ROYSTON, a parish, post and market town, chiefly in the hundred of Odsey, county Herts, but partly in the hundred of Armingford, county Cambridge, 18 miles north-east of Hertford, and 38 from London by road, or 45 by the Hitchin and Cambridge section of the Great Eastern railway, on which it is a station. It is situated at the intersection of the Icknield Way and the Ermine Street, under the Downs, in a bleak open country. It is a polling and petty sessions town, and was formed into a separate parish about 1540. Its present name is derived from Roisia de Vere, Countess of Norfolk, by whom a cross was set up, and near to which an Austin priory was founded in Henry II.'s time by Eustace-de-Mere, which led to the erection of houses, and the place acquired the appellation of Royse's Town, or Royston.
The town consists of one long and narrow street, crossed by two shorter streets, the houses being chiefly built of brick. It is lighted with gas, but scantily supplied with water. It contains a townhall, two branch banks, and a market-house, built in 1830 at the expense of Lord Dacre. Barrows exist on the Downs, which are frequented in winter by the bird called the "Royston crow," which takes its flight to Sweden and Germany in the spring. An extensive trade is done in malt and corn. Royston gives title of viscount to the Earl of Hardwicke, of Wimpole. A hunting-seat was built here by James I., who made it his occasional residence, and Charles I. removed here from Hampton Court at the breaking out of the civil war, previously to setting up his standard at Nottingham. That unfortunate monarch afterwards passed two nights here in June, 1647, when a prisoner to the army which had its headquarters at this place. The survey of the palace made during the Commonwealth describes it as in good condition, but it has since been partly taken down. The Poor-law Union of Royston comprises 29 parishes, or places. The revenue of the monastery at the Dissolution was valued at £89 16s. The living is a vicarage* in the diocese of Rochester, value £107. The church, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, is an ancient structure, and originally belonged to the priory, but was purchased by the inhabitants at the dissolution of the monasteries. It contains effigies of a knight, a canopied brass bearing date 1420, and two others. The parochial charities produce about £42 per annum. There is a National school for both sexes. Market day is on Wednesday, chiefly for corn, sheep, pigs, and straw-plait. Fairs are held on Whit-Wednesday, Shrove Wednesday, St. Thomas-a-Becket's day, and Easter Wednesday, and a statute fair for the hiring of servants on the first Wednesday after 10th October.