A Topographical Dictionary of England, Samuel Lewis, London 1831


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GILLINGHAM, a parish in the liberty of GILLINGHAM, Shaston (West) division of the county of DORSET, 4 miles (N.W. by W.) from Shaftesbury, containing, with the chapelry of Bourton, 3059 inhabitants.

The living, a vicarage, is a royal peculiar within the jurisdiction of the Lord of the Manor, rated in the king's books at 40. 17. 6., and in the patronage of the Bishop of Salisbury. The church, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, is a large edifice partly in the Norman style, with a chantry chapel attached to it, and a high tower. There is a place of worship for Wesleyan Methodists. A library of six hundred volumes, given by Thomas Freke, Esq., is deposited in the vicarage-house, for the use of the vicars.

The river Stour runs through the parish, which lies in the northernmost part of the county, bordering on the counties of Somerset and Wilts; it is of great extent, being about forty-one miles in circumference, and includes the ancient Forest of Selwood, which was disafforested by Charles I., on condition that the lessee should maintain four hundred deer for the king's use. About half a mile eastward from the church, on the road to Shaftesbury, are traces of the ancient palace of the Saxon and Norman kings, who made it their residence when they came to hunt in the forest. The manufacture of linen has been carried on here from a very early period, but the inhabitants derive their principal profits from the rich pastures and dairy-lands abounding in the parish. There are fairs for horses, bullocks, and sheep, on Trinity-Monday and September 12th. John Grice and others, in 1526, founded and endowed a free school, which was in much repute during the parliamentary war, and in which the celebrated Hyde, afterwards Earl of Clarendon, received part of his education. Edmund Ironside, in 1016, having vanquished Canute at Pen in Somersetshire, the pursuit is said to have extended hither, which is probable from the number of pits now discernible in the neighbourhood, on the supposed field of a second battle.

Volume 2, page 222

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