Beer Regis (St. John the Baptist)

BEER REGIS (St. John the Baptist), a town and parish, in the union of Wareham and Purbeck, hundred of Beer Regis, Wareham division of Dorset, 7 miles (N. W.) from Wareham, and 113 (S. W.) from London; comprising the tythings of Milbourn-Styleham and Shitterton; and containing 1684 inhabitants. This place, which is supposed by Dr. Stukeley to have been the Ibernium of Ravennas, derives its name from the Saxon Byrig, and the adjunct Regis from its having been held in royal demesne. Elfrida, after the murder of her step-son, is said to have retired hither to avoid suspicion; and King John, who occasionally made this his residence, granted the inhabitants the privilege of a market, in the seventeenth year of his reign. Edward I. made it a free borough, but it does not appear to have ever returned any members to parliament. A great part of the town was destroyed by fire in 1634: it experienced a similar calamity in 1788, and in 1817 another destructive fire occurred, in which the parish registers were burnt. The parish comprises 7898 acres, whereof 1825 are common or waste; the cultivated land is arable, lying on chalk, and the surface is in general hilly. The town is pleasantly situated on the small river Beer; the houses, in general, are modern and well built, and the inhabitants are amply supplied with water. The market was on Wednesday, but has fallen into disuse: a fair is held on September 18th and the four following days, on Woodbury Hill, for horses, horned-cattle, sheep, cloth, and cheese. The living, which, in conjunction with that of Charmouth, formerly constituted the golden prebend in the cathedral of Salisbury, is a vicarage, with the vicarage of Winterbourne-Kingston annexed, valued in the king's books at £25. 5., and in the gift of Balliol College, Oxford; net income, £330. The great tithes of Beer Regis have been commuted for £820. 7. 6., and the vicarial for £305. 2. 6. The church is a spacious ancient structure, with a square embattled tower crowned with pinnacles. There are places of worship for Independents and Wesleyans. A charity school was founded and endowed by Thomas Williams, Esq., in 1719; the annual income is about £20. On Woodbury Hill, about half a mile from the town, is a circular camp comprehending an area of ten acres; and to the west of it are the site of the ancient chapel of Sancta Anchoretta, and a well called Anchoret's well. Dr. John Moreton, Archbishop of Canterbury, and a cardinal; and Dr. Tuberville, Bishop of Exeter, were natives of the place.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.

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