STURMINSTER-NEWTON-CASTLE, a market town and parish in the hundred of STURMINSTER-NEWTON-CASTLE, Sturminster division of the county of DORSET, 8 miles (S.W.) from Shaftesbury, and 108 (W.S.W.) from London, containing 1612 inhabitants.
This place, which derives its name from the river on the northern bank of which it stands, and the minster, or church, is supposed to be the Anicetis of Ravennas, and was early known to the Saxons; some lands here having been given by Alfred to his son Ethelwald. In 968, Edgar gave the manor of Sturre, or Stour, to the abbey of Glastonbury, and the grant was confirmed by Edmund Ironside; and in the Norman survey it was included in Newenton, or Newton. At the dissolution it was given by Henry VIII. to Catherine Parr, and, after her death, by Edward VI. to his sister Elizabeth, who devised it to Sir Christopher Hatton, from whom it passed to the family of Lord Rivers.
In 1645, some hundred clubmen of Dorsetshire and Wiltshire forced the quarters of the parliamentary troops here, and, after some slaughter on both sides, were victorious, taking sixteen dragoons, with several horses and arms. In 1681, and 1729, the town suffered by conflagrations, having sustained damage at the latter period to the amount of £13,000.
Sturminster-Newton is formed by the two townships of Sturminster and Newton, occupying different sides of the river Stour, and connected by a causeway and bridge of six arches; the latter has been lately widened and improved, and the formed raised, so as to prevent the inundation to which it was previously subject. The streets are in general narrow, and the houses low and indifferently built, except in the market-place, where there is a large oblong market-house, with ware-rooms above and shambles below. A turnpike road, lately completed, runs through this town to Sherborne, and the Dorset and Somerset canal passes eastward of it. Some trade is carried on with Newfoundland, and the little manufacture in the town consists of baizes, though woolen goods were formerly made. The market is held on Thursday, and on every alternate Thursday is a large market for cattle: fairs are May 12th and October 24th. A court leet is held annually, at which the constable for the hundred, and tythingmen, are appointed.
The living is a vicarage, in the archdeaconry of Dorset, and diocese of Bristol, rated in the king's books at £16. 16. 8., and in the patronage of Lord Rivers. The church, a handsome edifice dedicated to St. Mary, is situated on the south side of the town, and was originally built by John Selwood, abbot of Glastonbury, but has been lately rebuilt by the Rev. Thomas Lane Fox; it consists of a chancel, nave, and two aisles, with an embattled tower. A chapel of ease, which stood at Bagbere in this parish, has fallen into decay. There is a place of worship for Wesleyan Methodists. A National school, for children of both sexes, has been also recently erected by the Rev. T.L. Fox, by whom it is principally supported.
The principal object of interest is an ancient fortification, or camp, called the Castle, situated on an eminence in Newton, near the south bank of the river, supposed to have been constructed by the Romans, or not later than the Saxon era: it consists of a vallum and deep foss, in the shape of the Roman letter D, and on the top, near the centre, is a small artificial mount, or keep, near which are the ruins of an ancient house, where the courts were formerly held.
Volume 4, page 220