History Guides

Ampthill Chronology


This is a select list of events relating to Ampthill

1089 Ammetelle recorded in Domesday Book

1219 A Royal Charter was granted for a weekly market in Ampthill

1242 The Market was confirmed by a Royal Charter, which also gave right to hold a fair on the feast of St Mary Magdalen (22 July)

c.1375 The Grange area of Ampthill belonged to the monks of Woburn Abbey (Old Warden) who kept flocks of sheep in the area

c.1420s Ampthill 'Castle' built for John Cornwall (later Lord Fanhope) who married Princess Elizabeth of Lancaster (sister of King Henry VI)

14th –15th century St Andrew’s Church built on site of Norman and possibly Saxon site

1485 The Almshouses beside St Andrew’s Church had been established by this date. Additions were made in the 19th century and the latest restoration and renovation occurred in 1997

1533 The marriage of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon was annulled. Katherine was resident in Ampthill 'castle' at this point

1542 Henry VIII created by act of parliament the Honour of Ampthill

1615 Houghton House was built for Mary, Countess Pembroke (she died in 1621)

1621 James I visited Houghton House, two months later the Countess of Pembroke died and the Bruce family became tenants of the house.

1624 James I, accompanied by the Prince of Wales (Charles I) visited Ampthill

1625 Richard Nicolls (future first governor of New York) was born at the Great Lodge in Ampthill Park

1643 There was a Parliamentarian raid on Ampthill

1647 Charles I lodged at the Great Lodge in Ampthill Park under close arrest for a couple of nights

1660 John Ashburnham (later Lord Ashburnham) becomes new owner of Ampthill Park

1664 Richard Nicolls received the surrender of Niew Amsterdam from the Dutch and renamed it New York after his friend and commander James, Duke of York (James II). He became New York’s first governor

1672 Richard Nicolls joined the Duke of York at Southwold for the Battle of Sole Bay. He died on the Royal Prince, the Duke’s flagship. The Dutch cannonball that took his life was incorporated into his memorial tablet in St Andrew’s Church

1695 The Great Lodge undergoes a major reconstruction for John, 2nd Lord Ashburnham

1710 John, 2nd Lord Ashburnham dies

1724 The Ampthill estate purchased by Lord Fitzwilliam

1726 The Society of Friends (Quakers) registered a barn for religious meetings

1729 A Workhouse behind 6 Woburn Street was built

1737 Lady Gowran purchased the Ampthill estate as a home for her son John Fitzpatrick, Lord Gowron

1738 Houghton House and estate were sold to the Duke of Bedford

1751 John Fitzpatrick, Lord Gowron is created the Earl of Upper Ossory

1753 The Quakers constructed built a new meeting House at Cow Fair End (Dunstable Street)

1756 The Earl of Upper Ossory dies

1764 Houghton House renovated under the direction of Sir William Chambers as the residence of Francis, Marquis of Tavistock

1768 The Quaker meetinghouse was enlarged

1770s The Morris family establish the brewery in Bedford Street, which became a major employer in the town and supplied most of the towns public houses and over a much greater distance.

1771 Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown employed to landscape Ampthill Park, while Sir William Chambers made major alterations to the House for the 2nd Earl of Upper Ossory

1785 A new well was sunk on the Market Square together, other general tidying up included building a new market house (plus whipping posts and stocks)

1790 John Morris (of the Brewery) built Avenue House

1794 Houghton House was unroofed and partially dismantled

c.1795 The Queen’s Head Public House (14 Woburn Street) closed. The present Queen’s Head opened in mid 19th century

1795 First mention of Inspector of weights and measures in Court records

1795 A new Workhouse was built at Cowfair End (Dunstable Street)

1795 The Workhouse behind 6 Woburn Street was closed

1797 The Union / Baptist congregation began meeting at 83 Dunstable Street

1808 Ampthill Enclosure Act passed, this transferred common lands into private ownership

1810 The Park Hill Workhouse or House of Industry was built

1811 The House of Industry was built on Park Hill

c.1811 The Methodists began to meet at 1 Brewery Lane

1813 A new chapel was built by the Methodists behind 29 Woburn Street (The Manse)

1813 The Wesleyan Chapel was built in Woburn Street

c.1816 The thatched Ossory Cottages were built along Woburn Street for estate workers

