From the 14th century Ampthill Park was a royal lodge and hunting park. In the 15th century it was occupied by Sir John Cornwall, who had married the king's sister, Elizabeth of Lancaster, Duchess of Exeter. Sir John amassed a large fortune and constructed Ampthill Castle, a fortified house.
One of the features of Ampthill Park is Katherine’s Cross, erected in 1772 by Lord Ossory to commemorate Queen Catherine of Aragon, who was detained in “Ampthill Castle” while annulment proceedings of her marriage to King Henry Vlll were taking place in Dunstable. This society is trying to sort out a number of anomalies in the accepted story of this phase of our history. It is well known that a large Manor house was built in the park by Sir John Cornwall with ransom money gained from hostages taken at the battle of Agincourt 1415. The estate was bought by Edmond Grey of Wrest in 1454 but subsequently was forfeited to Henry Vll and it was in this house that Catherine was held by her husband Henry Vlll.
All visible structures have disappeared from the site but geophysical investigations by this Society in 2002 indicated a possible site for the Manor house with what appears to be a building within a large dry moat alongside to the west. The logical conclusion is that the latter is a Castle, probably of Norman date which preceded the Manor house - hence the perpetuation of the name Ampthill Castle. No historical record has been found of a castle on this site but a number of references within maintenance records of the manor imply that another building was in the area in the 1530’s. One quote is “mending of leads on the great tower standing on the west side of the manor”. Historical records are being pursued and pseudo-sections have been taken at strategic points. Obviously this is a sensitive site with its royal connections.
On the Reports page are the full transcripts of the original accounts of building works in the Great Park at Ampthill during the reign of Henry VIIIth. The accounts were found in the British Library, the Bodleian Libraries at the University of Oxford, the National Archives and the Manuscripts and Special Collections at the Hallward Library, University of Nottingham.
The accounts found so far yield monthly records of the work carried out, the people employed and their rate of pay and the days they worked including holidays and overtime. The expenditure and source of supplies and equipment required for the works are also given. Unfortunately many of the accounts have been lost but the number found gives a good idea of the work going on during the reign and after the death of the King.
The transcripts are in modern English as far as necessary. In some cases the documents had a few illegible areas and there were some words which were difficult to decipher and some where the modern equivalent is not certain.
Katherine’s Cross, in Ampthill Park
Preparing to take a pseudo-section near Katherines Cross