Coordinates: 51°36′22″N 1°14′28″W / 51.606°N 1.241°W / 51.606; -1.241

Centrum Didcot.JPG
The Cornerstone and cinema
Didcot is located in Oxfordshire

 Didcot shown within Oxfordshire
Population 22,762 (2001 census)[1]
OS grid reference SU525900
    - London  54.7m 
Parish Didcot
District South Oxfordshire
Shire county Oxfordshire
Region South East
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town Didcot
Postcode district OX11
Dialling code 01235
Police Thames Valley
Fire Oxfordshire
Ambulance South Central
EU Parliament South East England
UK Parliament Wantage
Website Didcot Town Council
List of places: UK • England • Oxfordshire

Didcot is a town and civil parish in Oxfordshire about 10 miles (16 km) south of Oxford. Until 1974 it was in Berkshire, but was transferred to Oxfordshire in that year, and from Wallingford Rural District to the district of South Oxfordshire. It became the largest town in the new South Oxfordshire district, although it is situated right at its edge.


History and economy

All Saints' church

Didcot dates back to the Iron Age[citation needed] The settlement was situated on the ridge in the town, and the remainder of the surrounding area was marshland.

The Romans attempted to drain the marshland by digging the ditch that runs north through what is now known as the Ladygrove area north of the town near Long Wittenham.

Didcot first appears in historical records in the 13th century as Dudcotte, Berkshire. The name is believed to be derived from that of the local abbot. Didcot was then a sleepy rural Berkshire village with a population of 100 or so[citation needed] and remained that way for hundreds of years, only occasionally cropping up in records. Parts of the original village still exist in the Lydalls Road area and part of All Saints' Church dates back to the 11th century.[citation needed] It was much smaller than several surrounding villages, which are now dwarfed by modern Didcot.

There are a number of major scientific employers nearby including the UKAEA at Culham (and the Joint European Torus (JET) fusion research project), Harwell Laboratory, the Science and Technology Facilities Council (the research council responsible for Rutherford Appleton Laboratory) and the Diamond Light Source synchrotron, which is the largest UK-funded scientific facility to be built for over 30 years[citation needed] Didcot is also the base of operations for the Baptist Union of Great Britain and BMS World Mission.

Didcot also has a nature reserve, Mowbray Fields, where wildlife including a species of common spotted and southern marsh orchids can be found.


View of the Didcot Power Station and Platform 3 of Didcot Parkway

The Great Western Railway, engineered by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, reached Didcot in 1839. In 1844 the Brunel-designed Didcot station was opened. The original station burnt down in the later part of 19th century. The more obvious location for the original line to Bristol would have been the town of Abingdon a little further north, but the landowner, Lord Wantage, is reputed to have prevented the railway coming close to the town.[citation needed] This and the junction of the Great Western line to Oxford created the conditions for the future growth of Didcot. The station's name also finally fixed the spelling of Didcot.

Didcot's junction of the routes to London, Bristol, Oxford and to Southampton via the Didcot, Newbury and Southampton Railway (DN&S) made the town of strategic importance to military logistics, in particular during the First World War campaign on the Western Front and the Second World War preparations for D-Day. The DN&S line has since closed and the sites of the large Army and Royal Air Force ordnance depots that were built to serve these needs have disappeared beneath the power station and Milton Park Business Park. However the Army still has Vauxhall Barracks on the edge of town.

Remains of the DN&S line are still in evidence in the eastern part of town. This line was constructed from 1879-1882 after previous proposals had floundered and was engineered by John Fowler and built by contractors T.H. Falkiner and Sir Thomas Tancred, who together also constructed the Forth Bridge.[2] It was an extremely expensive line to build due to the heavy engineering challenges of crossing the Berkshire and Hampshire downs, and this over capitalisation coupled with initial traffic barely meeting expectations caused the company financial problems, meaning it never reached Southampton of its own accord but had to join the main LSWR line at Shawford, south of Winchester. But from the outbreak of WW2 such was the growth of wartime traffic to the port of Southampton a decision was made to upgrade the line which included the complete doubling of the northern section between Didcot and Newbury, closing for 5 months in 1942/3 whilst this was carried out. Although passenger trains between Didcot and Newbury were withdrawn in 1962, the line continued to be used by freight trains for a further four years, mainly oil traffic to the north from the refinery at Fawley near Southampton. In 1966 however, this traffic also was withdrawn, and the line was then dismantled. A section of the abandoned embankment toward Upton has fine views across the town and countryside and is popular with walkers.

After World War II technology changed, with steam locomotives becoming obsolete and the motor car becoming common. The station was renamed Didcot Parkway in 1985 and the site of the old GWR provender stores which had been demolished in 1976 (the provender pond was kept to maintain the water table) became a large car park so that the station would attract travellers from the surrounding area. The locomotive depot became the Didcot Railway Centre in 1967.

