Ampthill town centre with clock tower (1852) and market place
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Ampthill is a small town and civil parish in Bedfordshire, England, between Bedford and Luton. About 6000 people live in the town. A regular market has taken place on Thursdays for more than 700 years.
History[change | change source]
The name 'Ampthill' comes from an Anglo-Saxon word, 'Aemethyll', which means either 'ant-heap' or 'ant infested hill'. In the Domesday Book, Ampthill is called 'Ammetelle', with the landholder in 1086 being Nigel de la Vast.
In 1242, King Henry III gave Ampthill the right to hold a market on Thursdays. The Thursday markets are still held.
Henry VIII often visited Ampthill Castle. Katherine of Aragon lived at the castle from 1531 until she was divorced in 1533, when she was moved to Kimbolton. The castle was built in the 15th century by Sir John Cornwall, later Lord Fanhope. He used money he had made from ransoms after the Battle of Agincourt. The castle is now gone but there are some interesting parts of castle life still in existence. This includes ponds, such as West Minster Pond, made to hold and grow fish for food for the castle.
Houghton House[change | change source]
Houghton House was built in 1621 by Mary, Countess of Pembroke and brother of the poet Sir Philip Sidney. In 1675, the house gave John Bunyan the idea for the 'House Beautiful' in his book The Pilgrim's Progress. Bunyan's book is based on his own journey between Bedford and Luton. The steep slope leading into Ampthill was the model for the 'Hill of Difficulty'. Houghton House passed to the Duke of Bedford in 1738 and became a ruin after the roof was taken off in 1794.