Mere, Wiltshire

Mere, a town and a parish in Wiltshire. The town stands 1½ mile N of the boundary of Dorsetshire, 2½ E of the boundary with Somerset, 4 miles N of Gillingham station on the L. & S.W.R., and 21 S by E of Bath. It has a post, money order, and telegraph office. Acreage of the civil parish, 7650; population, 2749; of the ecclesiastical, 2279. The name is probably taken from the Saxon word mera, signifying " limits," alluding to its position near the meeting-point of three counties. The family of Mere takes its name from here. The town was once a place of considerable importance; had a castle of the Earls of Cornwall, now only the hill on which it stood remains; sent members to Parliament in the time of Edward I., but lost its franchise on the ground of poverty; is irregularly built; and has two chief inns, a church, several dissenting chapels, a public cemetery, a literary institute, and a workhouse. The church, dedicated to St Michael, dates from the 13th century; has a beautifully carved oaken screen and tower-roof; includes two chapels; has an embattled tower, with lofty pinnacles; and contains a fine brass of John Bettisthorne of 1398. The public cemetery was opened in 1856, and an ancient earthen vessel was found at the forming of it, containing about 300 Roman coins. Castle Hill was presented to the town by the Prince of Wales in 1887 as a public recreation ground. The mission church of St Matthew was opened in 1882. The old market-house was taken down in 1866, and a clock tower, with illuminated dials, was erected on its site.

The parish contains the tithings of Chaddenwick, Woodlands, and Zeals. The manor belongs to the duchy of Cornwall. Mere Park was anciently a royal residence. Mere Woodlands was a manorial seat of the Dodingtons. Ashfield Water, a tributary of the Stour, rises at the foot of a chalk hill and turns several mills. A British camp, called White Sheet, is on a hill to the NW of the town. Pen Pits, several thousand rudely circular holes, are in the neighbourhood. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Salisbury; value, £200 with residence. Patron, the Bishop of Salisbury. The rectory of Zeals Green is a separate benefice.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5