Dorset Genealogical Records

Dorset Birth & Baptism Records

England & Wales Birth Index (1837-2006)

An index to births registered throughout England & Wales. Provides a reference to order copies of birth certificates from the national registrar of births, marriages and deaths – the General Register Office.

Dorset Bastardy Papers (1821-1853)

A collection of records documenting the birth and maintenance of illegitimate children.

Dorset Baptism Index with Images (1813-1906)

Original images of baptism registers, searchable by a name index, covering almost all Dorset parishes.

Dorset Baptism Transcripts (1538-1905)

Transcriptions of baptisms in Dorset covering most Anglican parishes.

Dorset Parish Registers (1538-1936)

An index to over 445,000 entries from Dorset Anglican church registers.

Dorset Marriage & Divorce Records

England & Wales Marriage Index (1837-2005)

An index to marriages registered throughout England & Wales. This is the only national marriage index that allows you to search by both spouse's names. Provides a reference to order copies of marriage certificates from the national registrar of births, marriages and deaths – the General Register Office.

Dorset Marriage Index with Images (1813-1912)

Original images of marriage registers, searchable by a name index, covering almost all Dorset parishes.

Dorset Marriage Transcripts (1538-1952)

Transcripts of marriages in 252 Dorset parishes.

Vicar General’s Office Marriage Licences (1600-1679)

Abstracts of marriage licences granted by the Vicar-General in London. These licences could be used to marry in any church in the Province of Canterbury.

Dorset Parish Registers (1538-1936)

An index to over 445,000 entries from Dorset Anglican church registers.

Dorset Death & Burial Records

England & Wales Death Index (1837-2006)

An index to deaths registered throughout England & Wales. Provides a reference to order copies of death certificates from the national registrar of births, marriages and deaths – the General Register Office.

Dorset Burial Index with Images (1813-2001)

Original images of burial registers, searchable by a name index, covering almost all Dorset parishes.

Dorset Burial Transcriptions (1531-1995)

Transcriptions of burials from 234 parishes in Dorset.

Dorset Parish Registers (1538-1936)

An index to over 445,000 entries from Dorset Anglican church registers.

Dorset & Hampshire Quaker Burials (1776-1837)

An index to burials recorded at Quaker meetings. The records contain the name of the deceased, the date they were buried and their age.

Dorset Church Records

Dorset Vestry, Poor and other Parish Records (1640-1932)

Original images of Dorset parish records. Including: poor rates, overseers, churchwardens, vestry, incumbents' and other records.

Dorset Parish Apprentices Indentures (1605-1799)

Abstracts of apprenticeship indentures initiated by parishes in Dorset. These records provide details on parents' names and occupations.

Dorset Parish Register Index with Images (1538-1812)

Original images of parish registers, searchable by a name index, covering almost all Dorset parishes.

Catholic History in South West England (1517-1856)

A history of Catholicism in South West England with biographies of noted Catholics. Contains details of the Dominican, Benedictine, and Franciscan orders.

Dorset Vestry, Poor and other Parish Records (1511-1997)

Original images of Dorset parish records. Including: poor rates, overseers, churchwardens, vestry, incumbents' and other records.

Dorset Census & Population Lists

England, Wales, IoM & Channel Islands 1911 Census (1911)

The 1911 census provides details on an individual's age, residence, place of birth, relations and occupation. FindMyPast's index allows searches on for multiple metrics including occupation and residence.

Dorset Electoral Registers (1839-1922)

A full name index, connected to original images of the registers. These records list those who were eligible to vote and may give a description of an individual's property.

Dorset Hearth Tax Assessments (1662-1664)

Transcriptions of hearth tax records for the county of Dorset.

Dorset Jury Lists (1825-1921)

A name indexed connected to original images of juror lists. These images list Dorset men eligible to serve on juries, by meeting the criteria of being between 21 and 70 years old and possessing enough property to be liable for the poor rate. The records may contain occupations, parish of residence, nature of their property and details of their property.

1901 British Census (1901)

The 1901 census provides details on an individual's age, residence, place of birth, relations and occupation. FindMyPast's index allows searches on for multiple metrics including occupation and residence.

Dorset Wills & Probate Records

England & Wales National Probate Calendar (1858-1966)

Searchable index and original images of over 12.5 million probates and administrations granted by civil registries. Entries usually include the testator's name, date of death, date of probate and registry. Names of relations may be given.

Dorset Wills and Probate Documents (1565-1858)

An index linked to original images of wills, administrations and inventories proved in Dorset courts. Documents contain much genealogical information.

Prerogative Court of Canterbury Admon Index (1649-1660)

An index to estate administrations performed by the Prerogative Court of Canterbury. The index covers the southern two thirds of England & Wales, but may also contain entries for northerners.

Prerogative Court of Canterbury Admon Index (1581-1595)

An index to estate administrations performed by the Prerogative Court of Canterbury. The index covers the southern two thirds of England & Wales, but may also contain entries for northerners.

Prerogative Court of Canterbury Admon Index (1581-1619)

An index to estate administrations performed by the Prerogative Court of Canterbury. The index covers the southern two thirds of England & Wales, but may also contain entries for northerners.

Newspapers Covering Dorset

Western Morning News (1921-1950)

A politically independent newspaper, covering the affairs of Dorset, Devon, Cornwall and Somerset. It includes family notices.

Western Gazette (1863-1950)

A regional newspaper covering the counties of Somerset, Dorset, Wiltshire Hampshire and Berkshire. It covers local and national news, family announcements, business news, legal proceedings and more.

Dorset County Chronicle (1863-1867)

A regional newspaper including news from the Dorset area, family announcements, business notices, advertisements, legal & governmental proceedings and more.

Western Times (1827-1950)

A liberal newspaper covering the counties of Cornwall, Devon and Dorset. It includes family notices.

The Daily Herald (1926)

A London newspaper that later became The Sun.

