Ampthill town centre with clock tower (1852) and market place
|OS grid reference|
|• London||40 mi (64 km) SE|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Fire||Bedfordshire and Luton|
|Ambulance||East of England|
|EU Parliament||East of England|
Ampthill is a town and civil parish in Bedfordshire, England, between Bedford and Luton, with a population of about 14,000. It is administered by Central Bedfordshire Council. A regular market has taken place on Thursdays for centuries.
The name 'Ampthill' is of Anglo-Saxon origin. The first settlement was called 'Aemethyll', which literally means either 'ant-heap' or 'ant infested hill'. In the Domesday Book, Ampthill is referred to as 'Ammetelle', with the landholder in 1086 being Nigel de la Vast. The actual entry reads: Ammetelle: Nigel de la Vast from Nigel d'Aubigny. A further variation may be 'Hampthull', in 1381.
In 1219 King Henry III granted a charter for a weekly market to be held on a Thursday. In 2019 the market will celebrate 800 years.
Henry VIII was a frequent visitor to Ampthill Castle, and it was there that Catherine of Aragon lived from 1531 until divorced in 1533, when she was moved to Kimbolton. The castle was built in the 15th century by Sir John Cornwall, later Lord Fanhope, from ransoms after the Battle of Agincourt. Today a park remains just north of the town centre, site of Ampthill's former castle, where Henry VIII would come and hunt. It was in the castle's Great Dining Room that Queen Catherine defiantly received news of the end of her marriage. A cross erected in the 1770s marks the site of this important building which is set within Ampthill Great Park, a “Capability” Brown landscape.
In the mid-1780s, John Fitzpatrick, the 2nd Earl of Upper Ossory, led a campaign to improve the town centre. He created the current market place, erected the water pump and built a new clock tower. Lord Upper Ossory was also responsible for a cross commemorating Catherine of Aragon, with an inscription by Horace Walpole, and a row of thatched cottages built between 1812 and 1816 to house his estate workers.
During WWII there was a farming camp near Ampthill where volunteers recovered sugarbeet and were accommodated in tents in the grounds of a nearby country mansion.
Recent years have witnessed substantial development in Ampthill and the surrounding area. The Bedford Street area was substantially redeveloped in 2006/2007, with the demolition of a Shell petrol station, shopping arcade and small Budgens supermarket, to make way for a new Waitrose supermarket, an improved town car park and a development of shops and apartments known as Oxlet House. The supermarket opened on 29 September 2006, with Oxlet house being completed in late 2007. Since then, two major new housing estates have been constructed on the south side of town - Ampthill Heights to the west and Ampthill Gardens to the east. Other significant housing developments have been completed behind The Limes, at the former site of Russell House, off Swaffield Close and in the old orchard off Church Street. Together, these developments doubled the population of Ampthill from 7,030 (at the 2011 census) to an estimated 14,000 in 2018.
Ampthill is a commercial centre for surrounding villages; it has several pubs, restaurants, a Waitrose supermarket and a selection of small independent specialist shops. A number of small businesses such as solicitors, estate agents, financial services, hairdressers, music schools and a bookshop are also located in town, with larger businesses found on the commercial and industrial developments on the outskirts, along the town's bypass.
Ampthill is one of the most expensive places to buy a house in Bedfordshire, even in comparison with other mid-Bedfordshire towns such as neighbouring Flitwick, and Cranfield. In a survey, it was found that the majority of Ampthill's workers are employed locally, with around 20% working in Ampthill itself, and most of the remainder travelling to nearby centres of employment such as Bedford, Luton and Milton Keynes. Around 13% of workers commute from Ampthill to London daily. The survey also found that the turnover of residents was low, most having been in Ampthill for well over a decade.
