Dursley, a market-town, a parish, the head of a poor law union and county court district, in Gloucestershire. The town stands at the base of a steep hill, amid very fine scenery, at the terminus of a short branch of the M.R., 5 1/2 miles ESE of Berkeley, and 15 SSW of Gloucester. It is irregularly built, and contains many old houses. It was a borough as early as the time of Edward I., but does not appear to have ever been represented in Parliament, and it was governed by a chief officer styled prsepositus, who was succeeded by a bailiff and corporation, but this was abolished in 1886. It is a seat of petty sessions and county court, and has a head post office, a railway station, two banks, a market-house, a church, Wesleyan and Congregational chapels, almshouses, a workhouse, a police court, and two reading-rooms. The market-house and town-hall was built about the year 1738, and has at the east end a statue of Queen Anne. The church is a fine building of the Perpendicular style, and was restored in 1867; it has a handsome modern tower at the west end. A market is held on the second Tuesday in each month, and pleasure fairs on 6 May and 4 Dec. A woollen manufacture was carried on in early times, and of late years it has been revived in the neighbourhood, finding employment for 400 or 500 hands. Pins, agricultural implements, and wool cards are manufactured; there are two breweries and a tannery, and a considerable trade is carried on in halters and ropes. Bishop Fox, of Henry VIII.'s time, was a native, and the town gives the title of Viscount to the Earl of Berkeley. The parish comprises 1055 acres; population, 2273. It includes the chapelry of Woodmancote, which has a plain cruciform church erected in 1844. The manor belonged to the Berkeleys from Domesday till the time of Edward IV., and passed in the reign of Elizabeth to the Estcourt family, in whose hands it still remains. A baronial castle of the Berkeleys stood at the north-west end of the town, was pulled down about the time of Queen Mary, and is still commemorated by vestiges of its moat, and by the name of Castle Fields borne by the neighbouring fields. A peculiar kind of building material, called "tufa" or "puff" stone, very soft when first excavated, but becoming hard and durable on exposure to the air, is worked. The living is a rectory, united with the chapelry of Woodmancote, in the diocese of Gloucester and Bristol; gross value, £348 with residence. Patron, the Bishop of the diocese.
The Phillimore transcript of Marriages at Dursley 1639-1812, Gloucestershire is available to browse online.
The register dates from the year 1566, and contains some entries relating to members of the Shakespeare family.
Details of the places of worship in Dursley, and their records, can be found on the following pages:
- St. James (Church of England)
- Congregational Chapel, Parsonage Street (Congregational)
- Wesleyan Chapel, Market Place (Wesleyan Methodist)
The Visitation of the county of Gloucester, 1623 is available on the Heraldry page.