Dorset Obituaries

iAnnounce Obituaries (2006-Present)

The UKs largest repository of obituaries, containing millions of searchable notices.

United Kingdom and Ireland Obituary Collection (1882-Present)

A growing collection currently containing over 425,000 abstracts of obituaries with reference to the location of the full obituary.

Quakers Annual Monitor (1847-1848)

A collection of 364 obituaries of Quakers from the British Isles. The volume was published in 1849 and includes obituaries of those who died in late 1847 through 1848.

Musgrave's Obituaries (1421-1800)

This transcribed and searchable work by Sir William Musgrave contains 10,000s of brief obituaries. The work is a reference point for other works containing information on an individual.

British Medical Journal (1849-Present)

A text index and digital images of all editions of a journal containing medical articles and obituaries of medical practitioners.

Dorset Cemeteries

Dorset Monumental Inscriptions (1200-2000)

An index to vital details engraved on gravestones and other monuments across the county of Dorset.

Dorset Church Monuments (1300-1900)

Photographs and descriptions of Dorset' most illustrious church monuments, often featuring effigies, medieval inscriptions and heraldic devices.

Deceased Online (1629-Present)

Images of millions of pages from cemetery and crematoria registers, photographs of memorials, cemetery plans and more. Records can be search by a name index.

Billion Graves (1200-Present)

Photographs and transcriptions of millions of gravestones from cemeteries around the world.

Maritime Memorials (1588-1950)

Several thousand transcribe memorials of those connected with the nautical occupations.

Dorset Directories & Gazetteers

Kelly's Directory of Dorset (1931)

A comprehensive place-by-place gazetteer, listing key contemporary and historical facts. Each place has a list of residents and businesses. Contains details on local schools, churches, government and other institutions.

Kelly's Directory of Dorset (1927)

A comprehensive place-by-place gazetteer, listing key contemporary and historical facts. Each place has a list of residents and businesses. Contains details on local schools, churches, government and other institutions.

Kelly's Directory of Dorset (1920)

A comprehensive place-by-place gazetteer, listing key contemporary and historical facts. Each place has a list of residents and businesses. Contains details on local schools, churches, government and other institutions.

Kelly's Directory of Dorset (1915)

A comprehensive place-by-place gazetteer, listing key contemporary and historical facts. Each place has a list of residents and businesses. Contains details on local schools, churches, government and other institutions.

Kelly's Directory of Dorset (1911)

A comprehensive place-by-place gazetteer, listing key historical and contemporary facts. Contains details on local schools, churches, government and other institutions. Also contains a list of residents and businesses for each place.

Dorchester Prison Documents (1782-1901)

Over 60,000 documents relating to prisoners held at Dorchester Prison. The collection includes admission and discharge books and photographs of the latter prisoners.

Dorset Alehouse Licences & Recognizances (1754-1821)

Documents relating to the licensing of alehouses. Contains details on the proprietor, establishment and conditions of the licence.

Dorset Vestry, Poor and other Parish Records (1640-1932)

Original images of Dorset parish records. Including: poor rates, overseers, churchwardens, vestry, incumbents' and other records.

Dorset Vestry, Poor and other Parish Records (1511-1997)

Original images of Dorset parish records. Including: poor rates, overseers, churchwardens, vestry, incumbents' and other records.

Dorset Calendars of Prisoners (1854-1904)

Records listing prisoners tried at assizes or quarter sessions. Details include: names, verdicts, detailed accounts of crimes, occupations, addresses, ages and more.

Dorset Taxation Records

Dorset Tithe Apportion & Maps (1835-1850)

Maps delineating fields in Dorset, which are referenced to documents recording field names, land owners, occupiers, land use and land size.

Dorset Land Tax (1780-1832)

Digital images of 18th and 19th century records that record landowners and their tenants. The taxable value of the land is given, and sometimes a description of the property. These records can be searched by names and place indices.

Dorset Hearth Tax Assessments (1662-1664)

Transcriptions of hearth tax records for the county of Dorset.

Land Tax Redemption (1798-1811)

This vital collection details almost 1.2 million properties eligible for land tax. Records include the name of the landowner, occupier, amount assessed and sometimes the name and/or description of the property. It is a useful starting point for locating relevant estate records and establishing the succession of tenancies and freehold. Most records cover 1798, but some extend up to 1811.

Duties Paid for Apprentices' Indentures (1710-1811)

An index linked to original images of registers recording apprenticeship indentures. Details are given on the trade and nature of apprenticeship. Many records list the parents of the apprentice.

Dorset Land & Property Records

Dorset Electoral Registers (1839-1922)

A full name index, connected to original images of the registers. These records list those who were eligible to vote and may give a description of an individual's property.

Dorset Tithe Apportion & Maps (1835-1850)

Maps delineating fields in Dorset, which are referenced to documents recording field names, land owners, occupiers, land use and land size.

Dorset Land Tax (1780-1832)

Digital images of 18th and 19th century records that record landowners and their tenants. The taxable value of the land is given, and sometimes a description of the property. These records can be searched by names and place indices.

Dorset Jury Lists (1825-1921)

A name indexed connected to original images of juror lists. These images list Dorset men eligible to serve on juries, by meeting the criteria of being between 21 and 70 years old and possessing enough property to be liable for the poor rate. The records may contain occupations, parish of residence, nature of their property and details of their property.

Land Tax Redemption (1798-1811)

This vital collection details almost 1.2 million properties eligible for land tax. Records include the name of the landowner, occupier, amount assessed and sometimes the name and/or description of the property. It is a useful starting point for locating relevant estate records and establishing the succession of tenancies and freehold. Most records cover 1798, but some extend up to 1811.

Dorset Occupation & Business Records

Dorset Crew Lists (1863-1914)

A collection of nearly 60,000 documents including crew lists, ship agreements and log books for Dorset. Records may contain information of a sailors birth, life, duties and discipline.

