ASHBOURN is a market town in the parish of its name, which is partly in the hundred of Appletree, and partly in that of Wirksworth; 139 miles N.N.W. from London, 46 S.E. from Manchester, 13 N.W. from Derby, and 9 S.W. from Wirksworth.
The town is situate in an interesting part of the country, rather hilly, and well wooded - interspersed with rich valleys, productive meadows, and clear streams - amongst the latter is Compton brook, famous for its trout, and as having contributed to the sport of the poetical anglers, Walton and Cotton.
At an early period this town was called Asseburn, or Esseburne and it has been spelt in later times various other ways, until it has ultimately settled into 'Ashbourn'. The lord of the manor is Sir William Boothby, Baronet, who holds a court feet and baron in the town annually, at which the constables and headboroughs are severally chosen. Ashbourn is one of the stations named in the new Boundary Act for receiving votes at the election of knights of the shire, to represent the southern division of the county. About one mile west is the river Dore, upon which are cotton and corn mills; upon Bentley brook is a cotton mill, and in the town, are respectable malting concerns, and tobacco and snuff manufacturers.
The church, which was dedicated to St. Oswald by Hugh de Patisholl, Bishop of Coventry, in 1241, is in the form of a cross, with a large square tower, terminated by a lofty octagonal spire. It contains many monuments; but one in particular, finely executed by Banks, to the memory of a daughter of Sir Brook Boothby, Bart. fixes the attention: the figure of this lamented girl is in white marble, lying on her side, with inscriptions round the tomb in four different languages.
The living of Ashbourn is united with the perpetual curacy of Mappleton; the Dean of Lincoln is the patron, and the Rev. Samuel Shipley the present incumbent. The Calvinists, Wesleyan methodists and general baptists have their several chapels; and the trustees of the late Countess of Huntingdon's college Cheshunt, Herts, have also a chapel here, which was erected and endowed in 1800 by John Cooper, gent., of London, a native of this town; he likewise erected the chapel-house and six alms-houses, - the former he endowed with 40 guineas, and the latter with 60 guineas per annum; the Rev Alexander Start is the present minister.
The free grammar-school here was founded (under a charter granted by Queen Elizabeth) by Sir T. Cockain and William Bradburn, Esq. The head-master, who must have taken the degree of master of arts, has a house and garden, for his use, adjoining the school; and the pupils eligible to the establishment, must be of the town or its immediate neighbourhood. There are besides, two Sunday-schools, one upon the national plan, and another for a limited number of girls under twelve years of age.
The other principal charities consist of alms-houses, besides those before mentioned, for widows of protestant clergymen, and others for decayed tradesmen or their widows. A well conducted reading & news-room, & two circulating libraries are respectably supported.
The romantic glen of Dovedale is situate about 3 miles and a half from the town; & about two miles from Ashbourn is Mudge meadow, where is a chalybeate spring, highly impregnated with sulphur.
A well supplied market is held on Saturday: the fairs of first Tuesday in January, February 13th, April 3rd, May 21st, July 5th, August 16th, October 20th, and November 29th; some of these may be more properly designated large markets, for horses, horned cattle, sheep, pigs, &c.
The whole parish of Ashbourn contained, in 1821, 4,708 inhabitants, and in 1831, 4,884, of which last number 2,246 were retained as resident in the township.
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