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Oulney in 1836

Olney or Oulney is a market town on the north bank of the Ouse, in the hundred and deanery of Newport ; it is to the right of the great road from London to Chester and Holyhead, and is 55 miles from town. It has a market on Monday according to some of our authorities, or Thursday according to others ; and three fairs, one on Easter Monday, one on June 29th, and one on October 21st. The living is a vicarage in the patronage of the earl of Dartmouth. The town consists of one long street ; the houses are built of stone, and the older of them are for the most part covered with thatch ; but in consequence of a fire in 1786, in which 43 dwelling-houses, besides other buildings, were consumed, those of later erection are chiefly covered with tiles. The church, dedicated to St. Peter and St. Paul, is a spacious building, ornamented with a tower and a lofty stone spire, 185 ft. in height from the ground. There are meeting-houses for Quakers, Baptists, Independents, and Methodists. There are some almshouses. There is a bridge over the Ouse of four arches, besides several small arches extending over the meadows, which in winter are frequently flooded. To this bridge it is likely Cowper refers in the well-known lines,

‘Hark! ‘tis the, twanging horn o’er yonder bridge,
That with its wearisome, but needful length,
Bestrides the wintry flood.’

The population of the parish, in 1831, was 2,344, and 74 in the hamlet of Warrington : of the 2,344, 201 were employed in retail trade or handicrafts. Lace-making was for a long time the chief employment of the inhabitants ; of late silk weaving and the manufacture of hosiery have been introduced.

Olney was the residence of the poet Cowper. Moses Browne, author of ‘Piscatory Eclogues,’ was vicar of Olney ; and the Rev. John Newton, an esteemed religious writer and popular preacher, was curate here during the residence of Cowper.


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