Higham Ferrers in 1839
Higham Ferrers is in the hundred of Higham Ferrers, 65 miles from London. The area of the parish is 2,260 acres ; the population in 1831 was 965, more than a fourth part agricultural. The town stands on a rocky eminence half a mile from the eastern bank of the Nene, and consists chiefly of one long street running north and south. Its elevated site renders it clean and healthy ; but the houses are generally poor, and the streets are not lighted. It has a large and curious church, formerly collegiate, having two naves of equal height, with small clerestory windows in each of the outer sides, and a north and south aisle, thus presenting three rows of piers and arches, and four spaces. Some of these piers and part of the tower are of early English character, but most of the church is of later date. Some of the windows are of decorated English character and good design ; others are of perpendicular character. The western entrance is much enriched with sculpture ; and the church contains an ancient font, some good wooden screen and stall work, and some painted glass. The upper part of the tower is of later date and is surmounted with a crocketed octagonal spire. Near the church are a grammar-school (a fine stone building), and a bead-house or alms-house, founded by Archbishop Chicheley, which has some portions of good perpendicular character, but much mutilated. There are also some remains of the ancient college, a portion of which has been converted into a dwelling-house. There is a town-hall of modern erection. The principal business of the place is shoe-making ; the making of lace, which formerly was much followed has declined since the introduction of machinery into that manufacture. There are seven yearly cattle-fairs.The town was incorporated in the reign of Philip and Mary : the borough is not quite co-extensive with the parish. The municipal officers are a mayor, seven aldermen, thirteen capital burgesses, a recorder, &c. ; this corporation was left untouched by the Municipal Reform Act. The borough returned one member to parliament from its first incorporation, until the passing of the Reform Act, by which it was disfranchised.
The living is a vicarage, united with the chapelry of Chelveston and Caldecott, of the clear yearly value of £245, with a glebe-house. There is a Wesleyan Methodist chapel. There were, in 1833, six dame-schools, with 37 children ; the endowed grammar-school, with 57 children ; one other day-school, with 26 children ; and two Sunday-schools, with 246 children.