powered by FreeFind




MARKET TOWNS OF DORSET (from SDUK Penny Cyclopedia)

Wareham in 1843

WAREHAM, a market-town and parliamentary borough, in the south division of the hundred of Winfrith Blandford in Dorsetshire, 10 miles from Poole, 18 from Dorchester, and 112 from London. It is within three miles of an arm of the sea, which forms a part of the bay called Poole Harbour. A town existed here in the time of the Britons, and it was subsequently occupied by the Romans. Two Saxon kings were burred here, Brithric, king of the West Saxons, and Edward the Martyr, whose remains were afterwards removed to Shaftesbury.

The town is nearly surrounded by an earthwork formed by the Danes in the time of Alfred. A priory was founded at Wareham in the ninth century, and there are some traces of an ancient castle. The town was once much larger, and the entire area enclosed by the ancient earthwork, it is said, was at one time occupied by dwellings, but much of it is now covered with market-gardens.

The two decayed parishes of St. Michael and St. Peter are now annexed to the parish of Lady St. Mary, and their two churches were taken down almost within the memory of persons still living. The three other parishes, Lady St. Mary’s, Trinity, and St. Martin’s, are now united, and form but one parish for ecclesiastical purposes.

The church of Trinity parish is used for the national school, and in that of St. Martin’s only the burial service is read. Lady St. Mary’s church is a large and very ancient edifice, and belonged to the priory. The value of the living is not returned in the Reports of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. The parish is in the diocese of Bristol.

Wareham is said to be a borough by prescription, but this is doubtful. Hutchins, the historian of Dorsetshire, states that there was a mayor of Wareham in the reign of Richard II. In the reign of Queen Elizabeth a charter was granted, constituting a corporation. Another charter was granted in the reign of Queen Anne, which defined the constitution of the municipal body as consisting of a mayor, burgesses, and assistant burgesses.

The borough Court of Record has fallen into disuse since 1747. The boundary of the municipal borough comprises portions of the three parishes beyond the town and these parts are denominated the out-parishes. The town is not affected by 5 & 6 William IV, c. 76, for the reform of municipal boroughs. Wareham returned two members to parliament from the reign of Edward I to the passing of the Reform Act, under which it now returns one member : the adjacent borough of Corfe Castle, which returned two members, was disfranchised. The parliamentary borough now comprises both the in- and out-parishes, and part of the chapelry of Arne in Trinity parish ; the parishes of Corfe Castle and Bere, and parts of the parishes of East Stoke and East Morden. The population in 1831 was 5,774, including 1,676 for the old borough. The number of electors on the register in 1835-6 was 372, and 428 in 1839-40.

The neighbourhood of Wareham is flat and marshy, but the town is situated on an eminence between the rivers Frome and Piddle, over which there are bridges, one having five arches. Small vessels of 20 or 30 tons come up to the town-quay from the sea, and those of 60 tons can approach within half a mile ; three miles from the town, at the confluence of the Frome and Piddle, vessels of the largest size can anchor. Wareham is a member of the port of Poole.

The principal trade consists in the export of a peculiar kind of clay found in the parish of Corfe Castle and in the neighbourhood, which is in demand for the manufacture of common earthenware in Staffordshire. The market-day is Saturday, and there are fairs for cattle, cheese, and hogs, in April, June, and September, and six cattle-fairs in the spring.

The town is compactly built, with two wide main streets lying at right angles, and several smaller streets. In 1834 it was neither lighted nor watched. There are two small endowments for schools, but one of £20 a year had been withheld for two or three years, according to the ‘Education Returns’ of 1833.