Hungerford (St. Lawrence)

HUNGERFORD (St. Lawrence), a market-town and parish, and the head of a union, chiefly in the hundred of Kintbury-Eagle, county of Berks, but partly in that of Kinwardstone, S. division of Wilts; containing, with the tythings of Edington with Hidden and Newtown, Sanden-Fee, and Charnham-Street, 2724 inhabitants, of whom 1811 are in the town, 26 miles (W. by S.) from Reading, and 64 (W. by S.) from London. This place was anciently called Ingleford Charman Street, a name signifying "the ford of the Angles on the Ermin-street," a Roman road which crossed the site of the town: the adjunct is still preserved in one of its avenues, now styled Charnham-street. It stands on the road from London to Bath, partly on the declivity of a hill, and is particularly salubrious: the houses in general have a respectable appearance; the streets are partially lighted, and the inhabitants are plentifully supplied with water from wells. At the entrance into the town the river Kennet is crossed by a handsome bridge of five arches; and the Kennet and Avon canal, which passes through the town, affords a line of communication with Bath and Bristol, for the conveyance of corn, coal, and other heavy articles. An act was passed in 1845, for a railway to Reading, 25½ miles in length. There are an extensive brewery, and a tan-yard. Near the centre of the principal street is the market-house, a neat structure of brick, erected in 1787, which contains a spacious room for the transaction of public business. The market is on Wednesday; and fairs are held on the last Wednesday in April for cattle, and on the Wednesdays before and after Old Michaelmas-day, which are statute-fairs. The town is under the government of a prescriptive corporation, consisting of a bailiff, portreeve, two tythingmen, a constable, twelve burgesses, and a town-clerk. The constable, who is also coroner, and holds his office immediately under the crown, is chosen with the other officers on Hock-Tuesday, by the inhabitants, who are convened on that occasion by the sound of a brazen horn, said to have been presented to the townsmen by John of Gaunt, who granted them extensive rights of common pasture, and fishery in the Kennet. The powers of the county debt-court of Hungerford, established in 1847, extend over the registration-district of Hungerford.

The parish comprises by admeasurement 5144 acres. The benefice is a vicarage, in the patronage of the Dean and Canons of Windsor (the appropriators), valued in the king's books at £9. 13. 4.; net income, £429. The church is a handsome edifice, erected on the site of the former church, in 1814, at the extremity of a pleasant walk, shaded by lofty trees, on the western side of the town; it has an embattled tower. A window of painted glass, representing the tutelar saint, was presented by Mr. Collins, of London; and in the north aisle is a circular stone, with a brass plate, to the memory of Robert de Hungerford, who was the first of that family settled in this county. There are places of worship for Independents and Wesleyans. A free school for boys and girls was founded in 1636, by the Rev. Dr. Sheaff, and endowed by Mr. Hamblen in 1729, and Mrs. Cummins in 1735. The poor-law union of Hungerford comprises twenty-one parishes or places, of which there are ten in each of the counties of Berks and Wilts, and one in that of Southampton, the whole containing 19,892 inhabitants. Hungerford Park, situated at the extremity of the town, was the residence of the barons of Hungerford: the present mansion stands on the site of a house built by Queen Elizabeth, and given by her to the Earl of Essex. Dr. Samuel Chandler, a learned dissenting minister and theological writer, was born here in 1693.

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

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