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Cerne Abbas, Dorset

Historical Description

Cerne-Abbas, a small town and a parish in Dorsetshire. The town stands on the river Cerne, 5 miles NE from Maiden Newton railway station, and 7¼ N by W of Dorchester. It includes four or five streets, is a seat of petty sessions, and has a workhouse, a church, two dissenting chapels, and some remains of a Benedictine abbey. It has a post, money order, and telegraph office under Dorchester. Acreage, 3140; population, 834. The abbey was founded and richly endowed by Aylmer, Earl of Cornwall, in 987, but a monastery was known to have existed here before 871, Edwald, brother of Edmund the Martyr, having been buried here in that year. The abbey was plundered in 1015 by Canute, and occupied in 1471 by Queen Margaret on her way to Tewkesbury. St Augustine is said by some to have founded it; Edwald, the brother of St Edmund the Martyr, is said by others to have founded it, and to have been buried in it, and Cardinal Morton, born at Bere-Regis, was one of its monks. The remains of it are a gatehouse, bearing escutcheons, a long buttressed barn, still used as a granary, and some traces of the gardens and park. An ancient earthwork, unknown to record, is north of the churchyard. A lofty eminence, called Trendle Hill or the Giant's Hill, rises adjacent to the town, has the figure of a man, 180 feet high, cut on its chalky surface, and is crowned by an ancient camp. Some trade is carried on in brewing. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Salisbury; value, £181. The church is Perpendicular English, and has a tower. The burial ground was enlarged in 1886.

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


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient CountyDorsetshire 
DioceseBristol1542 - 1836
DioceseSalisbury1836 -
HundredCerne Totcombe Modbury 
Poor Law unionCerne1835 -
Registration districtDorchester 
Registration sub-districtCerne 

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.

Church Records

The parish register of baptisms, marriages and burials begins in 1653. The original register books are now deposited with the Dorset Archives Service, but have been digitised by and made available on their site (subscription required).

The Phillimore transcript of Marriages at Cerne Abbas, 1654-1812 is online.


Church of England

St. Mary (parish church)

The parish church of St. Mary is a handsome edifice of flint, with stone dressings, in the Perpendicular style, and consists of chancel, nave, aisles, south porch and a fine embattled western tower, with pinnacles, containing a clock and 5 bells with chimes: there are 500 sittings.

St. Mary, Cerne Abbas St. Mary, Cerne Abbas

Civil Registration

For general information about Civil Registration (births, marriages and deaths) see the Civil Registration page.

Cerne Abbas was in Cerne Registration District from 1837 to 1838, Dorchester Registration District from 1838 to 1937, and Weymouth Registration District from 1949 to 1974

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Cerne Abbas from the following:

Land and Property

The Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Dorset is available to browse.


Online maps of Cerne Abbas are available from a number of sites:

Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the Dorset County Chronicle and the Sherborne Mercury online.

Visitations Heraldic

The Visitation of Dorset, 1623 is available on the Heraldry page.

DistrictWest Dorset
RegionSouth West
Postal districtDT2
Post TownDorchester