Dorset Parish Apprentices Indentures (1605-1799)

Abstracts of apprenticeship indentures initiated by parishes in Dorset. These records provide details on parents' names and occupations.

Dorset Hemp & Flax Bounties (1782-1793)

Over 3,300 documents relating to bounties offered to farmers by the government to grow hemp & flax.

Smuggling on the South Coast (1700-1867)

An introduction to smuggling in Dorset & Hampshire.

Dorset Pub Histories (1820-Present)

Histories of Dorset pubs, with photographs and lists of owners or operators.

Dorset School & Education Records

Teacher's Registration Council Registers (1870-1948)

A name index linked to original images of registers recording the education and careers of teachers in England & Wales.

Oxford University Alumni (1500-1886)

A name index linked to original images of short biographies for over 120,000 Oxford University students. This is a particularly useful source for tracing the ancestry of the landed gentry.

Cambridge University Alumni (1261-1900)

A transcript of a vast scholarly work briefly chronicling the heritage, education and careers of over 150,000 Cambridge University students. This is a particularly useful source for tracing the ancestry of the landed gentry.

Cambridge Alumni Database (1198-1910)

A searchable database containing over 90,000 note-form biographies for students of Cambridge University.

Dissenting Academy Database (1660-1860)

Histories of schools operated by non-conformist clergy.

Pedigrees & Family Trees Covering Dorset

Victoria County History: Dorset (1086-1900)

A detailed history of the county's hundreds, parishes and religious houses.

British & Irish Royal & Noble Genealogies (491-1603)

Extensive and impeccably sourced genealogies for British, Irish & Manx royalty and nobility. Scroll down to 'British Isles' for relevant sections.

FamilySearch Community Trees (6000 BC-Present)

A searchable database of linked genealogies compiled from thousands of reputable and not-so-reputable sources. Contains many details on European gentry & nobility, but covers many countries outside Europe and people from all walks of life.

Visitation of England and Wales (1700-1899)

Over 600 pedigrees for English and Welsh families who had a right to bear a coat of arms.

Ancestry Member Family Trees (6000 BC-Present)

A compilation of lineage-linked family trees submitted by Ancestry users. The database contains over 2 billion individuals and is searchable by numerous metrics.

Dorset Royalty, Nobility & Heraldry Records

Victoria County History: Dorset (1086-1900)

A detailed history of the county's hundreds, parishes and religious houses.

Dorset Church Monuments (1300-1900)

Photographs and descriptions of Dorset' most illustrious church monuments, often featuring effigies, medieval inscriptions and heraldic devices.

British & Irish Royal & Noble Genealogies (491-1603)

Extensive and impeccably sourced genealogies for British, Irish & Manx royalty and nobility. Scroll down to 'British Isles' for relevant sections.

FamilySearch Community Trees (6000 BC-Present)

A searchable database of linked genealogies compiled from thousands of reputable and not-so-reputable sources. Contains many details on European gentry & nobility, but covers many countries outside Europe and people from all walks of life.

Visitation of England and Wales (1700-1899)

Over 600 pedigrees for English and Welsh families who had a right to bear a coat of arms.

Dorset Military Records

Dorset Militia Lists (1757-1860)

An index linked to original images of lists men eligible to serve in the militia. Records may include name, residence, occupation, age, height, marital status, disabilities and family details.

Dorset WWI Memorials (1914-1918)

A list of names found on World War One monuments in Dorset, with some service details.

Dorset WWII Memorials (1914-1918)

A list of names found on World War Two monuments in Dorset, with some service details.

Prisoners of War of British Army (1939-1945)

A searchable list of over 100,000 British Army POWs. Records contains details on the captured, their military career and where they were held prisoner.

British Prisoners of World War II (1939-1945)

Details on around 165,000 men serving in the British Army, Navy and Air Force who were held as prisoners during WWII.

Dorset Immigration & Travel Records

Dorset Vagrant Passes (1739-1791)

An index linked to original images of documents for vagrants. These records were draw up for poor people who moved to parishes where their presence was unwanted. They contain much genealogical information.

Dorset Convict Transportation Records (1724-1791)

Indentures and other records that recorded the transportation of Dorset men and women to the colonies.

Passenger Lists Leaving UK (1890-1960)

A name index connected to original images of passenger lists recording people travelling from Britain to destinations outside Europe. Records may detail a passenger's age or date of birth, residence, occupation, destination and more.

UK Incoming Passenger Lists (1878-1960)

A full index of passenger lists for vessels arriving in the UK linked to original images. Does not include lists from vessels sailing from European ports. Early entries can be brief, but later entries may include dates of births, occupations, home addresses and more. Useful for documenting immigration.

Alien Arrivals in England (1810-1869)

Details on over 600,000 non-British citizens arriving in England. Often includes age and professions. Useful for discerning the origin of immigrants.

Dorset Histories & Books

Notes and Queries for Somerset and Dorset (1888-1906)

Selected issues of a periodical which contains many historical and genealogical tracts relating to the counties of Somerset and Dorset.

Catholic History in South West England (1517-1856)

A history of Catholicism in South West England with biographies of noted Catholics. Contains details of the Dominican, Benedictine, and Franciscan orders.

Victoria County History: Dorset (1086-1900)

A detailed history of the county's hundreds, parishes and religious houses.

Dorset Church Photographs (1890-Present)

Photographs and images of churches in Dorset.

Dorset Turnpikes (1753-Present)

A history of turnpikes and tollhouses in Dorset.

Biographical Directories Covering Dorset

Oxford University Alumni (1500-1886)

A name index linked to original images of short biographies for over 120,000 Oxford University students. This is a particularly useful source for tracing the ancestry of the landed gentry.

Cambridge University Alumni (1261-1900)

A transcript of a vast scholarly work briefly chronicling the heritage, education and careers of over 150,000 Cambridge University students. This is a particularly useful source for tracing the ancestry of the landed gentry.

Crockford's Clerical Directories (1868-1914)

Brief biographies of Anglican clergy in the UK.

