"AMPTHILL, (St. Andrew) a parish and market town and head of a Union, in the hundred of Redbornestoke, county of Bedford, seven miles south-west of Bedford, 45 miles north-north-west from London 1882 acres and containing 2001 inhabitants. In the reign of Henry VI, Sir John Cornwall, created Lord Fanhope, built a castle on the manor of Ampthillwhich about the year 1530 came into possession of the crown and was made head of an honour by act of parliament. Catherine of Aragon, until the business of her divorce was pending, resided here, where she received the summons of the commissioners at Dunstable which she refused to obey. In memory of this the Earl of ossory in 1770 erected on the site of the castle a handsome column, with an appropriate description by Horace Walpole, Earl of Orford. The modern seat is chiefly remarkable for a number of very ancient oaks which ornament the park.
The town is 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 handsome market house. The market is on a Thursday; fairs are held on the 4th of May and 30th of November for cattle. The county magistrates hold petty sessions for the hundred at this town; and the court for the honour of Ampthill is held in the Moot House, an ancient building, under the Lord High Steward, at which constables and other officers are appointed. Ampthill has been a polling place in the election of Knights of the Shire.
The Living is a discharged rectory, valued in the King's books at £10.6.8. Present net income of £330; patron, the Crown. 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 styles of English architecture with a square embattled tower rising from the centre. There are places of worship for independents, the society of friends and Wesleyans. A charity School for 20 boys and 24 girls was endowed by Mrs. Sarah Emery in 1691 with lands producing £30 per annum, half of which was given to the parish of Meppershall; and a rent charge of £5, given by Mr. George Watson in 1740 is appropriated to the instruction of 16 poor children. There is a feoffee charity of about £100 per annum derived from the lands and houses for the benefit of the necessitous and industrious poor, and about a quarter of a mile from the town is a hospital founded by John Cross in 1690, called 'Dr. Cross' Hospital of the University of Oxford' which affords a comfortable assylum for 9 poor men and 4 poor women who each receive about £20 per year with bedding, coals &c. produced from the rent of a farm adjoing called Little Park Farm. The Vice Chancellor of the University of Oxford and the Bishop of that diocese are visitors: there are 4 or 5 trustees, the Vice Chancellor being one, the others are heads of houses. The interest arising from a legacy of £700 left by Mr. Arthur Whichelner, in 1687, for the apprenticing poor children, is shared by this parish conjointly with the parishes of Maulden, Millbrook and Ridgemont. The poor law Union of Ampthill comprises 19 parishes or places and contains a population of 15,681 according to the census of 1841.
(from:[A Topographical Dictionary of England Comprising the Several Counties, Cities, Boroughs, Corporate and Market Towns, Parishes and Townships and the Islands of Guernsey, Jersey and Man. With Historical and Statistical Descriptions. Fifth Edition, 1842. Samuel Lewis. Volume III of IV. Samuel Lewis, 87 Hatton Garden.]
[Description(s) transcribed by Martin Edwards ©2003 and later edited by Colin Hinson ©2013]