Cranbourne in 1837
Cranbourne is a small market-town, situated in a fine champaign country, on the little river Allen (a feeder of the Stour) near its head. It is in the hundred of Cranbourne, 93 miles from London. The parish is the largest in the county, comprehending 13,730 acres, and had, in 1831, a population of 2,158, chiefly agricultural.
No manufactures are carried on. The market, which is small, is on Thursdays ; there are two fairs and one great cattle market in the year. The houses are in general neat and well built. About A.D. 980 a monastery for Benedictines was founded here by Ailward de Meau or Snew, of the family of Edward the Elder. This either was originally, or subsequently became, an abbey ; but the abbot and most of the monks being removed to Tewkesbury, it was reduced to be a simple priory and a cell of Tewkesbury. Some time after the dissolution, the present manor-house was built on the site and from the materials of the priory; it is the property of Marquis of Salisbury, who takes the title of viscount from this town.
The parish church, formerly the priory church, which is one of the oldest and largest in the county, will accommodate 1,000 persons. The tower is in the perpendicular style : the church has portions of an earlier character, and a door under the north porch is Norman. There is a rich wood pulpit on a stone base. The living is a vicarage, united with the chapelries of Verwood and Boveridge, of the yearly value of £151, with a glebe-house. There were in the parish, in 1833, 6 infant or dame schools, with 60 children ; 4 day-schools, with 206 children ; and 4 Sunday-schools, with 402 children.
North-west of the town is a large waste extending into Wiltshire : it was formerly a free warren or chase, once possessed by the house of Gloucester, and till lately by Lord Rivers, who had a right to keep deer all over it. It is covered chiefly with hazels and blackthorns, with a few timber trees. It has lately been disfranchised as a chase by act of parliament. It was very pernicious to the neighbouring farms, and was the occasion that few turnips were sown, as the deer made great depredations on that crop and could not be prevented. The deer are now destroyed.