Power stations

Aerial view of Didcot Power Station

The Didcot Power Stations (between Didcot and Sutton Courtenay) supply electricity to the National Grid. Country Life magazine voted these the third worst eyesore in Britain, but some locals refer to them as "the Cathedral of the Vale" [of White Horse], a title which really belongs to the parish church at Uffington. The power station cooling towers are visible from up to 30 miles away[citation needed] due to their location, but won an award for reducing visual impact (six towers in two well-separated groups half a mile apart rather than a monolithic 3x2 block), much in the style of what is sometimes known as Didcot's 'sister' station - Fiddlers Ferry Power Station - at Widnes, Lancashire, constructed slightly earlier. The power station has also proved a popular man-made object for local photographers.

In October 2010, Didcot Sewage Works became the first in the UK to produce biomethane gas supplied to the national grid, for use in up to 200 homes in Oxfordshire.[3]

Local government and representation

Didcot is the principal town of South Oxfordshire in the county of Oxfordshire. Until 1974 it was part of Wallingford Rural District. It is the largest town in the parliamentary constituency of Wantage, which has been represented since 2005 at Westminster by Ed Vaizey, Conservative.

Didcot is a parish but has the status of a town. It is administered by Didcot Town Council, which comprises 21 councillors representing the four wards in the town:

  • All Saints' (5 councillors)
  • Park (5 councillors)
  • Ladygrove (6 councillors)
  • Northbourne (5 councillors)

Elected town councillors are unpaid and offer their time on a voluntary basis.[4]

The 2009/10 Mayor of Didcot is Margaret Turner. The Town Clerk is Dominic Stapleton.[5]

One of the many youth projects in the town is the Didcot Youth Council. A group of young people who live in the town meet on a regular basis with the Deputy Town Clerk, Stuart Carter, to organise events for the young people in Didcot as well as to highlight issues that they believe the Didcot Town Council should discuss.

Town twinning

Didcot is twinned with the town of Meylan in France. The Didcot-Meylan Twinning Association exists to encourage the building of friendships and relationships between the citizens of Didcot and its surrounding villages with its twin, to encourage the co-operation of local businesses to the economic success of both towns and prosperity of citizens, and to exchange ideas on issues that impact on the lives of the citizens of both towns and those in the wider regional and national arenas.[6]

Current developments

Didcot is now home to around 24,500 people, with a new town centre, The Orchard Centre[7] which opened in August 2005. It took a further 2 years or so before nearly all the leases in the centre had been rented out by companies. To this day, there are still some empty shops, due to the economic climate. However, on 5 November 2009 the Orchard Centre saw the opening of the first branch of Alworths in the former Woolworths premises.[8] The new shop will be by the manager of Woolworths' former Didcot branch and staffed by former Didcot Woolworths employees.

Didcot has been designated as one of the three major growth areas in Oxfordshire with the Ladygrove development set to double the number of dwellings in the town since construction began in the late 1980s to the north and east of the railway line on the former marshland. Originally, the Ladygrove development was planned to be complete by 2001, however, the final section to the east of Abingdon Road only had plans announced in 2006. In anticipation of the completion of the Ladygrove development, a prolonged and contentious planning enquiry decided that a 3,200 dwelling development will now be built to the west of the town, partly overlapping the boundary with the Vale of White Horse.[9] The development will contain much needed sports facilities as Didcot is currently amongst the poorest provided towns in Oxfordshire for leisure facilities.

In 2008 a new £8million arts and entertainment centre, Cornerstone, was opened adjacent to the Orchard Centre. It contains exhibition and studio spaces, a cafe and a 278 seat auditorium. Designed by Ellis William Architects, the centre is clad with silvered aluminium panels and features a 'Window Wall', used to connect the building with passing shoppers. [10]


The district in England with the highest healthy life expectancy, according to the Office for National Statistics study, is the 1990s-built Ladygrove Estate in Didcot.[11]

"In 2001 the average UK healthy lifespan was thought to be 68.8 for women and 67 for men. People in Didcot, Oxfordshire, could expect 86 healthy years, while in parts of Middlesbrough the figure was 54.9. By contrast, the 1990s-built Ladygrove Estate in Didcot, which officially tops the national table, may have received a boost from the local recreation grounds and sports centre. Tony Harbour, the former Mayor of Didcot, told the Sunday Telegraph that he was not surprised that his town had done so well in the study. He said, 'I suppose we are a healthy lot - people tend to walk everywhere. A real mix of people move here, for various reasons. There's a lot of young families.' " — BBC news


Didcot is served by six primary schools: All Saints' C of E, Ladygrove Park, Manor, Northbourne C of E, Stephen Freeman and Willowcroft. Along with these 6 schools based in Didcot, a further 7 local village schools form the Didcot Primary Partnership: Blewbury Endowed C of E, Cholsey, Hagbourne, Harwell Community, Long Wittenham C of E and South Moreton County.

