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Thorncombe (St. Mary)

THORNCOMBE (St. Mary), a parish, and formerly a market-town, in the union of Axminster, county of Dorset, 6½ miles (N. E. by E.) from Axminster; containing 1425 inhabitants. At Ford, in this parish, an abbey was founded about the year 1141 for monks of the Cistercian order, by Adelicia, daughter of Baldwin de Brioniis, of Normandy. The remains of the foundress were interred here. The institution soon became highly celebrated, and some of the greatest men of the time were connected with it: Baldwin, Archbishop of Canterbury, who flourished in 1184, was at one time a monk here; Devonius, or John of Devonshire, chaplain and confessor to King John, was abbot, and, about 1217, was buried in the conventual church. Dr. Thomas Chard, abbot, surrendered the establishment to Henry VIII. in 1539, when its annual income was estimated at £381. 10. 8½. The remains are considerable, including the entrance tower, the old abbey walls, and various other portions now occupied as a private mansion; the chapel has a groined roof in the early English style, and some arches of late Norman character. Ford Abbey, the seat and estate of the Gwyn family, was sold in Sept. 1846, for £52,650. Jeremy Bentham resided here a few years. The living is a vicarage, valued in the king's books at £15. 18. 9., and in the gift of John Bragge, Esq.: the vicarial tithes have been commuted for a rent-charge of £491. 13., and the glebe contains 48 acres. At Holditch, in the parish, was formerly a church, of which scarcely any remnant exists. A free school was founded by the Rev. Thomas Cooke, in 1734, with a small endowment. A fair is held on Easter-Tuesday.

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