A brief introduction to Hungerford

Hungerford past & present

Hungerford – at the heart of The North Wessex Downs AONB. The North Wessex Downs is a unique and spectacular landscape that includes tranquil open downland, ancient woodland and chalk streams in the centre of southern England. Hungerford is the ideal location to explore the beauty of the surrounding area.

Hungerford’s origins are obscure, but one story has it that the name derives from Hingwa’s Ford after a Danish Chief who is believed to have drowned in the vicinity during King Alfred’s campaign in the mid 800s.

One major event of historical significance occurred in December 1688 when William of Orange arrived to stay at The Bear Hotel in order to negotiate with the commissioners of King James II concerning the future of the monarchy. This led to the ‘Glorious Revolution’ of 1689, generally accepted nowadays as the beginning of true Parliamentary democracy as William and his wife Mary were invited to take the throne by a Protestant Parliament.

Events in Hungerford

Hungerford is lucky to have a vibrant cultural community and a thriving local theatre company and hosts several major events throughout the year.

Hocktide
A week-long celebration of the town’s unique ancient ‘Hocktide’ rights on the second Tuesday after Easter each year.

HADCAF
Hungerford And District Community Arts Festival. Three weeks of history, gardening, film, dance, comedy, poetry, theatre, music, crafts, visual arts, martial arts, sociable walks and stimulating talks.

Summer Carnival (biennial) 
A traditional float-filled summer family day.

Hungerford Food Festival
A celebration of local food and produce, cooking demonstrations and hands-on fun.

Hungerford Literary Festival
Be entertained, informed and inspired with many local and national authors.

Christmas Lights
Hungerford is justifiably proud of the spectacular Christmas lights with the big switch-on happening at the beginning of December each year.

Victorian Extravaganza
Every second Friday of December, the High Street is transformed into a Victorian wonderland of delights. Side-Shows, a Helter-Skelter, a Big Wheel, Steam Engines, Fairground Organs and rides. Something for everyone of all ages.

Traditional & Historic Hungerford

Much of the town’s history and many of its traditions are preserved by The Town and Manor of Hungerford and its Board of Trustees.

The Town & Manor of Hungerford and Liberty of Sanden Fee, were established around the 14th century and are still responsible for the management of a large proportion of the town, including the only privately owned Town Hall in England, one of the town’s Inns along with several miles of fishing rights. The wonderful Common is about 200 acres of common land lying to the east of the town. Although this land is private, the Trustees have always taken a relaxed attitude towards its use by both residents and visitors alike for recreational exercise and relaxation, and it is a great place for walking and picnics.

The Town and Manor also work hard to preserve the natural habitat of Freeman’s Marsh, which straddles the River Dun and the Kennet and Avon Canal to the west of Hungerford. The marsh is a very special place acknowledged by its designation as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and is home to many wild birds, plants and animals – some of which are now rare in southern England.

Natural Hungerford

Hungerford Marsh is a rich mix of water meadows, reedbeds, damp scrubland and patches of woodland. A lovely place to visit at any time of year, it affords delightful views towards the picturesque town of Hungerford, which dates from Saxon times.

Colourful wetland wild flowers include yellow iris, ragged-robin, southern marsh-orchid and fen bedstraw. Marsh-marigolds, a familiar sight in England until widespread field drainage in recent times, adorn the ground here in spring.

A Wildlife Trust has recorded 120 different bird species on this reserve including Heron, Kingfisher, Yellow Wagtail, Water Rail, Little Grebe and Grasshopper Warbler. In winter, look out for Siskins on the alder trees. River birds include Mute Swans, Mallard, Moorhen and Coot.

Getting to Hungerford

The town is well served by good road and rail links backed up by local bus services.

Situated at the junction of the A4 and A338 and easily accessible from junction 14 of the M4 and junction 13 (M4 and A34) at Newbury – Hungerford can truly be described as being at the heart of not only The North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty but also at the natural crossroads of southern England.

Hungerford as a visitor hub

Using Hungerford as a base enables visitors to visit much of interest within central southern England. Major historical cities such as Bath, Bristol, Oxford and Portsmouth are no more than an hour away, with many other tourist and leisure sites closer still.