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Mere (St. Michael)

MERE (St. Michael), a market-town and parish, and the head of a union, in the hundred of Mere, Hindon and S. divisions of Wilts; containing, with the tythings of Chaddenwick, Woodlands, and Zeals, 3139 inhabitants, of whom 1719 are in the town of Mere, 21½ miles (W. by N.) from Salisbury, and 102 (W. S. W.) from London. The name of this place is derived from the Saxon word Mæra, signifying bounds or limits, and indicates its situation on the borders of the counties of Wilts, Somerset, and Dorset. In 1253, permission was given by Henry III. to Richard, Earl of Cornwall, to build and fortify a castle on his manor of Mere, and the manor has ever since been attached to the duchy of Cornwall. In the 9th of Henry IV., a grant was made to Henry, Prince of Wales, as Duke of Cornwall, of a market and two annual fairs. The town, which is on the road from Salisbury to Wincanton, is small, and the buildings are irregular; the inhabitants are well supplied with water. The principal branch of manufacture is that of English dowlas and bed-ticking; and there is a silk-throwing mill. The market is on Tuesday; and fairs are held for corn and cattle on May 17th and October 10th. The town anciently sent two members to parliament, but was disfranchised on the plea of poverty. Courts leet and baron are held in October, for the duchy of Cornwall, and constables and tything-men are annually chosen for the town and hundred.

The parish is situated at the south-west extremity of the Downs, and comprises by computation 8000 acres; the soil is chalk, alternated with clay. The living is a vicarage, in the patronage of the Bishop of Salisbury, valued in the king's books at £28. 4. 2.; net income, £200. The church is a spacious and handsome structure, partly Norman, and partly in the early English style, with an embattled tower crowned by lofty pinnacles; on each side of the chancel is a sepulchral chapel, and in the belfry is a beautifully carved oak ceiling. At Zeals is a separate incumbency. There is a place of worship for Independents; also a Roman Catholic chapel at Bonham House. A school is partly supported by a bequest of £10 per annum. The union of Mere comprises 12 parishes or places, of which 7 are in Wilts, 3 in Somerset, and 2 in Dorset, with a population altogether of 8498. To the north-west of the town are vestiges of a Danish encampment, called "White-street camp," from the hill on which it is situated. Francis, Lord Cottington, a celebrated statesman in the reign of Charles I.; and the Rev. Francis Potter, an ingenious mechanist, born about 1594; were natives of the place.

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