Higham-Ferrers (Virgin Mary)

HIGHAM-FERRERS (Virgin Mary), a town and parish, in the hundred of Higham-Ferrers, union of Wellingborough, N. division of the county of Northampton, 15½ miles (E. N. E.) from Northampton, and 65 (N. N. W.) from London; containing 1030 inhabitants. This place, which was formerly a representative borough and a market-town, derives its distinguishing appellation from the ancient family of Ferrers, who were its lords, and had a castle here; the name Higham is said to be a contraction of High-ham, denoting elevated situation. The town stands on a rocky eminence abounding with springs, about half a mile from the south-eastern bank of the navigable river Nene, and consists chiefly of two streets, with a market-place in which stands a cross: the roads from Wellingborough to Kimbolton, and from Kettering to Bedford, meet here. It is supposed to have been much larger than it now is, possessing at one period three weekly markets, none of which have been held for the last fifty years. The chief business consists in making boots, shoes, and bobbin-lace; and there are fairs on March 7th, June 28th, the Thursday before August 5th, October 11th, and December 6th. Here is a station of the Northampton and Peterborough railway, 4½ miles from the Wellingborough station, and 6 from that of Thrapstone.

The town was incorporated in the 2nd and 3rd of Philip and Mary, and its privileges were confirmed by a charter granted in the 36th of Charles II., under which the corporation consists of a mayor, recorder, deputyrecorder, seven aldermen, and thirteen capital burgesses; the aldermen are chosen from among the burgesses, and the mayor is elected annually from among the aldermen. The mayor is lord of a manor called Borough-hold, extending from Stump-cross northward to Spittle-cross southward; he holds a court leet annually before the expiration of the term of his office, and he and his predecessor are justices of the peace. The town-hall was erected by the corporation in 1812, near the site of a prior one, which had fallen to decay. The borough sent a representative to parliament from the third year of Philip and Mary to the second of William IV., when it was disfranchised. The parish consists of 1918a. 1r. 37p., whereof three-fourths are arable, and the remainder pasture; the soil is various, partly clay and partly alluvial: there are limestone-quarries. The living is a vicarage not in charge, with the living of Chelveston united; net income, £345; patron and impropriator, Earl Fitzwilliam: the tithes were commuted for land and money payments, under an act of inclosure, in the 3rd of Victoria. The church is a handsome building, displaying various styles of English architecture, and consists of two naves, with north and south aisles, and a chancel separated by a decorated screen; on each side of the chancel are stalls, with curious emblematical devices. At the west end is a porch, much ornamented with sculpture; also an embattled tower, from which rises a finely-proportioned octagonal crocketed spire. The church contains some ancient monuments and sepulchral brasses. There is a place of worship for Wesleyans. A free grammar school, now an English school, was founded in 1420 by Archbishop Chichele, who left an endowment of £10 per annum. Some remains of an ancient college are still discernible; and on the north side of the church is a spot called Castleyard, the site of a castle: some parts of the moat, and a few traces of the foundations, are remaining. Archbishop Chichele, a great patron of literature in the reign of Henry V., was born here in 1362.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.