The Concise Dictionary of National Biography (1654-1930)

A directory containing lengthy biographies of noted British figures. The work took over two decades to compile. Biographies can be searched by name and are linked to images of the original publication.

Church of England Clergy Database (1500-1835)

A database of CoE clergy, giving details of their education of service. Contains references to source documents. Also contains profiles of various church institutions.

Dorset Maps

Dorset Tithe Apportion & Maps (1835-1850)

Maps delineating fields in Dorset, which are referenced to documents recording field names, land owners, occupiers, land use and land size.

Maps of Dorset (1610-1900)

A collection of digitalised maps covering the county.

Ordnance Survey 1:10 Maps (1840-1890)

Maps showing settlements, features and some buildings in mainland Britain.

A Vision of Britain (1190-Present)

A sprawling website setting out and describing the historical divisions of Britain. Also contains countless maps of various sorts. Covers the UK, Ireland, Isle of Man & has fleeting details of other localities.

Speed's Maps of Britain (1612)

County and national maps covering the British Isles, extracted from John Speed's landmark work, Theatre of the Empire of Great Britain.

Dorset Reference Works

England Research Guide (1538-Present)

A beginner’s guide to researching ancestry in England.

Parish Register Abstract (1538-1812)

Compiled in 1831, this book details the coverage and condition of parish registers in England & Wales.

Building History Research Guide (1066-Present)

A comprehensive guide to researching the history of buildings in the British Isles.

Surname Origins (1790-1911)

A service that provides advanced and custom surname maps for the British Isles and the US.

British Family Mottoes (1189-Present)

A dictionary of around 9,000 mottoes for British families who had right to bear arms.

Dorset Information

Historical Description

DORSETSHIRE is a maritime county, of about 160 miles in circumference; in length, from east to west, about 55; and in breath, from north to south, about 35; containing about 775,000 acres of land. It has four considerable ports, viz. Poole, Weymouth, Bridport, and Lyme Regis, besides Sandwich, called Swannage, and Portland; from whence stone, to a great value, is shipped. It has also 24 market towns, and 243 parishes. The population of the county, in 1811, amounted to 124,693 persons.

It is situated in the S. W. of England, bounded on the N. by Wiltshire and Somersetshire, on the E. by Hampshire, on the W. by Devonshire, and part of Somersetshire: on the S. (which way it extends farthest) by the British Channel, stretched out from E. to W. with a very oblique shore, full of turnings and windings, to the Island of Portland, and thence westward, bounded by the banks of pebbles for more than 16 miles.

The county of Dorset was anciently inhabited, according to Ptolemy, by the Durotriges. The Britons, according to Asser Menevensis, who was himself a Briton by birth, and flourished about the year of Christ 890, termed them Dwr-Gwyr; and the Saxons called them Dorsettan.

The name of Durotriges is ancient, and though in sound it bears great affinity to the Greek language, it is entirely of British origin, derived probably from Dour, or Dwr, in British, water, and Trig, an inhabitant; q.d. dwellers by the water or seaside. The same etymology must be assigned to those places in ancient Gaul (where formerly the same language was spoken), that begin or end with Dur, or Dour, of which we have many instances, as well as in our own country. But the Saxon Dorsettan is partly British and partly Saxon, in which the same signification is preserved : for settan, among our ancestors, as well as other Germans, signifies to dwell upon, to inhabit, to be seated, or settled. Thus they call mountaineers Dunsettan; those who dwell upon the Chiltern Hills, Chilternsettan; those who bordered upon the river Arrow, Arowsettan; as the Germans called those who dwelt among the woods, Holtsettan. And in this sense the Britons called the Durotriges, Dwr-Gwyr, dwellers on the seacoast, as Mr. Camden justly observes: and perhaps this etymology, expressive of the natural situation of a place, may vie with most others both in propriety and antiquity, and carry with it a degree of evidence, at which a mere fabulous notation can never arrive. There are not wanting instances of whole countries, cities, and seas, of the greatest note, which owe their names to such originals: as Mesosopotamia, Halicarnassus, Mediterranean; names which never can be mistaken or forgotten.

Some are of opinion that the county took its name from Dorchester, as that did from King Dorn, or Dor, whom they imagine to have been its founder; but this is supported by no historian of credit, and may be allowed to pass for fabulous, nothing being more easy than to have recourse to feigned names, when real names are wanting.

Topography of Great Britain, written: 1802-29 by George Alexander Cooke

DORSETSHIRE takes its name from the shire town, or from the tribe of the Dorsaettas, and lies on the south coast of England, being in the west, between Hampshire and Devonshire. On the north-east it is bounded by Wiltshire, on the east by Hampshire, on the south by the English. Channel, on the west by Devonshire, and on the north-west by Somersetshire. The shore line is the only natural boundary; its shape is something like a pyramid, with the head to the west, but having a spur on the south side, which forms the Isle of Portland. The breadth, from east to west, is 54 miles; and the length, from north to south, varies from 5 to 40 miles; its area is 632,272 acres. In 1700 the population was 90,000; in 1801, 114,452; in 1851, 184,207; in 1861, 188,789; in 11871, 195,537; in 1881, 191,028; and in 1891, 194,517, viz. males, 94,735; females, 99,782. The number of houses were, inhabited, 40,904; uninhabited, 3,081 ; and building, 221. Dorset lies between 50° 30' and 51° 5' north latitude, and between 1 48' and 3° 7' west longitude.

The south shore is in two lines, a wide sweep trending south-easterly from Lyme Regis to the Bill or Beel of Portland, and the western part, which forms a deep bay within the Isle of Portland, called Weymouth Bay, and then runs easterly to St. Alban’s Head and Durleston Head, having in it Lulworth Cove and Kimmeridge Bay. From Durleston Head the shore runs northward along the east of the Isle of Purbeck, and forms Swanage Bay and Studland Bay, and then the mouth of Poole Harbour.

