A Topographical Dictionary of England, Samuel Lewis, London 1831


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SWANAGE, a market town and parish in the hundred of ROWBARROW, Blandford (South) division of the county of DORSET, 7 miles (E.S.E.) from Corfe-Castle, and 122 from London, containing 1607 inhabitants.

In the Saxon Chronicle this place is called Swanawic; Asser Menevensis names it Swanavine and Gnavewic, and in Domesday-book it is written Swanwic and Sonwic. The earliest and principal historical circumstance which we find on record connected with it is the destruction, by a violent storm in 877, of a Danish fleet, on its way from Wareham to the relief of Exeter, in the bay on which the town stands; and a similar disaster is said to have befallen another of their fleets, after its defeat by Alfred, in the same place and year.

The town, which is situated on the small bay of the same name, consists principally of one street about a mile long, containing many neat houses, built and roofed with stone; and the bay having of late years become a place of resort for sea-bathing, has led to the erection of some new houses in the town, and considerable improvements in the neighbourhood, land having been levelled and drives formed for the visitors.

The manufacture of straw-plat employs many of the females, but the chief occupation of the inhabitants is derived from working the many quarries in the parish, which produce great quantities of the freestone called Purbeck stone, which is conveyed in carts to boats, and by them to the larger vessels in the bay, by which it is conducted to various parts of the kingdom, a small quantity being sent abroad. The bay affords a tolerable harbour for vessels of three hundred tons' burden. In addition to other public works, Ramsgate pier was constructed of this stone, fifty thousand tons having been conveyed thither for the purpose. The quarry men are governed by local laws or regulations, by which none but their sons, who must serve an apprenticeship of seven years, are allowed to work. The market is on Tuesday and Friday.

The living is a rectory, in the archdeaconry of Dorset, and diocese of Bristol, rated in the king's books at 27. 9. 9., and in the patronage of John Calcraft, Esq. The church, dedicated to St. Mary the Virgin, is an extremely ancient structure, with a very large chancel and a lofty tower: it was formerly a chapel to the vicarage of Worth-Matravers, but was made parochial in 1500. There are places of worship for Independents and Wesleyan Methodists.

Fossils of different fish, particularly bream, are frequently found in the quarries, and there are also some mineral springs in the parish, recommended for their medicinal qualities.

Volume 4, page 255

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