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Abingdon is a market town in Oxfordshire, England and is one of several places which claim to be Britain's oldest continuously occupied town.
The River Thames at Abingdon with St. Helen's church visible
It lies 6 miles south of Oxford in the flat valley of the Thames, on the west (right) bank, where the where the small river Ock flows in from the Vale of White Horse. Of a Benedictine abbey there remain a beautiful Perpendicular gateway, and ruins of buildings called the prior's house, mainly Early English, and the guest house, with other fragments.
The picturesque narrow-arched bridge over the Thames near St Helen's Church dates originally from 1416. William the Conqueror in 1084 celebrated Easter at Abingdon, and left his son, afterwards Henry I, to be educated at the abbey.
After the abbey's dissolution in 1538 the town sank into decay, and in 1555, on a representation of its pitiable condition, Mary I granted a charter establishing a mayor, two bailiffs, twelve chief burgesses, and sixteen secondary burgesses, the mayor to be clerk of the market, coroner and a Justice of the Peace.
The council was empowered to elect one burgess to parliament, and this right continued until the Redistribution of Seats Act of 1885. A town clerk and other officers were also appointed, and the town boundaries described in great detail. Later charters from Elizabeth I, James I, James II, George II and George III made no considerable change. James II changed the style of the corporation to that of a mayor, twelve aldermen and twelve burgesses.
The abbot seems to have held a market from very early times, and charters for the holding of markets and fairs mere 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 clothing manufacture.
The present Christ's Hospital originally belonged to the Guild of the Holy Cross , on the dissolution of which Edward VI founded the hospital under its present name.
In recent times Abingdon is best known as the location of manufacture of MG cars (1929-1980). The Pavlova leather works, now closed down, used to be a major employer. Major scientific employers nearby include JET (the Joint European Torus fusion research project), UKAEA Culham, and Harwell Laboratory. Many inhabitants work in Oxford, or commute by rail to London from nearby Didcot. The Army now occupies Dalton Barracks, which it took over from the Royal Air Force in 1993.
The former Berkshire County Hall, now the museum
The most distinguished landmark in Abingdon is probably the building which now houses the Abingdon Museum, but which was formerly the county hall of Berkshire, of which Abingdon was the county town prior to the 1974 local government reorganisation. A longstanding unusual tradition of the town has local dignitaries throwing buns from the roof of the building for crowds assembled in the market square on specific days of celebration.
Schools in the town include Abingdon School , St Helen and St Katharine's School, Our Lady's Convent, and the Consortium, a partnership of state schools consisting of Fitzharrys School, Larkmead School, John Mason School and Abingdon and Witney College, which provides further education.
The Unicorn Theatre in Abingdon has also been the site of first productions of many stage adaptations of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels, by Stephen Briggs. Abingdon is one of several real-world locales to provide Pratchett inspiration for the Discworld city of Ankh-Morpork.
Abingdon is located at (51.6667, -1.2833)1.