POTTON, a parish, post and market town, in the hundred of Biggleswade, county Bedford, 4 miles north east of Biggleswade, 11½ east of Bedford, and 2½ east of its station on the Great Northern railway. It is situated at the foot of a hill on the old road from Oxford to Cambridge, and was given to the Burgoynes by John of Gaunt. The town was nearly consumed by fire in 1783. It chiefly consists of one long street, and is abundantly supplied with water from numerous rivulets. The market-house is crowned with a turret containing a remarkable clock, the gift of Lord Torrington, with four dials, the time being indicated by the hour hand only.
The manufacture of straw-plait is carried on to a considerable extent, and lace was formerly made here, but has recently declined. There is a steam corn and flour mill. The Cambridgeshire hounds meet at Potton-Wood. The road from St. Ives, which joins the great North road at Biggleswade, passes through the parish. The land, which is principally arable, is tolerably fertile. The soil of one half of the parish is clay, and of the other a light loam mixed with sand. Sandstone is quarried, chiefly for building fence walls.
In the neighbourhood are several mansions. About 300 acres of land and a money payment were assigned in lieu of tithes under an Enclosure Act in 1814. The living is a vicarage* in the diocese of Ely, value £516, in the patronage of the lord chancellor. The church, dedicated to St. Mary, is an ancient structure, with a square embattled tower containing five bells. The church is situated on rising ground not far from the town. The parochial charities produce about £103 per annum. There are free schools for both sexes; also Sunday-schools. The Independents, Wesleyans, and Baptists have each a place of worship. William H. Whitbread, Esq., is lord of the manor. Market day is on Saturday, chiefly for corn and straw-plait. Fairs for horses and cattle are held on the third Tuesday in January (old style), for sheep on the last Tuesday in April, for fruit on the first Tuesday in July, and for cattle on the Tuesday next prior to the 29th October (old style), also a statute fair for the hiring of servants on the Monday three weeks prior to Old Michaelmas.
by Colin Hinson ©2013