The Isle of Portland is a long narrow headland, extending south-easterly into the sea, and joined to the mainland by a spit 10 miles long, called the Chesil—that is to say, the Shingle-Bank. The Isle of Purbeck is a large tract joined to the mainland on the west, but on the other side bounded by the river Frome, Wareham and Poole Havens, and the sea. Poole Haven is a large inlet in the south-east of Dorsetshire, having many arms running up into the land; on one is Wareham, at the mouth of the Frome and Piddle, and on another, Poole.

The rainfall of Dorset is about 30 inches in the year, but rather less in the northern part. Daily measurements are taken by means of rain-gauges at 13 places. The climate is mild, especially along the coast.

The great rivers run across from north-west to southeast ; they are the Stour, Piddle and Frome. The Stour comes in at the north, passes Gillingham, takes the Shreen water, then the Cale from Wincanton, and the Lyd, or Lyddon, from the south, winds through Sturminster Newton (taking the Ewern), to Blandford Forum, below which fall in the Tarrant Bourne from the north, and the North Winter Bourne from the west; the course is then to Wimbourne, where the Wim, or Allen, joins, and the river then runs south-easterly to Christchurch, in Hampshire; it is more likely that the Wim, or Allen, was the Alauna of the Romans, than that the Stour was.

The Wim is the only considerable stream; it works a paper mill. The Piddle, Puddle, or Trent, lies between the Stour and the Frome, and is a small stream running in a parallel direction with the Frome, about 4 miles off, and falling into Poole Harbour; it gives its name as an affix to many villages. The Frome, anciently named the Varia, rises in the north-west, and flows to Dorchester, where the Churn Bourne comes in from Cerne or Churn Abbas; the South Winterbourne is another feeder; from Dorchester the Frome runs easterly to Wareham; it is in these western shires we meet with the class of streams called “winterbournes,” because they flow chiefly in the winter. Other streams are-the Wey, 5 miles long, falling into the sea at Weymouth; the Purbeck, 7 miles long, running from Corfe Castle to Swanage; the Fleet, flowing between the Chesil Bank and the main land; the Breedy, or Bride, 7 miles long, falling into the sea near Bridport Harbour; the Brit, or Bride, rising at Beaminster, flowing through Bridport into the sea, and having the Asker and other small streams as affluents; the Char, falling in at Charmouth; and the Lyme at Lyme Regis. In the north-west parts the Parret, Ivel and their headsprings rise, but their course in Dorsetshire is short. Near Broadway is a sulphureous spring named Nottington Spa.

The land is hilly, but well watered. The vale of Blackmore, or that of the Frome and Piddle, is a fruitful grazing ground, nearly 20 miles long and 14 broad; on the Downs sheep are fed. The soils are of many kinds, from rich loam to hard stone. The chalk formation covers the greater part of the shire, the north downs beginning at Cranbourne and running to Beaminster, and the south downs running from Beaminster to Meleombe and Swanage. Between these are the upper formation of plastic, potters' and pipe clay, and sand, called the “Poole Trough.” Here a light earthy coal is found, like Bovey coal; in the south, chalk, marl, green-sand, weald clay and iron-sand are found, and in Purbeck and Portland the oolite formations; westward of Weymouth Bay are the oolites, which form a “saddle,” and are repeated; in the north the green-sand is found. Dorsetshire yields Portland stone, Purbeck marble, lime, founders’ sand, iron-sand, copperas, alum, pottery clay, pipeclay, firebricks, bituminous shales, salt, sheep and cattle, wool, corn, hay, potatoes and cider. It is best known for its Dorset, Portland and South Down sheep; it has also a small breed of ponies. The dairy is much looked to, a large proportion of the land being in pasture, and the butter and cheese of Dorsetshire are much esteemed. In Cranborne Chase and in Sellwood, to the north of Shaftesbury, some timber is grown; but most of the woods have been cleared.

Lime, sea-weed, and fish are to be had in most parts for manures, and for meadows the catch water plan is used. Barley is more grown than wheat; hemp and flax are likewise grown.

The railways are the Southampton and Dorchester, belonging to the London and South Western Company; the Somerset and Dorset line from Burnham, Somerset, to Wimborne and Poole, passing through Stalbridge, Sturminster Newton and Blandford. The London and South Western Extension to Exeter and North Devon, has stations at Gillingham and Sherborne, and skirts the north of the county. The Dorsetshire line enters from Ringwood, in Hampshire, and passes Wimborne (with a branch to Poole and West Bournemouth), Wareham (with a branch to Swanage), Wool and Moreton to Dorchester, thence to Weymouth and Portland. The Great Western Company have a branch to Dorchester and Weymouth, connected with their line at Yeovil, and from thence to Bristol; another branch from Maiden Newton to Bridport; and a short line from Upway, on the Weymouth branch of the South Western line to Abbotsbury.

The manufactures are sail-cloth, sacking, nets, shoemakers’ thread, paper, silk and agricultural implements, carried on at Bridport, Beaminster, Blandford, Bourton, Gillingham, Sherborne, Wimborne and Dorchester; with malting and brewing. The potteries are of some importance. In some of the large towns are iron foundries. Ships and yachts are built at Poole. The chief fisheries are those of mackerel; oyster beds are likewise kept up. In the rivers, salmon, trout, jack and; cels are caught. The fishing towns are Poole, Swanage, Lulworth, Weymouth, Bridport and Lyme.

The import trade is in the supply of coals, timber and wine, with some Newfoundland trade. The exports are Purbeck and Portland stone, clay, many thousand tons of which are annually sent to the potteries, Portland cement, bricks, sheep, wool, butter, poultry, cheese, ale, cider and mackerel.

The inhabitants on the coast depend on the fisheries, quarries and visitors to the watering places. These last are Weymouth, Swanage, Lyme Regis and Parkstone. The havens are Poole, Wareham, Swanage, Weymouth, Bridport, Lyme and Studland Bay; but Lyme has much fallen off. A breakwater has been made in Portland Bay, so as to form a great harbour of refuge over against Cherbourg, capable of sheltering 200 vessels in safety; it extends 2 ¼ miles out to sea, and forms a roadstead 4 miles long.

