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Gillingham, Dorset

Historical Description

Gillingham, a town, a parish, and a liberty in Dorsetshire. The town stands on the river Stour, near the borders of Wilts and Somerset, 4 miles W of Shaftesbury, and has a station on the L. & S.W.R. 105 miles from London. It has a post, money order, and telegraph office, two banks, a market-house, a drill hall and a lecture hall, a church, three dissenting chapels, a free school, and charities. Acreage of the civil parish, 7739; population, 3033; of the ecclesiastical, 3905. The church, which is partly modern, superseded a very ancient one; and has a fine old chancel and a lofty tower. The free school was founded in the time of Elizabeth, and had the great Earl of Clarendon for a pupil. A weekly market was held every Friday, till the establishment of a cattle market on alternate Mondays. Fairs are kept up on Trinity Monday and 12 Sept. There are flour mills, cheese and butter factories, a large brewery, and manufactures of rope, sacking, and bricks. The manor belongs to the Duke of Westminster. Most of the land is disposed in dairy and grazing pastures. Two forests were anciently here, the one called Gillingham Forest, and connected with Selwood Forest in Somerset; the other is stated to have been called White Hart Forest, from a favourite white hart belonging to Henry I., and they were disafforested in the time of Charles I. An ancient palace of the Saxon and Norman kings, who came hither to hunt, stood till 1278 about half a mile from the town. A victory over the Danes was gained, here by Edward Ironsides in 1016. The living is a vicarage, united with East Stower, West Stower, and Motcombe, in the diocese of Salisbury; value, £300 with residence. Patron, the Bishop of Salisbury. The perpetual curacy of Bourton, and the vicarage of Motcombe-cum-Enmore Green, both of which until recently formed part of the ecclesiastical parish, are now separate benefices.

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 -
Ecclesiastical parishGillingham Blessed Virgin Mary 
Poor Law unionShaftesbury1836 -
Registration districtShaftesbury1837 - 1937
Registration districtSturminster1937 - 1974
Registration sub-districtGillingham 

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

Church Records

The parish register of baptisms, marriages and burials begins in 1559. 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).


Church of England

St. Mary (parish church)

The parish church of St. Mary the Virgin rebuilt, with the exception of the chancel, in 1838, is an edifice of stone in the Decorated and Perpendicular styles, consisting of Decorated chancel with aisles, nave, south porch and a lofty embattled western tower, with pinnacles and containing a clock with chimes, given by the vicar, 1913, and 8 bells, two of which were added in 1894: the tower was restored in 1909: all the windows in the chancel are stained: there is a fine monument, dated 1625, with two recumbent effigies to a former vicar named Jessop, and his brother, a physician who resided in this place; and in the north chancel aisle is a monument to the last co-heiress of the Dirdoe family, dated 1733: the interior of the church was refitted In 1889, and affords about 850 sittings.

St. Mary, Gillingham

Civil Registration

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

Gillingham was in Shaftesbury Registration District from 1837 to 1937 and Sturminster Registration District from 1937 to 1974

For births, marriages, and deaths in Gillingham from 1837 to 1937 you should search for the Shaftesbury Registration District.
For births, marriages, and deaths in Gillingham from 1937 to 1974 you should search for the Sturminster Registration District.

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Gillingham from the following:

Land and Property

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


Online maps of Gillingham 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.

Villages, Hamlets, &c

Milton upon Stour

Visitations Heraldic

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

DistrictNorth Dorset
RegionSouth West
Postal districtSP8
Post TownGillingham