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Imperial Gazatteer of England & Wales, 1866-9

Ampthill, Bedfordshire


AMPTHILL, a small town, a park, a parish, a sub-district, and a district, in Beds. The town stands on a pleasant spot, overlooked by hills, 2½ miles SE of the Ampthill or Marston station of the Northwestern railway, and 7 S by W of Bedford. It is neat and regular; and has a head post-office,‡ a banking-office, two chief inns, an old moot-hall, a new market-house, a parish church, three chapels for Independents, Wesleyan Methodists, and Quakers, a national school, a workhouse, and two alms-houses. The parish church consists of nave, aisles, and chancel; is in the later English style, with a tower at the west end; and contains a mural monument to the memory of Governor Nicholl, who fell in the sea-fight off Solebay in 1672. The town is a seat of petty sessions, and a polling-place. Most of its inhabitants are agricultural; but some are employed in an extensive brewery, and many are employed in straw-platting and bonnet-sewing. A weekly market is held on Thursday; and fairs on 4 May and 30 Nov.

Ampthill Park adjoins the town on the NW, and is united to Houghton Park on the NE. It was the seat of the late Lord Holland; and is now occupied by Lord Wensleydale. A castle was built on it, in the time of Henry VI., by Sir John Cornwall, afterwards Lord Fanhope; and was the residence of Catherine of Arragon, during the process instituted against her by Henry VIII. A cross, in commemoration of this event, was erected in 1770 by the Earl of Ossory, then proprietor of the estate, and bears an inscription from the pen of Horace Walpole. The present mansion stands on lower ground than the site of the ancient castle, yet commands an extensive view of the vale of Bedford, and is a magnificent edifice, built by Lord Ashburnham, and containing some valuable paintings and a museum. The estate was constituted by Henry VIII. a royal domain, under the name of the Honour of Ampthill. The park is spacious, well diversified with picturesque scenes, and much studded with venerable oaks. Houghton Park contains the pear-tree under which Sir Philip Sydney is said to have written part of his "Arcadia," and remains of the house built by "Sydney's sister, Pembroke's mother." A beautiful grove of lime-trees, called the Alameda, was planted by Lord Holland for the recreation of the townspeople.

The parish of Ampthill comprises 1,923 acres. Real property, £8,651. Pop., 2,144. Houses, 438. The living is a rectory in the diocese of Ely. value, £280.* Patron, the Lord Chancellor. — The sub-district comprises 9 parishes, and part of another. Acres, 19,118. Pop., 9,076. Houses, 1,897. — The district comprehends the sub-district of Cranfield, containing the parishes of Cranfield, Lidlington, and Marston-Moretaine; the sub-district of Shillington, containing the parishes of Higham-Gobion, Clophill, and part of Flitton; and the sub-district of Ampthill, containingthe parishes of Ampthill, Houghton-Conquest, Hawnes, Maulden, Pulloxhill, Westoning, Flitwick, Steppingley, Millbrook and part of Flitton. Acres, 41,551. Poor rates, £8,321. Pop. in 1841, 15,681; in 1861, 16,970. Houses 3,519. Marriages, 150; births, 593, — of which 59 were illegitimate; deaths, 371, — of which 161 were at ages under 5 years and 3 at ages above 85 years. Marriages in the ten years 1851-60, 1,293; births, 5,742; deaths, 3,565. The places of worship in 1851 were 20 of the Church of England, with 6,308 sittings; 1 of Independents, with 290 s.; 6 of Baptists, with 1,052 s.; 1 of Quakers, with 220 s.; 13 of Wesleyan Methodists, with 2,360 s.; 3 of Primitive Methodist, with 309 s.; and 3 undefined, with 672 s. The schools in 1851 were 18 public day schools, with 1,209 scholars; 19 private day schools, with 423 s., 36 Sunday schools, with 3,367 s.; and 3 evening schools for adults, with 91 s.

     
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