Pigot & Co. Directory of Dorsetshire, 1830

IS a maritime county, situated in the south-western part of this Island, bounded on the north by Wiltshire and Somersetshire, on the east by Hampshire, on the west by Devon and part of Somersetshire, and on the south by the British channel. Its form is everywhere irregular: its long northern side has a considerable angular projection in the middle; the sea-shore on the south fans out into numerous points and head-lands, till it stretches to the isle of Portland, whence westward the coast is not so deeply indented, but inclines obliquely towards Devonshire. Its extent, from north to south, is about 35 miles; its breadth, from east to west, about 55; and its circumference may be estimated at nearly 160. The area includes about 1,229 square miles, and 775,000 acres.

NAME and ANCIENT HISTORY:–This county was anciently inhabited, according to Ptolemy, by the Durotriges. The Britons, according to Asser Menevensis (who was himself a Briton by birth, and nourished about the year of Christ 890,) termed them Dwr Gwr, and the Saxons called them Dorsettan; the latter word signifying to dwell upon, to inhabit or be settled; and dour or dwr in British, meaning water, and trig an inhabitant: hence the Britons called the Durotriges ' Dwr Gwr,' dwellers on the sea-coast. Some are of opinion that the county took its name from Dorchester, as that did from King Dorn or Dor, whom they imagine to have been its founder; but this is supported by no historian of credit. Many ancient British monuments are strewed throughout the county, amongst which are a rock idol, near Studland; a circle of stones, near Pokeswell; a cromlech, near Portesham; the 'temple,' near Winterborne, with a segment of a circle of stones near it; a large group of barrows, near Corfe; a labyrinth, at Leigh, and, not many years ago, one of the same kind at Pimperne. A great number of the sites of Roman camps are found throughout the county ; but no altar, or stone inscribed with Roman characters, has been found in these parts.

SOIL, PRODUCE and CLIMATE.–The general appearance of this county is uneven, and in many parts very hilly. Its most striking features are the open and unenclosed parts, covered with numerous flocks of sheep, which feed on the verdant produce of the downs. In the natural division of the county, the greater proportion of the land is appropriated to pasture; the arable is estimated at one-third, and the waste at about a ninth. The principal sheep district is round Dorchester; great numbers of sheep and oxen are fed in the vale of Blackmore, which is rich pasture ; and here, also, are some orchards, producing excellent cider. On the south-west side are also luxuriant vales. About Bridport, the lower lands are mostly deep rich loams , on the higher hills, throughout the west district, the soil is a sandy loam, intermixed with flint; to the north of Sherborne, which affords some of the best arable land in the county, it is a stone-brack or brash, which is the case in the island of Portland and most parts of the isle of Purbeck. The tillage in the open parts of the county, is very much upon a chalk bottom, and all the way towards Abbotsbury and Weymouth is of an inferior quality: in the centre of the county the soil is good, and the land well managed; irrigation is well understood, and the watered meadows exhibit the nicest management. The flooding of meadow-land, by which an early vegetation is produced, is of such consequence to the Dorsetshire farmers, that without it their present system of managing sheep would almost be annihilated. The chief products of Dorset are corn, cattle, sheep, wool, timber, flax and hemp: the sheep are highly esteemed for the fineness and close texture of their wool, which is much used in the manufacture of broad-cloth. In one particular, this breed excels all others in the kingdom, which is in bringing early lambs, generally purchased by the sucklers in the neighbourhood of London, and fattened for that market. The breed of horses is not particularly regarded; oxen are chiefly those of the Devon breed, and the pigs similar to those of Hampshire, but not so good. Wheat, except in some particular situations, is not in general a heavy crop; barley affords a great produce, and a large portion of malt is made for the internal consumption of the county; the strong beer is famous; the ales are also highly celebrated, and in some respects unequalled. Neither coal nor ores of any kind are found in this county, but the whole isle of Portland seems to be one entire mass of fine freestone, and the quarries of Purbeck are well known for their valuable produce: the qualities of whiteness, solidity, durability, freely splitting in any direction, and easily working, added to its standing the water extremely well, render it one of the most valuable freestones known. Several of the public and private edifices in London have been built of it, among which are Whitehall, St. Paul's church, the piers of Westminster-bridge, and the whole of Blackfriars-Bridge; it is exported in large quantities to various parts of England, Ireland and France. Dorsetshire, from the mildness of its CLIMATE and the beauty of its situation, has been termed the garden of England; but it is not so mild as it used to be, or so early in its seasons; for, there were formerly large and fruitful vineyards at Sherborne and Durweston, which are not now known. The air is considered, at the present day, rather dry–more bracing and salubrious than mild and bland; and the seasons, except in spots very sheltered, or of a very warm soil, are not nearly so forward as they are in other parts of England not so far to the south.

MANUFACTURES.–The principal manufactures are those of flax and hemp, chiefly carried on in the neighbourhood of Bridport and Beaminster; at Shaftesbury, shirt-buttons and coarse woollen cloths; at BIandford, shirt-buttons, at Stalbridge and Sherborne silk is spun, and at Wimborne many women and children are employed in knitting worsted stockings. At Poole and Abbotsbury some plain and striped cottons are wove; and at the latter place sail-cloth, sacking, cables, ropes, large nets and cod-lines for the Newfoundland fishery, and mackarel-nets for home use are made. Beaminster participates in the manufacture of sail-cloth, and many individuals in the country around find employment in spinning the flax and preparing the materials. Taken altogether, this county holds not by any means an eminent situation as a manufacturing one; agriculture, its fisheries and stone quarries are the main contributors to the prosperity of Dorsetshire.

The principal RIVERS are, the Frome, the Stour, the Piddle, the Ivel, and the Hooke or Owke, all these rivers receive in their course a vast number of tributary streams. The Stour is the most considerable stream that waters the county; it falls into the sea near Christchurch, in Hampshire. The Frome discharges itself into Pool bay; the Ivel has many branches, some of which pass out of the county ; and the Piddle falls into the waters of Pool bay, near Keysworth,

Dorsetshire is in the province of Canterbury and diocese of Bristol, and included in the western circuit; it is divided in to nine divisions, and subdivided into 36 hundreds and 20 liberties ; these collectively contain one county town (Dorchester), 24 market towns, and 248 parishes. The whole county sends 20 members to parliament, viz. two each for BRIDPORT, CORFE CASTLE, DORCHESTER, LYME REGIS, POOLE, SHAFTESBURY, and WAREHAM, four for the borough of WEYMOUTH and MELCOMBE REGIS, and two for the shire; the present members for which are E. Berkly Portman, and Henry Banks, Esquires.

POPULATION.–According to the census of 1821, there were houses inhabited in the county, 25,926, uninhabited, 766, and houses building, 278. The number of families then resident in the county was 30,312; comprising; 68,954 males, and 75,565 females; total, 144,499; and by a calculation made by order of government, which included persons in the army and navy, for which was added after the ratio of about one to thirty prior to the year 1811, and one to fifty for that year and the census of 1881, to the returns made from the several districts; the population of the county, in round numbers, in the year 1700, was 90,000–in 1750, 96,400–in 1801, 119,100–in 1811, 128,900–and in 1821, 147,400. The increased population in the fifty years, from the year 1700, was 6,400–from 1750 to 1801, the increase was 22,700–from 1801 to 1811, the increase was 9,800–and from 1811 to 1821, the augmented number of persons was 18,500: the grand total increase In the population of the county from the year 1700 to the census of 1821, being about 57,400 persons.