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National Gazetteer (1868) - Hungerford

"HUNGERFORD, a parish and market town, partly in the hundred of Kintbury Eagle, county Berks, and partly in the hundred of Kinwardstone, county Wilts, 24 miles W.S.W. of Reading, and 64 from London by road, or 61½ by the Hungerford, Newbury, and Reading branch of the Great Western railway. In ancient times it was called Ingleford-Charnham Street, from the old British way from Silchester to Bath, which passes through the parish. It is situated on the river Kennet and the Kennet and Avon canal, and contains besides the town of Hungerford the tythings of Charnham Street, Sanden Fee, and Edington, the last identified by Prof. Beke as the Saxon Ethandune, where Alfred, disguised as a harper, spied the Danish forces, and defeated them in 878. Hungerford was visited by Charles I. in 1644, and by William III. in December, 1688, who met the agents of James II. at the old inn.

The town of Hungerford consists chiefly of one long street, intersected by the river Kennet, which here divides the counties of Berks and Wilts, and is crossed by a bridge of five arches. It contains a townhall, where John of Gaunt's horn is kept, market house, two branch banks, savings-bank, and union poorhouse, recently built. Its population in 1851 was 2,255, which had declined in 1861 to 2,031. At the E. end of the town is Hungerford Park, formerly the residence of the barons Hungerford. It is a mansion in the Italian style, occupying the site of the old house built by Queen Elizabeth and given to the Earl of Essex. There are no particular manufactures, the trade being chiefly in corn and agricultural produce. The inhabitants are by charter exempt from toll in the different fairs and markets throughout the kingdom, and enjoy many valuable privileges by grant from John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, who gave them the right of common over a considerable tract of down and marsh land, with the valuable fishery in the river Kennet, which is highly celebrated for the fineness of its trout. The fishery extends for some miles, and is strictly preserved by the town authorities, who grant tickets to visitors resorting to the town for the exciting sport of angling, at very reasonable charges.

Though not incorporated, the town is governed by a constable, who is elected annually, and by 12 burgesses who have borne the office of constable. The manor of Hungerford, with the appurtenances of common and fishery, is held direct of the crown by the inhabitants, who as feoffees hold a very ancient court at Hocktide. The court is summoned by blowing a brass copy of the old horn presented by John of Gaunt. The copy bears this inscription:- "John a Gaun did give and grant the riall of flshing to Hungerford toune from Eldren Stub to Irish Stil; excepting som several mil pound. Jehosphat Lucas was constable, 1634." It is the head of a Poor-law Union, embracing 10 parishes in Berks and one in Hunts, also the seat of a superintendent registry, and new County Court. The land surrounding the town is celebrated for its production of barley, and the water meadows are highly productive. The tithes have just been commuted.

The living is a vicarage* in the diocese of Oxford, value £522, in the patronage of the Dean and Canons of Windsor. The church, dedicated to St. Lawrence, has a monument to Robert, founder of the Hungerford family, of whom was Sir Thomas, first Speaker of the Commons, and Walter Hungerford, Lord Treasurer. There are Independent and Wesleyan chapels, also National schools. The parochial charities produce about £74 per annum. In the vicinity of the town are many seats. Market day is on Wednesday. Fairs are held on the last Wednesday in April, and on the 10th August for cattle, also three sheep fairs during the year; and a statute fair on the Wednesdays before and after Old Michaelmas day for hiring servants. The races take place in June."

"CHARNHAM-STREET, a tything in the parish of Hungerford, hundred of Kinwardstone, in the county of Wilts, 2 miles from the town of Hungerford. It is situated near the river Kennet and a branch of the Great Western railway. It anciently gave name to the parish."

"EDDINGTON, a tything in the parish of Hungerford, hundred of Kentbury Eagle, county Berks. It is situated on the river Kennet, in the vicinity of Hungerford. It was the Ethandun of the Saxons, and said to be the place where King Alfred, disguised as a harper, discovered the designs of his enemies, the Danes, and put them to flight."

"HIDDEN, a tything in the parish of Hungerford, county Berks, 1 mile N.E. of Hungerford. It is joined to Edington."

"HUNGERFORD NEWTOWN, a hamlet in the parish of Hungerford, hundred of Kintbury Eagle, county Berks, 3 miles N.E. of Hungerford."

"NEWTOWN, a tything in the parish of Hungerford, hundred of Kentbury Eagle, county Berks, 3 miles N.E. of Hungerford."

"SANDEN FEE, a tything in the parish of Hungerford, hundred of Kintbury Eagle, county Berks, near Hungerford."

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