1818 Lord Holland succeeded Lord Ossory as owner of Ampthill Park House and estate

1818 Lord Ossory died and Park House and his Ampthill estate passes to his nephew Henry Richard Vassall Fox (3rd Baron Holland)

1819 The Royal School of Embroidering Females ceased to be run from 105 Dunstable Street. They had previously contributed hangings and curtains to the reconstruction and refurbishment of Windsor Castle by George III

1819 The eastern part of Avenue House was built

1821-27 The Alameda, a double avenue of limes was planted by Lord & Lady Holland

1822 The Union Church constructed in Dunstable Street

c.1829 Joseph Morris (brewer) built Ampthill House in Church Street and demolished the previous home of Richard Nicolls

1834 Ampthill Poor Law Union created to administer Poor Law

1835 A Poor Law Riot occurred outside the House of Industry (see Report on the riot )

1836 The new Union Workhouse opened in Dunstable Street (room for over 400 inmates). It was managed by a Board of Guardians, under a strict regime.

1840s A Bedfordshire Police Constabulary was created

1841 Duke of Bedford purchased Ampthill Park House and estate following the death of Lord Holland. Sir James Parke (later Lord Wensleydale) continued as tenant until the 1880s

1844 The 1833 Lighting & Watching Act adopted in Ampthill

1844 The British School opened in temporary accommodation. A purpose built building opened on the Sands, Woburn Street

1845 The National School opened in Bedford Street

1849 Ampthill Gas Works beside the southern driveway to Houghton House

1852 The 15th century Moot Hall was pulled down and replaced by the present Clock House

1854 The Manor Court ceased to meet

1856 Ampthill Police Station was built on Park Hill

1860s The Court House in Church Street was built. The Circuit judges served here until the 1920s and the Magistrates until 1963 when a new building was constructed in Woburn Street

1867 The first Ampthill railway tunnel was opened

1868 Ampthill Railway Station opened

1870s Sand Road Iron Works (the Foundry) established by William Whitehouse

1870 The Union Church was extended

1871 The Primitive Methodists opened their new chapel in Saunders Piece

1882 The Duke of Bedford’s workmen remove the original Alameda gates and demolish the red brick curtain wall. The gates were later re-used at the entrance to Bedford School (St Peter’s Green). The present gateway was designed by Professor Richardson.

1884 Emily, Lady Ampthill (a widow) moves into Park House with her two daughters, Misses Constance and Romola

1884 The Wesleyan Methodists built a new chapel, school room and manse in Dunstable Street

1890s Ampthill House considerably extended by the Wingfield family. Antony Wingfield (1857-1952) established a private zoo in its extensive grounds. Following his death the house was demolished and the grounds redeveloped as a housing estate.

1893 The Local Board for Ampthill set up and Ampthill elects its first form of local government

1893 The Union Church underwent further extensions to include a schoolroom and vestry

1895 The second Ampthill railway tunnel was opened

1897 A Midland Railway locomotive reached the speed of 90 mph over 2.36 miles of the main line at Ampthill (A world record held until 1903)

1898 Salvation Army built a barracks and house adjacent to 2 Arthur Street

1901 The Board Room for the Guardians of the Workhouse was built in Flitwick Road. The old thatched cottages on this site having been demolished

1901 First mention of Houghton House possibly being the Palace Beautiful in John Bunyan’s Pilgrims Progress. No evidence has ever been found to back this assumption.