The two state secondary schools in Didcot are St Birinus School and Didcot Girls' School. These two single-sex schools join together at sixth form. Didcot Girls' School has specialist Language College status, and St Birinus has Technology and Language College status, it is also working towards a third college status. The cook of All Saints primary school was voted cook of the year 2009.[citation needed]

Sport and leisure

Didcot Town Football Club's home ground is the RWE nPower Loop Meadow Stadium on Ladygrove Estate. The club won the FA Vase in 2005. Didcot Cricket Club's current home ground is at Didcot Power Station in Sutton Courtenay.[12]

Didcot has three main leisure centres: Didcot Leisure Centre,[13] Didcot Wave Leisure Pool[14] and Willowbrook Leisure Centre.[15]

Didcot has its own chapter of the Hash House Harriers.[16] The club started in 1986 (the first run was on 8 April of that year).

Cornerstone, the new 278-seater multi-purpose arts centre, opened on 29 August 2008.[17]

Didcot has its own Morris dance side called Lumbawakk which was founded in 2005 with pupils from St. Birinus School.[18]

Didcot Choral Society, founded in 1958, performs three concerts a year in various venues around the town as well as an annual tour (Paris in 2008, Belgium in 2009).[citation needed]

Notable people

Didcot was the birthplace of William Bradbery, the first person to cultivate watercress commercially. Former Oxford United F.C. footballer Paul Powell lives in Didcot,[citation needed] and now plays for Didcot Casuals in the North Berks Football League, Division One.


  1. ^ "Area: Didcot CP (Parish): Parish Headcounts". Neighbourhood Statistics. Office for National Statistics. http://neighbourhood.statistics.gov.uk/dissemination/LeadTableView.do?a=7&b=798642&c=Didcot&d=16&e=15&g=480812&i=1001x1003x1004&o=1&m=0&r=1&s=1269209983562&enc=1&dsFamilyId=779. Retrieved 21 March 2010. 
  2. ^ Sands, T.B. (1971). The Didcot, Newbury & Southampton Railway. The Oakwood Library of Railway History. Oakwood Press. pp. 6–7. OL28. 
  3. ^ Shah, Dhruti (5 October 2010). "Oxfordshire town sees human waste used to heat homes". BBC NEWS. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11433162. Retrieved 5 October 2010. 
  4. ^ "Didcot Town Council". http://www.didcot.gov.uk/council/about.asp. Retrieved 2008-02-04. 
  5. ^ Didcot Town Council - Monthly Meeting Jan 2009 minutes
  6. ^ Didcot-Meylan Twinning Association
  7. ^ The Orchard Centre: Oxfordshire's Big Apple
  8. ^ Sloan, Liam (11 November 2009). "Warm town welcome for the 'Son of Woolworths'". The Didcot Herald (Oxford: Newsquest (Oxfordshire) Ltd): 18. ISSN 0962-8568. http://www.heraldseries.co.uk/archive/2009/11/05/Didcot+News+(om_didcotnews)/4723914.Crowds_flock_as__son_of_Woolworths__opens/. Retrieved 13 November 2009. 
  9. ^ http://www.southoxon.gov.uk:8123/website/localplan/text/section10.asp#DID2
  10. ^ Didcot receives new arts centre http://www.worldarchitecturenews.com/index.php?fuseaction=wanappln.projectview&upload_id=10416
  11. ^ "Regional health gap 'is 30 years'". BBC News. 2007-09-09. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6985692.stm. Retrieved 2007-09-09. 
  12. ^ Didcot Cricket Club
  13. ^ Didcot Leisure Centre
  14. ^ Didcot Wave Leisure Pool
  15. ^ Willowbrook Leisure Centre
  16. ^ Didcot Hash House Harriers
  17. ^ "Didcot Herald - Doors thrown open at the £7.4m arts centre". http://www.heraldseries.net/news/hsdidcotnews/display.var.2431483.0.doors_thrown_open_at_the_7_4m_arts_centre.php. Retrieved 2008-08-22. 
  18. ^ Lumbawakk

Further reading

  • Lingham, Brian (1979). The Long Years of Obscurity. A History of Didcot, Volume One - to 1841. Didcot: BF Lingham. ISBN 9780950654508. 
  • Lingham, Brian (1992). Railway Comes to Didcot: A History of the Town (Volume 2) - 1839 to 1918. Didcot: Sutton Publishing Ltd. ISBN 9780750900928. 
  • Lingham, Brian (2000). A Poor Struggling Little Town: A History of Didcot (Volume 3) - 1918 to 1945. Didcot: Didcot Town Council. ISBN none. 
  • Page, W.H.; Ditchfield, P.H., eds (1923). A History of the County of Berkshire, Volume 3. Victoria County History. pp. 471–475. 
  • Pevsner, Nikolaus (1966). Berkshire. The Buildings of England. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. pp. 127–128. 

External links

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