Description of Cranborne from Samuel Lewis' Topographical Dictionary of England, 1848

CRANBORNE (ST. BARTHOLOMEW), a market-town and parish, in the unlon of WIMBORNE and CRANBORNE, chiefly in the hundred of CRANBORNE, but partly in that of MONCKTON-UP-WIMBORNE, Wimborne division of DORSET, 30 miles (N. E. by E.) from Dorchester, and 92 (W. S. W.) from London; containing 2551 inhabitants, and comprising the tythings of Alderholt, Blagdon, Boveridge, Holwell, Monckton-up-Wimborne with Oakley, and Verwood. 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, being 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 it, and it contained a room, called the dungeon, for the confinement of offenders against the chace 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. Ribbon-weaving formerly flourished here, but has declined, and the majority of the labouring class are now employed in agriculture. The market is on Thursday; and fairs are held on Aug. 24th and Dec. 6th, for cheese aud 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, tything-man, and bailiff, are appointed respectively. The parish is the largest in the county, and comprises 13,052a. 3p., whereof 5006 acres are arable, 2094 pasture, 1347 woodland, and 4604 common and heath; the soil is chiefly chalk, gravel, and clay, of which last a species found at Crendall is used for making earthenware.

The LIVING is a discharged vicarage, valued in the king's books at £6. 13. 4.; net income, £151; patron. and impropriator, the Marquess of Salisbury. The church, formerly the church of the priory, is an ancient structure, partly Norman, and partly in the early English style, with a large and handsome tower in the later style, and a highly enriched Norman arch at the northern entrance: 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, and in the chancel are monuments to the Hooper and Stillingfleet families. The chapel of ease at Verwood was erected in 1829; that at Boveridge has been rebuilt. The first stone of a handsome chapel, connected with the Establishment, was laid in Sept. 1841, at Alderwood, in the parish: the building has been completed at the expense of the Marquess of Salisbury. An almshouse was founded and endowed in 1661, by Thomas Hooper, for three single persons, now increased to five, On Castle Hill, to the south of the town, is a circular fortification, consisting of two deep trenches and ramparts, and including all area of six acres, in which is a well, and in the environs are numerous barrows, some of which have been opened and found to contain urns with bones. The learned Bishop Stillingfleet was born here in 1635. Cranborne gives the title of Viscount to the Marquess of Salisbury.

Source: A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, 1848. Transcribed by Nigel Batty-Smith ©2014