Letcome Regis

About The Village

Letcombe Regis is a pretty downland village within the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The parish covers an area south west of Wantage extending about 5 km along the north-south axis and 1.5 km across the east-west axis, encompassing Segsbury Down and hill fort, Greenhill Down and Long Down, and borders Wantage, East and West Challow, Letcombe Bassett, Fawley and Farnborough parishes. The historic core of the village lies within the Letcombe Regis Conservation Area and the Letcombe Castle or Segsbury Camp is designated as an ancient monument and Castle Hill is a nature conservation site.  

The extract from the Domesday Book shows that in 1086 there were 51 households in Letcombe (1 villager, 30 smallholders, 2 slaves and 18 boors – a lower class of peasant), 16 ploughlands, 225 acres of meadow, 5 mills and 1 church. The annual tax was £55.

Until the reorganisation of local government in 1972, Letcombe Regis was in the county of Berkshire, but was then move into the Vale of the White Horse district of Oxfordshire. Today, the village has more than 250 houses and more than 500 on the electoral register, including the Richmond Letcombe Regis retirement centre.

Letcombe was first recorded as ‘Regis' in the reign of Richard II but hundreds of years earlier it was a royal manor of the kings of Wessex, passing to William the Conqueror in 1066. King Stephen granted the manor to the Abbey of Cluny in France in 1136 and later kings had a hunting lodge here. According to David Nash's Royal Berkshire History, "[t]he name of the village, and also of Letcombe Bassett, probably derives from the Saxon ‘Ledge Valley', or possibly incorporates a personal name as ‘Leoda's Valley'. It could also be Celtic Leito-Cwm, that is ‘Grey Valley', or possibly Leito-Camp meaning ‘Grey Open Land on the Outskirts of a Roman Settlement'. The Roman site might be Belmont, at Wantage, or Segsbury Castle hillfort. An old legend says the name really stems from a battle at this latter site between Danes and Saxons, when the enemy's blood ran down the valley and the villagers shouted, ‘Let it come! Let it come!'" Letcombe Regis, with East and West Challow, was an ancient parish in the Kintbury Eagle Hundred. Civil Parishes were created with elected parochial boards in most parishes between 1845 and 1860 with Letcombe becoming a Civil Parish after 1866.

The village has a medieval church with part of the tower dating from the 12th century and fragments of stained glass from the 14th.  An obelisk in the churchyard stands as a memorial to a Maori chief, George King Hipango, who at the age of nineteen, while training to be a Christian missionary died at the vicarage, possibly of tuberculosis.  Not long after being vaccinated against smallpox - the actual cause of his death is open to debate.

Monument & Plaque in Churchyard

In 1997 the Letcombe Regis Church of England School transferred to Childrey where it merged with the Childrey County Primary School and was renamed The Ridgeway Church of England Primary School which is now owned by the Letcombe Regis Church of England School Charity under the custodial trusteeship of the Oxford Diocese and the managing trusteeship of St Andrew's church wardens and incumbent. The Millennium Green is now situated on what was originally the school playground. There is also the Court Hill Centre on the Ridgeway, catering for a wide range of interests (walking, cycling, photography, teaching, games, camping...) which is accommodated in five renovated barns arranged around a pleasant courtyard (see http://www.courthill.org.uk/).