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Ampthill (St. Andrew)

AMPTHILL (St. Andrew), a market-town and parish, and the head of a union, in the hundred of Redbornestoke, county of Bedford, 7 miles (S. by W.) from Bedford, and 45 (N. W. by N.) from London; comprising by computation 1882 acres, and containing 201 inhabitants. In the reign of Henry VI., Sir John Cornwall, created Lord Fanhope, built a castle on the manor of Ampthill, which, about the year 1530, came into the possession of the crown, and was made the head of an honour by act of parliament. Catherine of Arragon, while the business of her divorce was pending, resided here, where she received the summons to attend the commissioners at Dunstable, which she refused to obey; and in memory of this, the Earl of Ossory, in 1770, erected on the site of the castle a handsome column, with an appropriate inscription by Horace Walpole, Earl of Orford. The modern seat of Ampthill is chiefly remarkable for the number of very ancient oaks which ornament the park. The town, pleasantly situated between two hills, is irregularly built, paved with pebbles, and amply supplied with water; it has been of late considerably improved by the removal of old buildings, and the erection of a good market-house. The Bedford branch of the London and Birmingham railway passes on the north-west. The market is on Thursday; fairs take place on the 4th of May and 30th of November, for cattle. The county magistrates hold petty-sessions for the hundred at this town; and a court for the honour is held in the moot-house, an ancient building, under the lord high steward, by whom constables and other officers are appointed. The county debt-court of Ampthill, established in 1847, has jurisdiction over the registration-district of Ampthill.

The living is a discharged rectory, valued in the king's books at £10. 6. 8., and in the gift of the Crown, with a net income of £330: the tithes were commuted for land and corn-rents, under an inclosure act, in 1806. The church is a handsome cruciform structure, in the decorated and later English styles, with a square embattled tower rising from the centre. There are places of worship for Independents, the Society of Friends, and Wesleyans. A school was endowed by Mrs. Sarah Emery, in 1691, with lands producing £30 per annum, half of which is given to the parish of Meppershall. There is also a feoffee charity of about £100 per annum, derived from land and houses, for the benefit of the necessitous and industrious poor; and about a quarter of a mile from the town is an hospital, founded by John Cross, in 1690, which affords a comfortable asylum for nine men and four women, who each receive about £20 per year, with bedding, coal, &c. The union of Ampthill comprises 19 parishes or places, and contains a population of 15,681.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, seventh edition, published 1858.