The county contains 292 civil parishes.

Dorsetshire is in the Western Circuit, province of Canterbury, Salisbury diocese, and forms an archdeaconry, subdivided into the rural deaneries of Bridport, comprised in the Abbotsbury, Bridport, Lyme and Beaminster portions; Dorchester, in the Dorchester, Weymouth and Purbeck portions; Pimperne, in the Blandford and Wimborne portions; Shaftesbury, arranged in Shaftesbury, Stalbridge, Sherborne and Sturminster Newton portions; and Whitchurch (Bere Regis, Poole, Cerne and Milton) portions.

The town of Poole is a county of itself. Dorsetshire has one Court of Quarter Sessions, held at Dorchester and Poole, and forms nine petty sessional divisions-Blandford (North and South), Bridport, Cerne, Dorchester, Shaftesbury, Sherborne, Sturminster, Wareham and Wimborne. The Poor-law Unions are twelve-Beaminster, Blandford, Bridport, Cerne, Dorchester, Poole, Shaftesbury, Sherborne, Sturminster, Wareham and Purbeck, Weymouth and Wimborne.

The municipal boroughs are, Blandford, population in 1891, 3,974; Bridport, 6,611; Dorchester, 7,946; Lyme Regis, 2,365; Poole, 15,438; Shaftesbury, 2,122; Weymouth and Melcombe Regis, 13,866; and Wareham, 2,141. Other towns are, Beaminster, population in 1891, 1,915; Bere Regis, 1,144; Cerne Abbas, 834; Corfe Castle, 1,708; Cranbome, 2,395 ; Gillingham, 3,303; Sherborne, 5,690; Stalbridge, 1,705; Sturmingter Newton, 1,863; and Swanage, 2,674.

Dorsetshire seems to have been taken from the Britons by the Belgian Durotriges, likewise called Morini, which words are said to mean “dwellers by the sea.” Of the Briton's and Belgians there seem to be many remains-as Agglestone and Puckstone, near Studland, in the Isle of Purbeck; Portisham Cromlech, called Hellstone, a circle of stones near Winterbome St. Martin; another near Pokeswell, and another at Little Breedy; perhaps Bradbury Rings and Maumbury belong to this period.

Under the Romans it was a part of Britannia Prima, and they has many settlements, as Durnovaria (Dorchester), Morinio (Wareham), Vindio Gladia (Wimborne), Canca Arista (Charmouth), Londinis (Lyme Regis), Bolclanio (Poole), and Clavinio (Weymouth). Other settlements were-Alcester, Stoborough, Charborough, Chelborough, Gainsborough, Bedcister, Horchester, Hogchester. A great road, named by the English the Ikening, or Ikenield way (Via Iceniana), comes in by Woodyates, passes through Durnovaria, and goes to the west. At Durnovaria, the most famous remain is the amphitheatre. The part of Ikening way, near Dorchester, called Ackling Dike, is in fair preservation.

On the downs and cliffs are many camps and barrows, British, Belgian, Roman or English; among these are Badbury and Maumbury, those on the Stour between Sturminster and Bradford, Weatherbury, Eggardon, Loosebarrow, Rowbarrow, Shaftesbury, Melbury, Hazelbury, Spettisbury, Chalbury, Abbotsbury, Netherbury, Symondsbury, Hamilton Hill, Worbarrow, Woolbarrow, Churchbarrow, Flowersbarrow, Wardstonebarrow, Blackbarrow, Woodbury, Boltonbarrow, Banbury, Westlbury, Figbury, Lushbarrow, Conquerbarrow, Laurencebarrow, Churchbarrows, Seabarrow, Poundbury, Knapbarrow, Bullbarrow, Dodsbury, Broadfordbarrow, Barrow Hill, Henbury, Strawbarrow, Kingbarrow, Ballbarrow, Greatbarrow, Egertonbarrow, Boorsbarrow, Longbarrow, Stablebarrow, Powbarrow, Bridwellbarrow, Mawerbury, Buzbury, Eastbury and Westbury, near Tarrant Gunville, Thorncombe, Bealon, Mowlamsbarrow, Tadnollbarrow, Lordsbarrow, Endbarrow, Youbarrow, Cernebarrow, Stonebarrow, Swyrsebarrow, Cholbury, Hakebury, Swan Knoll, Bound Pound, Five Meersbarrow, and Mawerbury. Many tesselated pavements, also pottery and Roman coins, have been found. The whole number of Roman camps has been reckoned at 25.

After the fall of the Romans and Britons this shire became part of the kingdom of the West Saxons, and the see of a bishop; the kings dwelt here at Corfe Castle and Kingston, and in the minsters many of them are buried. On the shore near Wareham, Portland and Charmouth, many fights took place with the Danish rovers. In the Parliamentary War the gentry took part with the King, and held out in many sieges and fights, in which their castles were ruined; the townsmen sided with the Parliament; but the country people held aloof from both King and Parliament, and formed companies of “clubmen” to keep them off.

Dorsetshire had formerly many rich and old abbeys of Benedictines and Cistercians; among those were Shaftesbury, Sherborne, Cerne, Abbotsbury, Bindon, Cranborne, Horton and Mitton; likewise priories at Dorchester, Bridport, Wareham, Loders, Frampton and Spettisbury. Sherborne was the see of a bishop from 705 to 1075. There are still some Catholic nunneries and chapels well endowed by the wealthy members of that communion.

