A brief history about the key buildings to be seen in Faringdon
The Old Town Hall
Built between 1650 and 1660, The Old Town Hall is one of Faringdon’s most distinctive buildings and is hard to miss as it stands right in the centre of town. Over the years the building has been used as a court house, fire station, jail, library and WWII billeting station. When it became run down and faced demolition, William Morris’ daughter May, who lived at Kelmscott, helped with a campaign to save it and it was designated a war memorial and thus immune from destruction. William Morris fabrics were used in a recent renovation to honour May’s important role in the building’s history.
The building is available for hire and licensed to hold up to 50 people. It is very popular for small meetings and for use as an exhibition venue. Contact: Faringdon Town Council on 01367 240281 or email: email@example.com
All Saints' Church
The most noticeable thing you’ll spot as you look at the church is the absence of a spire! Some believe it was lost in fighting during the Civil Wars, apparently torn down by the entrenched Royalists to prevent Cromwell’s army from attacking it by cannon. A cannon ball from the conflict is still encased in the south wall. A church has existed on the site since Saxon times, although the nave of the present building is Norman and substantial parts of the church are 13th century. All Saints’ Church houses a collection of monuments commemorating members of the Unton and Pye families, the latter formally owners of Faringdon House.
Contact: All Saints’ Church on 07824 785481 or Community and Tourist Information Centre on 01367 242191
The original Faringdon House was badly damaged in the Civil War; the current house, which dates from the 1780s, took five years to build despite being much smaller. Lord Berners lived there until his death in 1950, when it passed to his companion Robert Heber-Percy, who built a gothically-inspired swimming pool in the grounds. The house is now owned by Berners’ granddaughter, author Sofka Zinovieff, although she doesn’t live there. Faringdon House is not open to the public but the grounds are opened occasionally for events such as the annual firework display. The statue visible in the grounds from Radcot Road depicts Africa embracing Egypt and was brought from the Great Exhibition of 1851 at Crystal Palace.
The Corn Exchange
The Corn Exchange was built in 1863 at the junction of Gloucester and Marlborough Streets. It is a beautifully proportioned hall, with tall pointed windows along each side. Below a superb vaulted ceiling, are ten circular carvings including a railway locomotive to commemorate the opening of the Great Western Railway terminal in 1864 (now the Old Station Nursery). Today, the Town Council Offices and The Community and Tourist Information Centre occupy the rear of the building. The newly refurbished hall is ideally suited for a variety of social and community functions and available for hire. Bar facilities are available and the venue is licensed to hold up to 200 people, there is also a large kitchen offering full catering facilities. The building is now home to Faringdon's Community Cinema.
Contact: Faringdon Town Council on 01367 240281 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Folly Tower
Lord Berners, resident of Faringdon House, built the Folly in 1935, stating that “the great point of this tower is that it will be entirely useless”. Despite local objections he commissioned an architect friend, Lord Wellesley, to design and build the 100 feet high brick tower in the gothic style. Whilst Berners was abroad, Wellesley had most of it built in a more classical vein. However, Berners returned before the top of the tower was completed and, claiming that the structure looked too bland, insisted the final stage should be a gothic crown featuring mock battlements. Berners' heir, Robert Heber Percy gave the tower to the townspeople after Berners' death. Today, the tower is looked after by Friends of the Folly who support Folly Trust, the owners of the Tower since 1985. Folly Tower is open to the public from 11 am – 5 pm on the first Sunday in the month from Easter until October and on Bank Holidays as well as for various special occasions throughout the year (including a popular Hallowe’en Ghost event!) Also, since the Millennium the tower has sported various beacons and lights which can be seen for miles around during winter months.
Contact: Friends of the Folly on 01367 241142,
Email: email@example.com or visit www.faringdonfolly.org.uk