[Transcribed and edited information from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland - 1868]
"AMPTHILL, a parish and market town in the hundred of Redbornestoke, in the county of Bedford, 8 miles to the south of Bedford, and 45 miles from London, or 59 miles by rail. It is a station on the Bedford branch of the London and North Western railway. The town stands in a pleasant situation, between two hills, and is nearly in the centre of the county. The manor of Ampthill, belonged, at an early period, to the Pointz family, and Henry III. granted the privilege of holding a market here, to Nicholas Pointz and Joan his wife. This manor, with others, was given by Henry VI. to Sir John Cornwall, afterwards created Lord Fanhope, who married the king's sister, Elizabeth of Lancaster. A castle was erected on the domain, by Lord Fanhope, which reverted to the crown in the reign of Edward IV. He conferred it on Lord Grey, of Ruthin, Earl of Kent, from whose descendants it passed again to the crown about 1530, and became the palace of King Henry VIII. He constituted the manor the "Honor of Ampthill."" (There is more of this description).
The 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 5 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 £2300, 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, "Instrumenturn 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 Ampthill, Castle: in 1892 the church was improved and partly refitted at a cost of £1,000; the east window is stained; 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 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 Duke of Bedford,. who also bore the cost of inclosing it with iron. railings: the church will seat 700 persons. The register dates from the year 1558. [Kelly's Directory - Bedfordshire - 1898]
There are Congregational, Wesleyan and Primitive Methodist chapels. The Baptist chapel, situated in Dunstable street, is a structure of brick, seating 4000 persons. The Wesleyan chapel, Dunstable street, completed in 1884, at a cost of £3,500, is an edifice of grey brick, with stone dressfngs: it will seat 800 persons, and has attached a schoolroom and 6, classrooms, with vestry. [Kelly's Directory - Bedfordshire - 1898]
Amphill, created the royal honour by Henry VIII in 1542 lies on the Greensand Ridge in fair countryside. It has a variety of beautiful old buildings, many of them 17-18th century and some Tudor. The White Hart, a former coaching inn, was built in the days of Queen Anne and incorporates a Tudor building. Opposite is a Georgian arcaded shop. 28 Church Street, a mid-Georgian house, has the wrought iron gateway and screen from Houghton House. Facing Church Close is Dyvenor House of 1725, Georgian Brandreth House and the little whitened Feoffe Almshouses.
The ironstone church, on the edge of open hill-country, has Decorated Gothic arcades and chancel arch; otherwise is Perpendicular Gothic with carved angels under the roof, but over-restored externally. Four brasses include one to William Hicchecok, a 'wolman' 1450 and to Sir Nicholas Harvey 1532 who attended Queen Katherine; also there is an impressive monument to Richard Nicolls, whose family lived at Ampthill Park in the 17 century. Nicolls took over New Amsterdam from the Dutch in 1664 and renamed it New York after his patron the Duke of York, but at the Battle of Solway Bay in 1672 a Dutch cannonball killed him. The ball is in his monument, 'instrumentum mortis et immortalitatis'.
Henry VIII was a frequent visitor to Ampthill Castle, and it was there that Katherine of Aragon lived from 1531 until divorced in 1533, when she was moved to Kimbolton. The site of the castle is in the park, marked by a cross erected by Lord Ossory in 1770, with an inscription by Horace Walpole on its base, commemorating 'the mornful refuge of an injured Queen'. The castle was built in the 15 century by Sir John Cornwall, later Lord Fanhope, from ransoms after the Battle of Agincourt.
The present house in the park was built 1686-88 for the Dowager Countess of Ailesbury and Elgin, by architect-mason Robert Grumbold of Cambridge. It was sold to the first Lord Ashburnham in 1690, altered by John Lumley 1705-7 when the north front was made; lastly side wings and redecoration, including elaborate ceilings, were added 1769-71 by Chambers. In 1818 it became the home of the famous Lady Holland (died 1845), whose gatherings at Holland House, Kensington, were the most brilliant of her day. The house is now a Cheshire Home, and the park is a public one with some grand trees including a few old oaks.
On the western edge of the town near Little Farm is the Oxford Hospital, an almshouse of 1607 in Wren style, of chequered brickwork with original windows, dormers and a single-handed clock on a central pediment below a cupola - a little gem, backed by Scots pines in a rural setting.
The Ampthill & District Archaeological & Local History Society, founded in 1962, is a member of the Council for British Archaeology and the Bedfordshire Archaeological Council. Exhausted diggers after a hard morning. It has carried out excavations at Beadlow Priory, Ruxox Roman Villa, the Manor Way area of Flitwick, Ampthill By-Pass and other sites in the district. The artefacts discovered have been deposited in Bedford Museum. Reports of archaeological work are published in Bedfordshire Archaeology (formerly Bedfordshire Archaeological Journal) or in Society produced papers. The Society has joined the British Association for Local History, is a founder member of the Bedfordshire Local History Association and researches the history of local villages and their inhabitants. In 1973 the Society published Flitwick: A Short History and a revised version of this is in the course of preparation.
Ampthill History Forum
The Ampthill History Forum was established in 1999 to provide a well-informed band of speakers on Ampthill's interesting and significant history. The Forum organise regular historical walks as well as speaking to other groups. It also acts as a focus and initial contact for those engaged in scholarly research, especially students from the Town's schools and beyond. In addition to the usual resources available to local historians, the Forum has full access to Andrew Underwood's extensive collection. Andrew also acts as Consultant to the Forum. Forum members are available for general talks and guided tours, although each has their own specialisms. Further details available on request. The Forum has the official endorsement of Ampthill Town Council.