The objects of interest are many; the fossils of the Isles of Purbeck and Portland and of Lyme Regis; the shore scenery, Lulworth Cove, and Chesil Bank (the curious spit which joins the Isle of Portland to the main); the amphitheatre at Dorchester; Agglestone, Puckstone, Hellstone, Badbury Rings, Maumbury; the pits on Bladen Heath; the earthworks surrounding Wareham; the figure on the Giant’s Hill, near Cerne, which is an ancient figure cut in outline on the chalk, 180 feet long; at Osmingtton is a similar figure of a horse and rider covering an acre of ground, representing George III. on horseback; the churches at Shaftesbury, Sherborne and Wimborne; and the remains of the abbeys and priories.

The County Asylum is an extensive range of buildings, one mile from Charminster, it was opened in 1864 for 320 patients; the cost, including 56 acres of land, was about £44,000; in 1894 an additional block of buildings was added at a cost, including 94 extra acres of land, of nearly £70,000; it will now hold 750 patients; private patients are received at a charge of 14s. and upwards weekly. Peter William Macdonald M.D. medical superintendent; John Alfred Ewan M.A, M.D., C. M. George Burton Robinson M. B. assistant medical officers; Rev. J. C. Prior, chaplain; Thomas Coombs, clerk to the asylum and the committee of visitors.

The Dorset County Hospital, Dorchester, was built in 1841, in the Tudor style, and a wing added in 1866: at present it has beds for 50 patients, but possesses ample room for a larger number. Robert Williams, treasurer; William George Vawdrey Lush M. D. physician; John Tudor, consulting surgeon; George Aldridge George L. R. C. P. Lond. Frederick Bazley Fisher L. R. C. P. Lond. and William Ernest Good L. R. C. P. Edin. surgeons; Samuel Wesley Wilson L. R. C. P. & S. Irel. house surgeon; Rev. Randolph Charles Marriott M. A. . chaplain; George M. Archdale, auditor; C. Hansford and G. J. G. Gregory, financial secretaries; Miss Frances Ward, matron; Walter E. Groves, clerk; C. T. Carter, dispenser.

The Weymouth and Dorset County Royal Eye Infirmary, Weymouth, was established in 1836, the present building was erected in 1872, and contains 20 beds; the yearly average number of in-patients is about 180, and the out-patients about 970; Christopher Childs M.A. , M. D. and Rowland Wimburn Carter M. D. and Hubert Houssemayne Du Boulay M. R. C. S. surgeons; John Laws L. D. S. Irel. dental surgeon; Edward Fooks, secretary.

Dorset County School, Charminster, near Dorchester, is a large brick building with stone dressings, on the brow of a hill, for 80 boarders, with chapel; Rev. William S. Watson M.A. headmaster.

Her Majesty’s Prison, Dorchester, is situate on the site of the ancient castle, and was originally erected in 1793, on the plan of Mr. Howard, at an expense of £16,179; since the transfer from the County Authorities it has been entirely rebuilt, now containing 161 cells. Edwin Witheford, chief warder in charge; Rev. Thomas Kingdom Allen M.A. chaplain; William Ernest Good L. R. O. P. Edin. medical officer; Miss Bazell, matron.

Parliamentary Representation of Dorsetshire

The County of Dorset formerly returned three members to Parliament, but under the provisions of the “Redistribution of Seats Act, 1885” it now returns four members, in four divisions.

(1) The Northern division comprises the petty sessional divisions of Blandford, Shaftesbury, Sherborne (except so much as comprised in division No. 3) and Sturminster.

(2) The Eastern division comprises the sessional divisions of Wareham (except so much as is comprised in division No. 3), Wimborne and the municipal borough of Poole.

(3) The Southern division comprises the sessional division of Dorchester (except so much as is comprised in division No. 4), and the municipal boroughs of Dorchester, Weymouth and Melcombe Regis, and the parishes of AS-Puddle, Chaldon-Herrdng, Coombe Keynes, East Lulworth, Moreton, Turner’s Puddle, West Lulworth, Winfrith and Wool, in the sessional division of Wareham.

(4) The Western division comprises the sessional divisions of Bridport and Cerne,and the municipal boroughs of Bridport and Lyme Regis and the parishes of Abbotsbury, Chilfrome, Compton Abbas, Compton Vallence, Evershot, Frampton, Frome Vauchurch, Kingston Russell, Langtom Herring, Littlebredy, Litton Cheney, Longbredy, Maiden Newton, Melbury, Sampford, Portisham, Puncknowle, Rampisham, Swyre, Toller Fratrum, Toller Porcorum, Winterborne Abbas, Winterborne Steepleton and Wynford Eagle, in the sessional division of Dorchester, and the parishes of Chetnole, Leigh, Melbury Osmond, Ryme Intrinsica, Stockwood and Yetminster, in the sessional division of Sherborne.

Under the provisions of the above-mentioned Act, the Boroughs of Weymouth, Bridport, Dorchester, Poole, Shaftesbury and Wareham were disfranchised. MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT FOR THE COUNTY. Eastern Division, Hon, Humphrey Napier Sturt D.L., J.P. Crichel, Wimborne; & 38 Portman square W. & Carlton club, London S. W.

Northern Division, John Kenelm Digby Wingfield-Digby J.P. Sherborne castle, Sherborne, Dorset; & Arthur’s, White’s & Carlton clubs, London S W Southern Division, William Ernest Brymer M.A., J.P., IIsington house, Putldletown, Dorchester, 8 St. James’s st. & Carlton club, London S W Western Division, Col. Robert Williams D.L., J.P. Bridgehead, Dorchester ; 1 Hyde Park street W. & National Liberal club, London S W.

Military

Dorchester is the depot of Regimental District No. 39, the Dorsetshire Regiment, which is comprised of the 1st Battalion (39th Foot) ; 2nd Battalion (54th Foot) ; the Dorset Militia being its 3rd Battalion ; the head quarters of the latter are at Dorchester. Full particulars will be found at p. 71.

Fairs & Markets

Beaminster, Sept. 19, for cattle; market day, Thur. for butchers’ meat & provisions.

Bere Regis, September 21 & 22, on Woodbury hill.

