In 1870-72, John Marius Wilson's Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales described Abbotsbury like this:
ABBOTSBURY, a village, a parish, and a subdistrict, in the district of Weymouth, Dorset. The village stands in a vale, about a mile from the sea, 7¼ miles W of the Weymouth railway, and 9 SW of Dorchester. It has a post office‡ under Dorchester, and an inn. It was for merly a market town, and has now a fair on 10 July. Most of its inhabitants engage in fishing. The parish contains also the hamlets of Rodden and Elworth; and exhibits picturesque features of both shore and surface. ...
Acres, 5,616; of which 545 are water. Real property, £5,651. Pop., 1,089. Houses, 213. The property is divided among a few. The rocks belong to the shelly oolite. The coast commands brilliant views, and is flanked by Chesil Bank, occasioning tumultuous tides. See Chesil Bank. St. Catherine's Chapel, romantically situated on the crown of a hill between the village and the sea, is a very strong edifice of the 15th century, with large buttresses, a clerestory, and an octagonal tower, and serves as a landmark to mariners. A Benedictine Abbey was founded at Abbotsbury, in 1044, by Orcus, steward of King Canute; and passed, at the dissolution, to the Strangeways. The gateway of its church, the walls of a dormitory and barn, and some fragments scattered over a large area, still remain. A swannery, which belonged to the Abbey, and is said to have contained about 8,000 swans, still exists, with about 1,000 swans, and is connected with a decoy for the extensive capture of wild fowl. A castellated seat of the Earl of Ilchester, the present proprietor, is adjacent. An ancient fortification, 1½ mile to the west, occupies 20 acres, comprises very high ramparts, ditches, and redoubts, and commands a noble view. Hardy's Monument, About 3 miles distant, commands a still nobler view; and the key for it may be had at Portisham. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Salisbury. Value, £140.* Patron, the Earl of Ilchester. The church adjoins the Abbey ruins, and is an old embattled edifice with a curious weather worn sculpture over the west door. A school has £20 a year from endowment; and other charities £19.-The subdistrict includes three parishes-Acres, 11,358. Pop., 2,034. Houses, 405.
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 Abbotsbury has changed, please see our redistricted information for the modern district of West Dorset. More detailed statistical data are available under Units and statistics, which includes both administrative units covering Abbotsbury and units named after it.
GB Historical GIS / University of Portsmouth, History of Abbotsbury in West Dorset | Map and description, A Vision of Britain through Time.
Date accessed: 28th November 2015
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