PRINCE Edward will visit Wantage on Friday to celebrate his 50th birthday.

Accompanied by his wife Sophie, the Earl and Countess of Wessex will visit towns throughout the historical Saxon Kingdom of Wessex during the Earl’s Best of Wessex birthday tour.

They will begin their visit to Wantage by opening King Alfred’s Academy’s new Loyd building – a £720,000 art and design block with a new assembly hall.

The royal party will then visit the Market Place to view the statue of King Alfred and meet the public for two hours from 3.30pm.

The area will be closed to traffic for two hours as it is for the annual Dickensian evening in December.

Wantage Mayor Fiona Roper said: “Everyone is really looking forward to seeing the royal couple. Wantage Silver Band will be playing in the Market Place and we will be flying flags and putting up bunting to celebrate the visit.

“I hope we have a good turnout so we can give them a real Wantage welcome.”