Blandford, March 7, principally for sheep, horses & horned cattle; September 9, November 8 & the Sat. next before July 10 for wool: market day, sat.

Bridport, April 6, for cattle & cheese; & October 11; market days, Wed. & sat.

Corfe Castle, May 12 & October 29.

Cranborne, December 6, for pleasure.

Dorchester, February 14, July 6, August 6 & October 25, for horses, sheep & cattle ; & one at Poundbury the last Thur. in September, principally for horn ewes, market days, Wed. & sat.

Gillingham, Trinity Mon. for cattle ; & September 12, for pleasure; market day, every alternate Mon.

Iwerne Courtnay, Sept. 25 & 26, for horses, cattle & cheese.

Lyme Regis, first Tues. after Candlemas & Michaelmas; market days. & Fri., Tu for butchers’ meat, poultry & vegetables.

Maiden Newton, March 9 & May 4.

Milborne St. Andrew, November 30, for cattle, sheep, corn & cheese.

Poole, St. Philip & St. James’ fair, May 1st; & All Saints, November 2, each for 8 days; market day, Thur.

Portland, November 5, for pleasure.

Puddleton, October 29.

Shaftesbury, sat. before Palm Sun. last sat. in August & November 23, for sheep, cattle, cheese & agricultural produce & pleasure; market day, sat.

Sherborne, May 8, July 18 & 26, for cattle & sheep; & a large fair, well known as Pack Monday fair, on the first Mon. after October 10; market days, Thur. & sat.

Stalbridge, May 6 & September 4, for cattle; market day, every alternate Thur.

Sturminster Newton, May 12 & October 24; market day, alternate Mon. chiefly for cattle.

Toller Down, May 18 & September 7.

Wareham, Tues. nearest April 17 & September 11, for cattle: market day, Tues.

Weymouth, market held daily.

Wimborne, market day, Fri.

Wool, May 14, for cattle.

Yetminster, April 27 & October 5.

Dorset County Council

Local Government Act, 1888, 51 & 52 Vic. c. 41.

Under the above Act the county of Dorset after the 18th April, 1889, became for the purposes of this Act an administrative county (sec. 46), governed by a County Council, consisting of chairman, alderman & councillors (the number of councillors being determined by the Local Government Board) and elected in manner prescribed by the Act (sec. 2).

The chairman is, by virtue of his office, a justice of the peace for the county without qualification (sec. 46).

The police for the county is under the control of a standing joint committee of the Quarter Sessions and the County Council appointed as therein mentioned (sec. 9).

The Coroners for the county are elected by the County Council and the clerk of the peace appointed by such joint committee and may be removed by them (sec. 83-2).

The clerk of the peace for the county is also the clerk of the County Council (sec. 83-1).

The administrative business of the county (which would, if this Act had not been passed, have been transacted by the justices) is transacted by the County Council.

Meet at Dorchester.

The following Table shows the acreage under each kind of crop, and the number of horses, cattle, sheep and pigs in the County of Dorset, as taken from the Agricultural returns, 1894:—

CROPSACRESLIVE STOCKNUMBER
Corn and cereals89,953Horses for agriculture, brood mares16,438
Roots, artificial grasses, cabbage, and rape52,616And unbroken horses51,152
Clover and grasses45,946Cows in milk or calf28,803
Permanent pasture298,634Other cattle242,708
Bare fallow3,087Sheep, 1 year old140,985
Orchards4,338Ditto, under 1 year53,769
Market gardens187
Nursery grounds126
Woods and plantations31,457
Kelly's Directory of Dorset (1895)

Surnames Found in Dorset

RankSurnameNo. of People% of Population
1White19381.01
2Smith15470.81
3Brown15050.78
4Bartlett12680.66
5Legg10960.57
6Stone10820.56
7Cox9200.48
8Miller8320.43
9Davis8170.43
10Harris8090.42
11King7830.41
12Hunt7670.40
13Gale7620.40
14Pearce7170.37
15Taylor7150.37
16Baker7100.37
17Read7090.37
18Barnes6940.36
19Foot6910.36
20Green6840.36
21Parsons6750.35
22Marsh6720.35
23Andrews6670.35
24Hansford6650.35
25Symes6590.34
26Williams6390.33
27Rose6290.33
28Roberts6150.32
29Bishop6040.31
30Hallett6000.31
31Young5740.30
32Warren5720.30
33House5700.30
34Mitchell5600.29
35Moore5470.29
36Allen5460.28
37Burt5430.28
38Lane5390.28
39James5330.28
40Stickland5270.27
41Samways5270.27
42Frampton5250.27
43Collins5240.27
44Curtis5090.27
45Watts5080.26
46Coombs5040.26
47Way4940.26
48Churchill4890.26
49Gray4850.25
50Martin4840.25
51Saunders4790.25
52Burden4600.24
53Phillips4590.24
54Carter4590.24
55Bennett4520.24
56Russell4390.23
57Clark4380.23
58Thorne4380.23
59Rogers4340.23
60Tucker4330.23
61Ridout4320.23
62Wills4310.22
63Fry4280.22
64Hawkins4210.22
65Stevens4160.22
66Wareham4130.22
67Cross4100.21
68Barrett4080.21
69Gibbs4060.21
70Clarke3940.21
71Palmer3940.21
72Vincent3900.20
73Bailey3890.20
74Harvey3890.20
75Cole3890.20
76Riggs3880.20
77Edwards3820.20
78Cook3820.20
79Pitman3810.20
80Knight3770.20
81Hill3690.19
82Gillingham3690.19
83Miles3660.19
84Hardy3650.19
85Morris3640.19
86Ford3610.19
87Parker3600.19
88Adams3580.19
89Richards3560.19
90Randall3560.19
91Pike3520.18
92Drake3510.18
93Crocker3500.18
94Hann3480.18
95Sansom3470.18
96Groves3440.18
97Short3430.18
98Bridle3430.18
99Turner3420.18
100Guy3420.18

* Statistics based on the 1881 census