1904 The Strict Baptist chapel opened in Oliver Street

1910 The old Salvation barracks in Arthur Street was converted to become ‘The Picturedrome’ (capacity 200). Later it became a hat factory, then a shop and house

1910 The first public telephone in Ampthill was installed at the Post Office in ‘Russell House’ (4 Bedford Street)

1914/5 The Duke of Bedford built a training camp on the hill in Ampthill Park

1917 127th Canadian Forestry Corp. felled the pine plantation (The Firs) for use as pit props in the first world war trenches.

1920s The Foundry closed and was used for some time as a builders merchants yard before being demolished in the 1970s

1920 The Primitive Methodist chapel was converted in the ‘Electric Kinema’ (a cinema)

1921 Princess Beatrice unveiled the cenotaph at the end of the Alameda as a memorial to the town’s dead. A second memorial was later unveiled outside St Andrew’s church by Lord Ampthill.

1922 The former Kings Head Inn was converted into a drill hall for the Territorial Army

1926 The Ampthill Morris Brewery closed

1927 Emily, Lady Ampthill died and her daughters continued to live at Park House until the early years of the Second World War.

1929 The responsibility for the Workhouse passed from the Board of Guardians to the County Council

1929 The Quaker meetinghouse was sold for use as a Church hall

1934/5 The Roman Catholic Church in Flitwick Road was opened

1936 The buildings of Ampthill Morris Brewery were demolished. A new cinema (Zonita) and petrol filling Station (Flitt Motors) were built on the vacant site

1937 The Drill Hall was opened in Woburn Street for the Territorial Army

1937 Ampthill’s third cinema, The Zonita opened in Bedford Street

1939 The ‘Electric Kinema’ in Saunders Piece closed

1940 Park House requisitioned for use during the war

1940s Part of the Park was sold to Bovril Ltd for grazing cattle. They had set up a factory in Reddings Wood during the early part of the war. After Park House was no longer needed for military purposes, Bovril used it asn entertainment centre

1940s The former Workhouse in Dunstable Street became The Cedars and cared for local elderly

1947 Ampthill Urban District Council purchased Ampthill Park for the townspeople

1948 The former Kings Head Inn was converted into offices

1949 The former Primitive Methodist / ‘Electric Kinema’ opens as a branch library

1954 Redborne School opened as a Secondary Modern (11+)

1954 Bedfordshire County Council took over responsibility for education in Ampthill. Both schools closed and the Sands School reopened as a County Primary School

1955 Park House was sold to Group Captain Leonard Cheshire VC for use as Cheshire Home

1958 The Police Station in Woburn Street opened

1960s The Roman Catholic Church in Flitwick Road was extended

1963 The Magistrates Court in Woburn Street opened

1963 Parkside Hall opened in Woburn Street

1966 Bovril sold their section of the Park to a local farmer

1966 The second phase of Redborne School was opened (the northern site)

1967 The new offices of Ampthill Rural District Council opened in Dunstable Street. The building was designed by Sir Albert Richardson

1971 Ampthill Urban District Council purchased The Firs for the town. It has subsequently been declared a Local Nature Reserve and a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

1973 Nottingham Rooms and Alameda Sports Hall opened

1974 The concept of Lower, Middle and Upper Schools introduced. Russell School became a Lower school (5-9), Redborne became an Upper school (13+) and two new schools were built. The Firs Lower School and Alameda Middle Schools (9-13) opened on former allotments between Station Road and The Alameda

1975 The 17th century wall painting of the Prince of Wales feathers (Charles II) were uncovered at The White Hart

1977 A new purpose built Cheshire Home is built along Woburn Street. Park House is subsequently sold for redevelopment and restoration. Today it has been converted into three separate houses.

1978 Ampthill Town Council purchase the old Quaker meetinghouse and rename it ‘Ampthill Hall’

1983 Ampthill bypass was opened (40 years after discussions started on a possible route)

1986 The Roman Catholic Church in Flitwick Road closed

1990s The Cedars closed and was converted into luxury apartments

1994 The Board Room for the Guardians of the Workhouse was converted to become Ampthill’s library. The old library in Saunders Piece closes

2001 The White Hart suffers extensive damage to roof and upper floors following early morning fire.

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