White Horse in Oxfordshire under the Local Government Act 1972.Upton, Vale of White Horse
Upton is a spring line village and civil parish at the foot of the Berkshire Downs, about 2 miles (3 km) south of Didcot in the Vale of the White Horse district, Oxfordshire, England. It was part of Berkshire until the 1974 boundary changes transferred it to Oxfordshire. The 2011 Census recorded the parish's population as 421.Vale of White Horse District Council elections
The Vale of White Horse District Council, governing the Vale of White Horse in Oxfordshire, England is elected every four years.West Challow
West Challow is a village and civil parish about 2 miles (3 km) west of the market town of Wantage in the Vale of White Horse. The village is on Childrey Brook, which is a tributary of the River Ock. West Challow was part of Berkshire until the 1974 boundary changes transferred the Vale of White Horse to Oxfordshire. The 2011 Census recorded the parish's population as 184.Wootton, Vale of White Horse
Wootton is a village and civil parish in the Vale of White Horse about 3 miles (5 km) north-west of Abingdon. It was part of Berkshire until the 1974 boundary changes transferred it to Oxfordshire. The parish of Wootton includes the hamlets of Henwood and Lamborough Hill and the western part of Boars Hill. The 2011 Census recorded the parish's population as 2,709.
The District of the Vale of White Horse
|Boroughs or districts|
|Isle of Wight|