Sport and leisure
Ampthill has a non-League football team, Ampthill Town F.C. who play at Ampthill Park. Ampthill Super7s is the local 7-a-side football league. It takes place every Monday and Thursday at Redborne Upper School. The town's rugby union club Ampthill RUFC was established in 1881 and plays in National League 1 the third from top tier league in the English rugby union system  and are one of the top 40 sides in the country. The Rugby Club has over 1000 registered members, fields teams from every age group from U6's up to U18's. They also have 2 ladies sides and 6 adult men sides. Ampthill Town Cricket Club has been established since 1890 and currently have teams playing in the Hertfordshire league and the Bedfordshire league putting out at least four teams on Saturdays and Sunday. They also host a Bedfordshire CCC match yearly and host an annual friendly game with London Zoo. Their home is in Ampthill Great Park with a clubhouse and scorebox near the west carpark.
Culture and community
Ampthill is host to an annual Ampthill Festival weekend which includes a live rock music event "AmpRocks"; acts such as Razorlight and Toploader have performed there. It also includes "Ampthill Park Proms", with orchestra and guest singers, highlighted by fireworks. This event is held in Ampthill Great Park, where a temporary soundstage is erected to entertain local residents.
Ampthill has a high concentration of public amenities, including schools, doctors surgeries, a fire and ambulance station.
As part of Central Bedfordshire, Ampthill's schools are organised in a three-tier system. There are two lower schools (Russell and The Firs), one middle school (Alameda) and one upper school, Redborne, which is shared with the neighbouring town of Flitwick.
St Andrew's Church of England
The church of St Andrew ranges in date from Early English to Perpendicular. It contains a monument to Richard Nicolls (1624–1672), an Ampthill native, who, under the patronage of the Duke of York, brother to Charles II, to whom the king had granted the Dutch North American colony of New Netherland, received the submission of its chief town, New Amsterdam, in 1664, and became its first English governor, the town taking the name of New York. Nicolls perished in the action between the English and Dutch fleets at Solebay, and the ball which killed him is preserved on his tomb. The church also contains a ring of eight bells. There were six until 1981, when the two new bells were installed. Services Run weekly, with Sung Eucharist at 9.30AM and Evensong at 6.30PM. The church has a regular 4 part choir, which has sung morning and evening services for over 100 years.
Houghton House was built in 1621 by Mary, Countess of Pembroke and sister of the poet Sir Philip Sidney. In 1675, the house may have provided the inspiration for 'House Beautiful' in John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress. It is thought that Bunyan's work is loosely based on his own journey between Bedford and Luton, and the steep slope leading into Ampthill could have been the model for the 'Hill of Difficulty'. Houghton House passed to the Duke of Bedford in 1738 and became a ruin after the removal of the roof in 1794.
Notable 20th-century architect Sir Albert Richardson lived in Ampthill from 1919 until his death in 1964 at Avenue House, 20 Church Street. Among his last projects was the building that housed Mid Bedfordshire District Council (formerly the Ampthill Rural District Council offices) until August 2006, at 12 Dunstable Street (1963–1965).
Brian Clemens, screenwriter and producer of many famous action/adventure TV series including The Avengers and The Professionals lived at Park Farm until his death in January 2015. One episode of The Avengers - 'Noon Doomsday' was filmed there in July 1968.
Ray Austin (director), film and television director, screenwriter and producer of many famous action/adventure TV series including The Avengers and The Professionals reactivated Elizabethan cottage in Millbrook and lived there for many years at until he moved to America in 1969 where he directed and produced many American hit TV shows.
Ampthill is twinned with:
- Nissan-lez-Enserune, France.
- "Officer for National Statistics' Mid Year Estimates of Population". Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 19 February 2018.
- Plea Rolls of the Court of Common Pleas; National Archives; CP 40/483; http://aalt.law.uh.edu/AALT6/R2/CP40no483/483_0101.htm; a front; 7th entry, with 'John Baldok de Hampthull'
- One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Ampthill". Encyclopædia Britannica. 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 894.
- Ampthill.org.uk Archived 22 May 2006 at the Wayback Machine.
- "Ampthill RUFC". Rugby First. Archived from the original on 15 December 2007. Retrieved 20 June 2013.
- Centre Parcs village granted planning permission – BBC article
- Ampthill Station. Archived 13 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
- Who Was Who in America, Historical Volume, 1607–1896. Chicago: Marquis Who's Who. 1963.
- "Noon Doomsday". The Avengers Forever. Retrieved 26 January 2016.
Media related to Ampthill at Wikimedia Commons