Ampthill, a market-town, head of a union and a county court district, and a petty sessional division, in Beds. The town stands on a pleasant spot, overlooked by hills, with a station on the Midland main line, 1 mile N of the town, 2 1/2 miles SE of the Ampthill or Marston station on the L. & N.W.R., and 7 S by W of Bedford. It is neat and regular, and has a head post, money order, and telegraph office, bank, market-place, parish church, Baptist, Congregational, Primitive Methodist, and Wesleyan chapels, workhouse, and almshouses for nine men and sixteen women. 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. Most of the inhabitants are agricultural, but some are employed in an extensive brewery, others in a large iron-work, and many in straw-plaiting and bonnet-sewing. A weekly market is held on Thursday, and fairs on 4 May and 30 Nov. for cattle, and a statute fair on 21 Sept.
Ampthill Park adjoins the town on the NW, and is united to Houghton Park on the NE. It was the seat of the Lord's Upper Ossory and Holland, and is now the property of the Duke of Bedford. 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 Sidney is said to have written part of his "Arcadia," and remains of the house built by "Sidney's sister, Pembroke's mother." A beautiful alcove of lime trees, called the Alameda, was planted by Lord Holland for the recreation of the towns-people. Lord Odo Russell took his title of Baron from this town. The Duke of Bedford is lord of the manor and chief landowner.
The parish of Ampthill comprises 1904 acres ; population, 2294. The living is a rectory in the diocese of Ely; gross yearly value, £300 with residence. Patron, the Lord Chancellor.
The parish register dates from the year 1558
The parish church of St. Andrew is an ancient structure in the Perpendicular style, consisting of chancel, nave, aisles, porch with parvise over it, and a tower containing 6 bells, recast and rehung in 1898, at a cost of over £300: the interior of the church was restored and reseated in 1846, and again in 1877, at a cost of £2,300, of which £1,000 was contributed by the 9th Duke of Bedford K.G.: it contains a mural monument to Richard Nicolls, of Ampthill House, killed in the engagement between the fleets of England and Holland, May 28th, 1672; the cannon ball which occasioned his death is inlaid in the marble, with the inscription "Instrumentum Mortis et Immortalitatis:" here is also a marble pillar in memory of the Earl of Upper Ossory, and a brass to Sir Nicholas Hervey Knt. one of the knights of the Field of the Cloth of Gold, and in the suite of Katherine of Arragon when she resided at Amphill Castle: in 1892 the church was improved and partly refitted at a cost of £1,000; the east windows are filled with stained glass as memorials to the late Capt. Granville Wingfield and the misses Honora and Mary Wingfield, and there is another to Mrs. Sophia Wingfield; the stone pulpit was presented by Mrs. Wingfield, of Ampthill House, the font by Mrs. Eagles and the altar rails and pavement in the chancel by Emily Lady Ampthill. In the vestry is a clerical library, founded by Dr. Bray. An addition of one acre was made to the churchyard in 1883, the gift of the 9th Duke of Bedford, who also bore the cost of inclosing it with iron railings: the church will seat 700 persons.
There are Wesleyan, Primitive Methodist, and Baptish chapels. The Union chapel, in Dunstable street, is a structure of brick, seating 350 persons, and has a schoolroom attached. The Wesleyan chapel, Dunstable street, completed in 1884, at a cost of £3,500, is an edifice of grey brick with stone dressings: it will seat 800 persons, and has an attached schoolroom and six class-rooms, with vestry.
Ampthill was the head of a Poor Law Union, formed in 1835, which initially comprised the following parishes: Ampthill, Clophill, Cranfield, Flitton, Flitwick, Haynes, Higham Gobion, Houghton Conquest, Lidlington, Lower Gravenhurst, Marston Moretaine, Maulden, Millbrook, Pulloxhill, Shitlington & Lower Stondon, Silsoe, Steppingley, Upper Gravenhurst, and Westoning. The parishes of Aspley Guise, Aspley Heath, Battlesden, Eversholt, Harlington, Holcot, Husborne Crawley, Milton Bryan, Potsgrove, Ridgmont, Salford, Tingrith, Toddington, and Woburn were all added to the Union at a later date.
For further detailed history of the Ampthill Union see Peter Higginbotham's excellent resource: Ampthill Poor Law Union and Workhouse.