Gillingham (Blessed Virgin Mary)
GILLINGHAM (Blessed Virgin Mary), a parish, in the liberty of Gillingham, union of Shaftesbury, Shaston division of Dorset, 4 miles (N. W. by W.) from Shaftesbury, and on the river Stour; containing, with the chapelry of Bourton, 3661 inhabitants. Edmund Ironside, in 1016, having vanquished Canute at Pen, in Somersetshire, is said to have extended the pursuit hither, which is probable from the number of pits now discernible in the neighbourhood, on the supposed field of a second battle. The parish borders on the counties of Somerset and Wilts, and is about 41 miles in circumference, including part of the ancient Forest of Selwood, which was disafforested by Charles I., on condition that the lessee should maintain 400 deer for the king's use. About half a mile eastward from the church, on the road to Shaftesbury, are traces of a palace of the Saxon and Norman kings, who made it their residence when they came to hunt in the forest. The manufacture of linen has been carried on from a very early period, but the inhabitants derive their principal profits from the rich pastures and dairy-lands abounding in the parish. There are fairs for horses, bullocks, and sheep, on Trinity-Monday and September 12th. The living, a vicarage with the livings of East and West Stower and Motcomb annexed, is valued in the king's books at £40. 17. 6.; net income, £1313; patron, the Bishop of Salisbury; impropriators, the family of Ogle. The church is a large edifice, partly in the Norman style, with a chantry chapel attached to it, and a high tower. Bourton forms a separate incumbency. There is a place of worship for Wesleyans. John Grice and others, in 1526, founded and endowed a free school, which was in much repute during the parliamentary war, and in which the celebrated Hyde, afterwards Earl of Clarendon, received part of his education.
Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, seventh edition, published 1858.