HUNDREDS of people crammed into Wantage town centre for one of the busiest Dickensian evenings ever.

The town was transformed in a Victorian wonderland, with period costume and music – plus some modern touches.

The Wantage Silver Band played in front of Waitrose while amateur dramatic group the Domino Players performed scenes from Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, David Copperfield, Great Expectations and Martin Chuzzlewit.

Mayor Charlotte Dickson turned on the Christmas lights at 6pm on Friday.

She said: “It was a fantastic success, one of the busiest years we have ever had, helped by all the new lighting.

“The bars and shops did very well.

“The children seemed to love it.”

The town had a visit from representatives of its German twin town Seesen, and the seven-strong delegation were in attendance at Dickensian evening.

Mrs Dickson added: “I think the Germans had a thoroughly good time.

“We sang Silent Night for them in German, and I think they appreciated that.”

The Wantage branch of the National Childbirth Trust took over a vacant shop in High Street to promote its work and celebrate the recent revival of its branch following a membership crisis.

The Church of SS Peter and Paul, in Church Street, was given over to stalls selling locally produced gifts.

Judy and Abby Tren, and their daughter Fran Loubser, sold a variety of homemade produce to raise money for the Greenfields School in South Africa.

Mrs Tren, 74, who is originally from South Africa and now lives in Wantage, said: “I think that Dickensian evening really embodies something about Wantage.

“There is a fantastic atmosphere this year, they have really pulled out all the stops.”

The town centre was illuminated from above by the new festive light garlands, and the wall-mounted, illuminated Christmas trees.

Fifty-eight businesses around the town donated £30 each for the 72 trees.

They were then assembled last week by a group of disadvantaged teen-agers working with police under a scheme organised by the Exit 7 charity run by the police.

Councillor St John Dickson said: “They were a really nice bunch, it was a really nice way for everyone to work together.”

The Vale and Downland Museum opened late, offering children the chance to meet Santa.

Oxfam in the market place won the best-dressed window competition with its Dickensian display.

Organising committee secretary Debbie Lewis-Pryde said: “The weather was perfect, there was a great christmas atmosphere.

“It was really nice to have the extra attractions.”