Ashwell (St. Mary)
ASHWELL (St. Mary), a parish, in the union of Royston, hundred of Odsey, county of Hertford, 4½ miles (N. N. E.) from Baldock; containing 1235 inhabitants. This place derives its name from a well or spring issuing from a rock at the southern extremity of the village, surrounded with ash trees, and forming the source of the small river Rhee. At the time of the Norman survey it was a borough and market-town, having four annual fairs; it was also a royal demesne, and a small manor within the parish was held by Walter Somoner, in petit serjeantry, by the service of providing spits and roasting meat in the king's kitchen, on the day of his coronation. The parish contains 3679 acres, of which 23 are common or waste; the surface is diversified, and the soil chalky. A considerable trade in malt is carried on, the barley produced in the neighbourhood being of a very superior quality. The living is a vicarage, valued in the king's books at £22. 3. 6½.; patron and appropriator, the Bishop of London: the tithes have been commuted for £690. 18., and there is a good glebehouse. The church is a spacious structure, with a tower and spire 175 feet high. A free school, now conducted on the national plan, was founded and endowed in the 17th century under the will of Henry Colborn or Colebron, who bequeathed £1000 in trust to the Merchant Tailors' Company, by whom the master is appointed. On Harborough Hill, in the parish, are the remains of a quadrangular encampment, probably an exploratory station of the Romans. The Rev. Ralph Cudworth, D.D., Master of Christ's College, Cambridge, and author of the Intellectual System, was vicar of the parish, and died here in 1688.