LYMINGTON, a borough, market-town, parochial chapelry, and liberty, and the head of a union, in the Lymington and S. divisions of the county of Southampton, 18 miles (S. W. by S.) from Southampton, and 95 (S. W.) from London; containing 3813 inhabitants. The earliest notice of this place occurs in Domesday book, in which it is called Lentune; the name was afterwards changed to Limintun, of which the present name is a variation. The town is situated on the western bank of a creek, or river, which falls into the Solent channel: it consists principally of one spacious street, nearly half a mile in length, and is lighted with gas; the houses are modern and neatly built, and the environs abound with romantic scenery. Its excellent accommodations for sea-bathing have rendered it a favourite place of resort for invalids during the summer: substantial and convenient baths were erected by a public company formed in 1833. A neat theatre is occupied every other year by a company of performers, from August to October; and there is an assembly-room at the Angel inn.
In the reign of Henry I. the town rose into note, being then made a port; French wines and foreign commodities were imported, and at that time also it became celebrated for its salt-works. In the 29th of Edward III. the port contributed 9 ships and 159 men towards the fleet for the protection of the southern coast, which was more by 4 ships and 63 men, than the quota supplied by Portsmouth. The petty duties were levied by the inhabitants on certain articles of merchandise brought to the port, but the right to such an impost being questioned by the superior port of Southampton, the case was tried in 1329, and decided against the inhabitants of Lymington, who were subsequently often fined for persisting in their claim. At length, in 1730, having again taken these duties, and being sued by the corporation of Southampton, the defendants procured the removal of the cause to the county assize court, in which they obtained a verdict in their favour, and since that time the petty customs have been regularly paid. The commercial advantages of the port were seriously affected in 1731 by the construction of a dam, or causeway, to the north of the town, which so contracted the channel of the river, and diminished its depth, by excluding a great body of water, that it is now navigable only for vessels of 300 tons' burthen instead of 500, as formerly. The trade is confined entirely to coastingvessels. The manufacture of salt, which was extensive, has greatly declined, although the superiority of the Lymington salt is generally acknowledged: the works are situated along the sea-shore to the south of the town. On the quay are a commodious public wharf and storerooms, and near it is a yard for ship-building. The harbour at the entrance of the creek is excellent, and affords a favourite and safe shelter for vessels belonging to the members of the Royal Yacht Squadron. The market is on Saturday; and fairs are held annually on May 12th and October 2nd, for the sale of cheese, horses, cattle, &c.
Lymington, which is a borough by prescription, was incorporated by charter of James I. It was governed by a mayor, recorder, town-clerk, town-sergeant, and an indefinite number of burgesses; but the control is now vested in a mayor, four aldermen, and twelve councillors, under the act of the 5th and 6th of William IV., cap. 76. The mayor and late mayor are justices of the peace, the county magistrates having concurrent jurisdiction. The elective franchise was conferred by Elizabeth in the 27th year of her reign: the boundary of the borough, comprising 134 acres, was extended in 1832, and now contains an area of 4256 acres: the mayor is returning officer. Petty-sessions for the division are held by the magistrates on alternate Saturdays. The powers of the county debt-court of Lymington, established in 1847, extend over the registration-district of Lymington.
The living is annexed to the vicarage of Boldre. The church, a handsome structure capable of accommodating 2000 persons, and dedicated to Thomas á Becket, was built at different periods, and is irregularly constructed of brick and stone, with a castellated tower and cupola; the interior is neat, and contains several monuments. There are places of worship for Irvingites, Baptists, and Independents; and a Roman Catholic chapel at Pylewell. A small grammar school was founded and endowed in 1668, by George Burford: a bequest of £300 was made in 1777, by Ann Burrard, for education; and a national school, erected at a cost of £1200, is supported partly by endowment. Rear-Admiral Thomas Rogers, who died in 1814, bequeathed £1000, directing the interest to be divided between ten men and women; and there are various charitable institutions for the relief of the sick and indigent. The poor-law union comprises 6 parishes, containing a population of 11,489. On a neck of land, or bank, to the south-west of Lymington, is Hurst Castle, a circular tower strengthened by semicircular bastions, erected by Henry VIII. to defend this part of the channel between the main land and the Isle of Wight. In 1648, Charles I. was confined in it for several days after his removal from Carisbrooke, about one month prior to his decapitation. It is now an important station, occupied by men employed in the preventive service; and two lighthouses and a beacon are placed here for the service of vessels navigating the coast. Buckland Castle, or the Rings, consists of two camps about three furlongs apart, situated one mile from Lymington. Admiral Hawke resided at Grove House, in the town, where many of his children were born; Dr. Guidott, who revived the drinking of the Bath waters in 1673, was a native of the place.