Amesbury in 1833
AMESBURY, a market-town in Wiltshire, in a valley on the river Avon, (there are two rivers of this name in Wiltshire, the one here mentioned passes by Salisbury) about seven or eight miles N. of Salisbury, and seventy-eight W.S.W. from London. Its population is small, the parish having only 944 inhabitants in 1831. The town has little trade, and is chiefly supported by travellers and posting. Even the market (which was on Friday) has been discontinued. There are three fairs. Amesbury consists of two streets, irregular and ill-built, neither paved nor lighted. The church, built of stone and flints, is of very early date, but some of its ancient features have been defaced by alterations. It was probably attached to the nunnery which once existed here. The living is a perpetual curacy, in the gift of the Dean and Canons of Windsor. There is a Wesleyan chapel, and several schools, one of which is a national school.
Amesbury is a place of great antiquity. Under the Saxon king Edgar, it was of sufficient importance to be the seat of a synod; and Elfrida, the widow of that prince, founded here, in the latter part of the tenth century, a nunnery of the Benedictine order. An abbey had indeed existed at a much earlier period, founded, as some say, by Ambrosius, a British prince who lived at the time of the Saxon invasion, or by one Ambri, a monk : this abbey appears to have been destroyed by the Danes about the time of Alfred. Elfrida’s nunnery, notwithstanding some changes, lasted till the general dissolution of the religious houses. Its revenue at that time is estimated by Speed at £558, 10 shillings, 2 pence, and by Dugdale at £495, 15 shillings, 2 pence. A mansion on this site, was, after the French Revolution, occupied by some nuns from Louvain, attracted it is said by the sanctity of the place : they subsequently removed into Dorsetshire. In its neighbourhood is Stonehenge. To the west of the town are the traces of an ancient encampment, which though popularly termed Vespasian’s camp, is evidently not of Roman origin.