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Stalbridge (St. Mary)

STALBRIDGE (St. Mary), a market-town and parish, in the union of Sturminster, hundred of Brownshall, Sturminster division of Dorset, 7½ miles (E. by N.) from Sherborne, and 111 (W. S. W.) from London; containing, with the tythings of Gomershay, Thornhill, and Weston, 1882 inhabitants, of whom 1297 are in the town. This place, in Domesday book written Staplebridge, at the time of the Conquest belonged to Sherborne Abbey. The town, and the greater part of the parish, are situated on a rock which supplies building materials for the neighbourhood; the streets are partially lighted by subscription, and the inhabitants are well supplied with water. From the south end of the main street another street diverges; and at the intersection is an ancient stone cross, 30 feet high, including the height of the pedestal, which is ornamented with sculptured emblematical figures. The body of the cross is the frustrum of a pyramid, twelve feet high, with fluted angles; it is decorated on one of the faces with a figure of Our Saviour having a lamb at his feet, and at the bottom with shields of arms, and is surmounted by shrines, in one of which is a representation of the Crucifixion. Above these are enriched canopies, terminating in a crocketed pinnacle formerly surmounted by a cross. The whole is supported on three octagonal flights of steps, which diminish in the ascent. In the park once belonging to the manor-house, the Anglesea cricket club is held; and a building has been erected for the accommodation of the members, who meet weekly during the season: the park is now converted to agricultural purposes, and is surrounded by a wall five miles in circumference. Stalbridge was formerly noted for the manufacture of stockings: several of the inhabitants are at present employed in winding silk. A branch of the river Stour, and the Dorsetshire and Somersetshire canal, pass through the parish. In the reign of Edward I. a grant of a market and fair was made to the abbot of Sherborne; the market is now on Tuesday: on every alternate Tuesday is a great market for cattle; and fairs are held on May 6th and Sept. 4th. The living is a rectory, valued in the king's books at £27. 4. 7., and in the gift of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge: the tithes have been commuted for £1200, and the glebe contains 53 acres. The church is a spacious structure, with a lofty embattled tower, and contains some ancient monuments. There is a place of worship for Independents.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, seventh edition, published 1858.