"MERE, a parish, post and market town, in the hundred of Mere, county Wilts, 4 miles from Gillingham railway station, and 21 W. by N. of Salisbury. The name of this place is derived from the Saxon word Maere, signifying bounds, or limits, and indicates its situation on the borders of Wilts, Dorset, and Somerset, which counties are here in conjunction with each other. The parish, which is situated at the S.W. extremity of the Downs, contains the tythings of Chadderwick, Zeals, and Woodlands. It formerly had a castle, built by Richard Earl of Cornwall, in 1253, to which duchy the manor still belongs. The site is now called Castle Hill, but all traces of the fortress have vanished.

From a chalk hill in the neighbourhood rises the Ashfield water, which turns several mills in its course, and eventually joins the river Stour. The town, situated on the road from Salisbury to Wincanton, is small, and the houses irregularly-built. It is well lighted with gas, and contains a literary institute, reading-room, bank, penny bank, established in 1859, and an ancient building used as the market-house. There are manufactories for flax-spinning and bed-ticking, and a silk-throwing mill. The town anciently sent two members to parliament, but was disfranchised on the plea of poverty. Courts leet and baron are held in October for the Duchy of Cornwall, and by the Dean of Salisbury, at which constables and tythingmen are chosen for the town and hundred. The soil is chalk alternating with clay.

To the N.W. of the town are vestiges of a Danish encampment, called "White-street camp", from a hill on which it is situated. The living is a vicarage* in the diocese of Sarum, value £330, in the patronage of the bishop. The parish church, dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel, is a spacious structure, in excellent preservation, with a square embattled tower, crowned with lofty pinnacles, containing six bells. On each side of the chancel is a sepulchral chapel, and in the belfry is a carved oak ceiling. The interior of the church has a brass to Sir T. Beddiscombe, bearing date 1390. Under a niche over the porch is the figure of a saint, which appears to be of greater antiquity than the church.

There is also a district church at Zeal's Green, the living of which is a perpetual curacy, value £97. The parochial charities produce about £113 per annum. There are National and British schools for both sexes. The Independents and Primitive Methodists have each a chapel; and there is a Roman Catholic chapel at Bonham House. A cemetery was opened in 1856. During its formation an earthen vessel was discovered, in which were found 400 Roman coins of ancient date. The Prince of Wales is lord of the manor. Market day is Tuesday. Fairs are held on 17th May, and 10th October."

[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868) - Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2003]

Mere is a market town on the borders of Dorset and Somerset, 21 miles NW of Salisbury and 6 miles West of Hindon. Grid Ref ST812322. Postcode BA12 6DS. Population 2,708 in 1831, 2,167 in 1951.


Church Records

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Poorhouses, Poor Law, etc.