CRANBORNE, a market town and parish, comprising the tythings of Alderholt, Beveridge, and Farewood, and the hamlet of Crendall, in the hundred of CRANBORNE, and the tythings of Blagdon and Monckton up Wimborne, in the hundred of MONCKTON up WIMBORNE, Shaston (East) division of the county of DORSET, 30 miles (N.E. by E.) from Dorchester, and 92 (W.S.W.) from London, containing 1823 inhabitants.
This place, which is of great antiquity, derives its name from the Saxon Gren, a crane, and Burn, a river, either from the tortuous windings of a stream, which, rising in the parish, falls into the Stour, or from the number of cranes that frequented its banks. In 980, Ailward de Meaw founded here a Benedictine monastery, dedicated to St. Bartholomew; but in 1102 the abbot retired with his brethren to Tewkesbury, where Robert Fitz-Hamon had founded a magnificent abbey, to which the original establishment became a cell. The old manor-house, from having been embattled, was called the castle, and was the occasional residence of the king, when he came to hunt in Cranborne Chace, an extensive tract reaching almost to Salisbury: the chace courts were regularly held in this old mansion, in which was a room, called the dungeon, for the confinement of offenders against the chase laws.
The town is pleasantly situated at the north-eastern extremity of the county, in the centre of a fine open expanse of champaign land: the houses are in general neat and well built, and the inhabitants are amply supplied with water. Riband-weaving formerly flourished here, but has declined, and the majority of the labouring class are employed in agriculture. The market is on Thursday: the fairs are, August 24th and December 6th, for cheese and sheep. The town is within the jurisdiction of the county magistrates, and is divided into the liberties of the tything, the priory, and the borough, for which a constable, tythingman, and bailiff, are appointed respectively.
The living is a discharged vicarage, in the archdeaconry of Dorset, and diocese of Bristol, rated in the king's books at £6. 13. 4., endowed with £1000 private benefaction, and £2700 parliamentary grant. The Marquis of Salisbury was patron in 1787. The church, dedicated to St. Bartholomew, formerly the conventual church of the priory, is an ancient structure, partly in the Norman, and partly in the early style of English architecture, with a large and handsome tower in the later style; the pulpit is of oak, richly carved, and supported on a pedestal of stone: there are some remains of stained glass in the large window of the south aisle, representing the Virgin Mary and the heads of some of the Saints. An almshouse for three single persons was founded and endowed by Thomas Hooper, Esq., who also gave a rent-charge of £6 for the steward.
On Castle hill, to the south of the town, is a circular fortification, consisting of two deep trenches and ramparts, and including an area of six acres, in which is a well; and in the environs are numerous barrows, of which some have been opened and found to contain urns with bones.
The learned Bishop Stillingfleet was born here in 1635, and died in 1699.
Cranborne gives the title of viscount to the Marquis of Salisbury.
Volume 1, page 503