In 1887, John Bartholomew's Gazetteer of the British Isles described Dorset like this:
Dorset, maritime co., on S. coast of England; is bounded N. by Somerset and Wilts, E. by Hants, S. by the English Channel, and W. by Devon; length, E. and W., 52 miles; breadth, N. and S., 37 miles; coastline, 75 miles; area, 627,265 ac.; pop. 191,028. The main features of the coast are Poole Harbour, St Alban's Head, and the singular projection called the Isle of Portland. The principal streams are the Stour and the Frome. Great part of the co. is traversed by the two ranges of chalk hills called the North and South Downs, and the soil consists mainly of chalk, gravel, and sand, but is very fertile in the valleys. ...
Wheat and barley are grown in the W. and N. Immense flocks of sheep are pastured on the Downs. Dairy farms are generally large, and dairy husbandry is carried to a very high point of perfection. (For agricultural statistics, see Appendix.) The only mineral of any importance is Portland stone, quarried in the Isle of Portland. There are mfrs., to some extent, of sailcloth, sacking, nets, paper, silk, &C., with malting and brewing, and iron-founding. The fisheries, especially of mackerel, are considerable, and ships and yachts are built at Poole. The co. comprises 34 hundreds, 22 liberties, 290 pars, and a part, and the mun. bors, of Blandford, Bridport, Dorchester, Lyme Regis, Poole, Shaftesbury, and Weymouth and Melcombe Regis. It is mostly in the diocese of Salisbury. For parl. purposes it is divided into 4 divisions, viz., Northern, Eastern, Southern, and Western, 1 member for each division.
For an overview of how the county has changed, please see our redistricted information for the modern of Dorset -- but you should check this covers the area you are interested in.
GB Historical GIS / University of Portsmouth, History of Dorset | Map and description for the county, A Vision of Britain through Time.
Date accessed: 22nd October 2014
Click here for more detailed advice on finding places within A Vision of Britain through Time, and maybe some references to other places called "Dorset".