Powerflush nearby to Didcot
Didcot is a railway town and civil parish in Oxfordshire’s ceremonial county and Berkshire’s historic county. Didcot is located 15 miles (24 kilometers) south of Oxford, 10 miles (16 kilometers) east of Wantage, and 15 miles (24 kilometers) north of Reading. Didcot station, which opened as a junction station on the Great Western Main Line in 1844, is notable for its railway heritage. Today, the town is known for its railway museum and power stations, and it serves as the gateway to the Science Vale, which consists of three large science and technology centers in the surrounding villages of Milton (Milton Park), Culham (Culham Science Centre), and Harwell (Harwell Science and Innovation Campus which includes the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory).
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The Classical and Medieval eras
Didcot and the surrounding area have been inhabited for at least 9,000 years. Between 2010 and 2013, a large archaeological dig yielded Mesolithic, Neolithic, Iron Age, and Bronze Age finds. During the Roman era, residents attempted to drain the marshland by digging ditches through what is now the Ladygrove area north of the town near Long Wittenham, evidence of which was discovered during surveying in 1994. An enthusiast with a metal detector discovered a hoard of 126 gold Roman coins dating from around 160 AD just outside the village in 1995. It is now on loan from the British Museum to the Ashmolean Museum.
Didcot is not mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086. The toponym appears in 13th-century records as Dudecota, Dudecote, Doudecote, Dudcote, or Dudecothe. Some of these spellings persisted into later centuries, and were joined by Dodecote in the 14th century, Dudcott in the 16th century, and Didcott in the 17th century. It comes from Old English and means “the house or shelter of Dudda’s people.” Dida, a 7th-century Mercian sub-king who ruled the area around Oxford and was the father of Saint Frithuswith or Frideswide, who is now the patron saint of both Oxford and Oxford University, is thought to have inspired the name.
Didcot was a rural Berkshire village at the time, and it remained so for centuries, only appearing in records on rare occasions. If Didcot existed in 1086, it would have been much smaller than several surrounding villages, including Harwell and Long Wittenham, which modern Didcot now dwarfs. The nearest recorded settlement in the Domesday Book was Wibalditone, with 21 inhabitants and a church, the name of which may still be found in Willington’s Farm on the outskirts of Didcot’s present-day Ladygrove Estate. The oldest parts of All Saints Church, a Church of England parish church, date back to the 12th century. They include the nave walls and the east wall of the chancel, which were built around 1160. The church is a Grade II* listed structure.
The early modern era and the arrival of railways
Parts of the original village can still be found in the Lydalls Road neighborhood around All Saints’ Church. Didcot was a small village of landowners, tenants, and tradespeople with a population of about 120 people in the 16th century. White Cottage, a 16th-century timber-framed building in Manor Road with a wood shingle roof, is Didcot’s oldest surviving house. It is a Grade II listed structure. At the time, the village center was made up of a cluster of cottages and farms located along Manor, Foxhall, and Lydalls Roads. The Nook, Thorney Down Cottage, and Manor Cottage, all built in the early to mid-17th century, are still standing. Didcot village was on the route from London to Wantage (now Wantage Road), which was made a toll road in 1752. Didcot had three toll gates that collected revenue for the turnpike trust until 1879, when the trust was dissolved due to increased railway use.
The Great Western Railway Company
Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Great Western Railway arrived in Didcot in 1839. Didcot station, designed by Brunel, opened in 1844. The original station was destroyed by fire in the late 1800s. Although longer, a cheaper-to-build line to Bristol would have passed through Abingdon further north, but the landowner, the first Lord Wantage, is said to have blocked that route. Didcot’s growth was aided by the railway and its connection to Oxford. The station’s name contributed to the standardization of the spelling “Didcot.”
Didcot, Newbury, and Southampton Railway is a branch of the Didcot, Newbury, and Southampton
Didcot’s location at the crossroads of routes to London, Bristol, Oxford, and Southampton via the Didcot, Newbury and Southampton Railway (DN&S) made it strategically important, particularly 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 been closed, and the large Army and Royal Air Force ordnance depots beneath the power station and Milton Park Business Park have vanished; however, the 11 Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Search Regiment RLC remains based at the town’s Vauxhall Barracks.
The DN&S railway is still visible in the town’s eastern outskirts. After previous proposals had failed, this line was built in 1879–82 to provide a direct link to the south coast from the Midlands and the North, avoiding the indirect and congested route via Reading and Basingstoke. It was designed as a main line by John Fowler and built by contractors TH Falkiner and Sir Thomas Tancred, who also built the Forth Railway Bridge. Due to the heavy engineering challenges of crossing the Berkshire and Hampshire Downs with a 1 in 106 gradient to allow for higher mainline speeds, the line was very expensive to build, and this initial cost, combined with initially lower-than-expected traffic volumes, caused the company financial problems. It never reached Southampton on its own, instead connecting to the main London and South Western Railway line at Shawford, south of Winchester.
During World War II, there was so much military traffic to Southampton that the line was upgraded. The northern section of the line between Didcot and Newbury was upgraded to double track. It was closed for 5 months in 1942–43 to allow for this. Several bridges in the Didcot and Hagbournes area were also strengthened and rebuilt. Although passenger trains between Didcot and Newbury were discontinued in 1962, the line was used by freight trains for four years longer, and there was regular oil traffic to the north from the Fawley refinery near Southampton. However, in 1966, this traffic was also discontinued, and the line was then decommissioned. In May 1964, a rerouted Pines Express was diverted due to a derailment at Reading West, and it was the last passenger train. Views of the town and countryside can be had from a section of the abandoned embankment towards Upton, which is now designated as a Sustrans route.
The twenty-first century
Didcot had a population of over 26,000 people in 2011.
The Orchard Centre, the new town center, opened in August 2005.
Didcot is surrounded by one of the largest scientific clusters in the United Kingdom because it is part of the Science Vale Enterprise Zone. Culham Science Centre, Harwell Science and Innovation Campus, and Milton Park are all nearby major science and technology campuses. The Diamond Light Source synchrotron, located on the Harwell Campus, is the most significant UK-funded scientific facility built in more than 30 years.
Didcot has been designated as one of Oxfordshire’s three major growth areas; the Ladygrove development, to the north and east of the railway line on former marshland, is set to double the town’s population since construction began in the late 1980s. The Ladygrove development was supposed to be finished by 2001, but plans for the final section east of Abingdon Road were announced in 2006. Prior to the completion of the Ladygrove development, a lengthy and contentious planning inquiry determined that a 3,200-home development would be built to the west of the town, partially overlapping the boundary with the Vale of White Horse. This is now known as Great Western Park.
Cornerstone, a new £8 million arts and entertainment center, opened in the Orchard Centre in 2008. There are exhibition and studio spaces, as well as a café and a 236-seat auditorium. The center, designed by Ellis William Architects, is clad in silvered aluminum panels and features a window wall that connects the building to passing shoppers. Didcot was designated a garden town by the United Kingdom government in 2015, making it the first existing town to receive this designation, with funding provided to support sustainable and environmentally friendly town development over the next 15 years. Didcot was named the most “normal” town in England by researchers in 2017.