UK Genealogy Archives logo
DISCLOSURE: This page may contain affiliate links, meaning when you click the links and make a purchase, we may receive a commission.

Wareham, Dorset

Historical Description

Wareham, a market-town, a municipal borough, and three parishes in Dorsetshire. The town stands on a branch of Icknield Street, between the rivers Piddle and Frome, near their influx to a large creek of Poole Harbour, with a station on the L. & S.W.R., 120 miles from London, and 16 E by S of Dorchester. It dates from ancient British times; occupies the site of the Roman station Morinio or Moriconium; was known to the Saxons as Varamo and Waerham; took its name from Varia, the Roman designation of the Frome; had an early fort, British and Roman, destroyed in 875; had also a Saxon priory or nunnery, founded about 705, burnt by the Danes in 876, restored afterwards as a Benedictine cell to Lira Abbey, and is now represented by some slight remains. Wareham was made a mint town by Athelstan; received the corpse of Edward the Martyr, prior to its removal to Shaftesbury; sustained severe damage by incursions of the Danes at various periods'up to 1015; had 125 houses at Domesday. It was visited in 1205 by King John, who landed at it from France; had then, at the mouth of the Piddle and the Frome, a considerable harbour, which afterwards became choked up; sent three ships in the time of Edward III. to the siege of Calais; was garrisoned by the Parliamentarians in 1643, and taken by the Royalists in 1644. It had once so many as eight churches. Horace Walpole was a native. In 1886 it received a charter of incorporation, and is governed by a mayor, 4 aldermen, and 12 councillors. The town sent two members to Parliament from the time of Edward I. till 1832, when the number was reduced to one, and by the Redistribution of Seats Act, 1885, it was merged in the eastern division of the county. It is a seat of sessions and county courts, and presents nearly the form of a parallelogram, with streets crossing at right angles; retains three sides of an ancient vallum, from 1600 to 1960 feet long and about 30 feet high; includes vacant spaces between its present houses and the vallum's E side, formerly occupied by streets; and has a head post office, two banks, two chief inns, a town-hall and com-exchange built in 1870, a five-arched bridge of 1779, a three-arched bridge, alms-houses, a workhouse, and a weekly market on Tuesday. There are two cattle fairs held on the Tuesday nearest the 17 April and 11 Sept. Wareham has long been noted for its extensive trade in potter's, fire, pipe, tile, and other kinds of clay, some thousands of tons of Which are annually sent to Staffordshire, the Continent, and America. The three parishes are Holy Trinity, Lady St Mary, and St Martin. The churches of Holy Trinity and St Martin are both standing, but neither of them is used for public worship. The church of St Mary is very ancient, and contains a chapel which is said to be the burial-place of the Anglo-Saxon kings, and in it reposed for three years the remains of Edward the Martyr, who was murdered at Corfe Castle; the nave of the church was rebuilt in 1841-42; the tower is a very handsome Gothic structure, and the whole building was restored and re-paved in 1882. There are Congregational, Wesleyan, and Unitarian chapels, and a Roman Catholic church. The manor belonged anciently to the Clares; passed to the Mortimers, the Plunketts, and the Eries, and belongs now to the Calcraft family. The livings are rectories in the diocese of Salisbury, and they are held conjoin.tly with one another and with Arne; net value, £287 with residence. Sandford and St Martin's House are the chief residences. Area of the municipal borough, 251 acres; population, 2141. Under the Local Government Act of 1894, those portions of the parishes of Holy Trinity, Lady St Mary, and St Martin, which lie outside the borough of Wareham, together with the parish of Ame, were formed into two separate civil parishes under the names of Wareham St Martin and Arne, each of which has a parish council consisting of seven members.

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 -
HundredWareham Borough 
Poor Law unionWareham and Purbeck1836 -
Poor Law unionWareham and Purbeck1836 -
Poor Law unionWareham and Purbeck1836 -
Registration districtWareham 
Registration sub-districtWareham 

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

Church Records

The parish register dates from the year 1762. 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 is an ancient edifice of stone, consisting of chancel, clerestoried nave of four bays, aisles, with south chapel, western porch, and an embattled western tower containing 8 bells: the chapel in the south aisle is said to be the burial place of the Anglo-Saxon kings, and here reposed for three years the remains of Edward the Martyr, who was murdered at Corfe Castle by Elfrida ; his bones were then removed with much pomp and ceremony by St. Dunstan and a numerous train of monks to Shaftesbury: the font, of the 11th century, is of lead, hexagonal in form, mounted on a solid base of Purbeck marble, and on the sides are carved figures, representing the Twelve Apostles, in high relief: in 1841 a fine sarcophagus, of Purbeck marble, was discovered in the chapel, and is supposed to have been the receptacle for the body of Edward the Martyr ; many tombstones with singular inscriptions were found at the same time, but were mostly destroyed or built into the walls of the nave: a small portion of the old structure has been converted into a vestry : there is a monument to the Rev. John Hutchins, author of the "History of Dorset," who was formerly rector here, and is buried in the south chapel: the nave was rebuilt in 1841-2 and the church restored in 1882, under the direction of Messrs. Coulson and Son, architects, of Winchester, at a total expenditure of about £2,000: in 1893-4 the chancel was rebuilt at the cost of the late Mrs. Rodgett, of Sandford House: the organ, the gift of the late Mrs. Rodgett, stands in an organ chamber, built at the cost of James B. Dugdale esq. J.P. at whose expense also the nave was newroofed: seven of the windows are stained: the church seats 750 persons.

Civil Registration

Wareham St. Martin was in Wareham Registration District from 1837 to 1937 and Poole Registration District from 1937 to 1974

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Wareham from the following:

Land and Property

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


Online maps of Wareham 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


Visitations Heraldic

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

RegionSouth West
Postal districtBH20
Post TownWareham