In 1870-72, John Marius Wilson's Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales described Gillingham like this:
GILLINGHAM, a town, a parish, a sub-district, and a liberty in Dorset. The town stands on the river Stour, and on the Salisbury and Yeovil railway, near the borders of Wilts and Somerset, 4 miles NW of Shaftesbury; and has a post office‡ under Bath, a railway station with telegraph, a banking office, a market-house, a temperance hall, a church, three dissenting chapels, a free school, and charities, including the school, £323. The church is modern; superseded a very ancient one; and has a fine chancel, and a lofty tower. ...
The free school was founded in the time of Elizabeth, and had the great Earl of Clarendon for a pupil. A weekly market is held on Friday; a considerable cattle market on alternate Mondays; and fairs, on Trinity Monday and 12 Sept. There are flour and silk mills, a large brewery, and manufactures of rope, sacking, and bricks. -The parish includes a tract of 7, 527 acres in Shaftesbury district, and the chapelry of Bourton, comprising 828 acres, in Mere district. Real property, with Milton and Silton, £20, 661. Rated property of G. alone, £12, 782. Pop., 3, 957. Houses, 885. Pop., exclusive of Bourton chapelry, 3, 036. Houses, 675. The property is much subdivided. The manor belongs to the Marquis of Westminster. Much of the land is disposed in dairy and grazing pasture. Two forests were anciently here; the one, called Gillingham forest, and connected with Selwood forest in Somerset; the other called White Hart forest, from a favourite white hart belonging to Henry I.; and they were disafforested in the time of Charles I. An ancient palace of the Saxon and Norman kings, who came hither to hunt, stood about ½ a mile from the town. A victory over the Danes was gained here in 1016. The living is a vicarage, united with East Stower, West Stower, and Motcombe, in the diocese of Salisbury. Value, £1, 313.* Patron, the Bishop of S. Recent chapels of ease are at Enmore and Milton. The p. curacy of Bourton is a separate benefice.The sub-district is in Shaftesbury district; and contains the part of the parish in that district, and four other parishes. Acres, 13, 378. Pop., 4, 688. Houses, 1, 043.-The liberty comprises the parishes of Gillingham and Motcombe. Acres, 13, 196. Pop., 5, 390. Houses, 1, 196.
A Vision of Britain through Time includes a large library of local statistics for administrative units. For the best overall sense of how the area containing Gillingham has changed, please see our redistricted information for the modern district of North Dorset. More detailed statistical data are available under Units and statistics, which includes both administrative units covering Gillingham and units named after it.
GB Historical GIS / University of Portsmouth, History of Gillingham in North Dorset | Map and description, A Vision of Britain through Time.
Date accessed: 11th March 2014
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