ABBOTSBURY, a parish, (formerly a market town,) in the hundred of UGGSCOMBE, Dorchester division of the county of DORSET, 8¼ miles (W.S.W.) from Dorchester, and 128 (S.W. by W.) from London, containing 907 inhabitants.
The name of this place is evidently derived from its ancient possessors, the abbots of the monastery of St. Peter, supposed to have been founded in 1044 by Orcus, or Orking, steward of the household to Canute the Great, and Tola his wife, for monks of the Benedictine order. It occupied a large extent of ground; and its revenue at the dissolution was £485. 6. 5.: there are still some remains, consisting of a gateway and portions of the walls.
At the dissolution it was granted to Sir Giles Strangeways, and on its site was erected a mansion, which, having been garrisoned for the King in 1644, was attacked by Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper, and burnt to the ground. The church was also occupied by a party of royalists, who surrendered before it sustained any damage.
The town, situated in a valley surrounded by lofty hills, consists of three streets, partially paved, and is well supplied with water. Fishing is the chief occupation of the inhabitants. The weaving of cotton, which was introduced here about thirty years since, has of late much declined. A fair, for sheep and toys, is held on the 10th July.
The living is a discharged vicarage, in the archdeaconry of Dorset, and diocese of Bristol, rated in the king's books at £10, and endowed with £600 private benefaction, and £600 royal bounty. The Earl of Ilchester was patron in 1797. The church, dedicated to St. Nicholas, is a large handsome structure, in the later style of English architecture, with a square embattled tower. A school, originally founded for twenty boys, was further endowed in 1754 by Mrs. Horner, with £21 per annum for instructing ten additional boys. A charity school, for clothing and educating twenty girls, instituted a few years since, is supported by the Countess of Ilchester, who has also established an infant school.
St. Catherine's chapel, supposed to have been erected in the reign of Edward IV., stands on an eminence south-west of the town, and serves as a land mark. It is built wholly of stone, the roof is finely groined, and on each side is a handsome porch. Between this and the shore, is a large decoy for wild fowl, and near it, an extensive swannery, the property of the Earl of Ilchester. About a mile and a half to the west of Abbotsbury, is an ancient entrenchment occupying an area of nearly 20 acres, and near the town, is a cromlech.
Volume 1, page 2