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"AMESBURY, (or Ambresbury), a parish in the hundred of Amesbury, in the county of Wilts, 7 miles to the N. of Salisbury, and 78 miles from London, or 104 miles by the South Western railway. The town is situated in a valley, on the river Avon, and includes the hamlet of West or Little Amesbury. It was formerly a market town, but the market has been discontinued. It is a place of considerable antiquity. Its name is derived, according to some authorities, from Ambrosius, a Roman and a descendant of Constantine, who became the sovereign of Britain; but according to others, from Ambrius, or Ambrosius, a British monk, the founder of a large monastery, which was destroyed by the Saxons; but both derivations are purely conjectural.


During the reign of Edgar, a synod met at Amesbury for the arrangement of disputes between the monks and the clergy. Towards the close of the 10th century, a mitred Benedictine nunnery was founded here, by Elfrida, the widow of Edgar, who hoped, perhaps, thereby to expiate the assassination of her son, at Corfe Castle. The nunnery was dedicated to St. Mary and St. Melorius, a saint of Cornwall. Henry II. expelled the inmates, in 1177, for incontinence, and in the same year placed in it a prioress and nuns from the abbey of Fontevrault, to which it was made a cell. Eleanor, Queen of Henry III., was afterwards abbess in this convent, and died here, in 1291. The establishment continued till the Dissolution, when its revenue amounted to £496. In 1540 it was conferred, with the manor of Amesbury, on Edward, Earl of Hertford. A mansion was erected on its site, by Inigo Jones, for the Duke of Queensberry. This mansion was occupied for some years by a company of nuns from Louvaine, refugees in this country, after the French revolution, in 1789. It is now called Amesbury House, and is the seat of Sir E. Antrobus, Bart."

[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868) - Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2003]




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