In 1870-72, John Marius Wilson's Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales described Ashwell like this:
ASHWELL, a village and a parish in Royston district, Herts. The village stands at the source of the river Rhee, an affluent of the Cam, 2 miles N of a station of its own name on the Hitchen and Cambridge railway, and 4½ NNE of Baldock. It is thought to have been of Roman origin; it bore anciently the name of Escewell; and it was a seat of the Saxon kings, a borough, and a market-town. It now consists of several scattered streets; and has a post office‡ under Baldock. The parish comprises 3,852 acres. ...
Real property, £7,509. Pop., 1,507. Houses, 293. The manor was given, before the time of Edward the Confessor, to Westminster Abbey; and passed, at the dissolution, to the see of London. The Roman road, Icknield-street, passes ½ a mile S of the village; and the Roman camp of Arbury occurs there, covers an area of 12 acres, and has yielded Roman coins, and other Roman relics. A small dell adjacent to the village leads up to a steep rocky bank, from the foot of which a number of springs gush out to form the river Rhee. Building-stone is quarried. The living is a rectory in the diocese of Rochester. Value, £513.* Patron, the Bishop of Rochester. The church is ancient and good: consists of nave, aisle, and chancel; has a tower at the W end, surmounted by a spire 175 feet high; and contains several old slabs, formerly inlaid with brasses. There are Independent, Baptist, Wesleyan, and Quaker chapels, an endowed school with £17 a year, and other charities with £55. Cudworth was vicar till his death in 1688.
A Vision of Britain through Time includes a large library of local statistics for administrative units. For the best overall sense of how the area containing Ashwell has changed, please see our redistricted information for the modern district of North Hertfordshire. More detailed statistical data are available under Units and statistics, which includes both administrative units covering Ashwell and units named after it.
GB Historical GIS / University of Portsmouth, History of Ashwell in North Hertfordshire | Map and description, A Vision of Britain through Time.
Date accessed: 25th April 2015
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