"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


Description & Travel

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    Poor Houses, Poor Law

    • Alan Longbottom has transcribed from the 1st Annual Report of the Local Government Board 1871-72, pages 103 to 224, detailed information regarding Reports upon the administration of Out-door Relief in 70 Unions in the South of England. Here are the details for the Mere Union.

      Local Government Board 1st Annual Report 1871-2

      Appendix pages 212-213

      Heads of Inquiry upon which information was given upon the Administration of Out-door Relief in the Mere Union of Wiltshire.


      Part I

      I - There is no general revision of the lists at any fixed periods. The permanent cases are revised about once a year; other cases come before the Board at the expiration of the time for which relief has in the first instance been granted.

      II - The longest period for which relief is granted is till further orders..

      III - Sick cases are given relief during sickness and when the medical relief ceases, the general relief ceases also. - :Widows with children are given relief for six months. - Old and infirm chronic cases are given relief till further orders..

      IV - The personal attendance of the applicant is required, unless ill or at work. A fresh report from the relieving officer is required on every application.

      V - The school pence are not paid by the Guardians, but the relieving officer would report if he found children of school age kept at home.

      VII - The Guardians personally question the applicants, and in almost every case their circumstances are personally known to some member of the Board.

      VIIa - The chairman enters the relief in the Application and Report Book, and the clerk in the Relief Order Book.

      IX - About one-third of the total relief is given in kind.

      X - The workhouse is offered to all able-bodied applicants, to persons of drunken or incorrigibly idle habits, and to those who make a dishonest or suspicious statement to the Guardians or their officers. When offered as a test not one in 20 accept it.

      XI - Deserted wives are as a rule offered the workhouse, but are in a few cases allowed out-relief. The husband is prosecuted; no reward is offered for his apprehension.

      XII - Money from benefit clubs is looked on favourably, and about three-fourths of it is not taken into account in determining the amount of relief. Cases of pensions very rarely occur.

      XIII - Relief is given in aid of earnings to widows and aged persons; not to any who are in regular and constant employment.

      XIV - Relations, legally liable, are compelled to contribute, and legal proceedings are taken whenever they are likely to be successful.

      XV - The provisions of the Prohibitory Order are strictly observed.

      XVI - The medical officers do not attend any meetings of the Guardians unless specially desired to do so.

      XVII - The Guardians have no system of communication with persons administering charitable relief.

      "Mere Union


      Scale of Out-door Relief (adopted by the Board).

      Old and Infirm

      Single man (wholly disabled)2s-0d to 2s-6d and 1 loaf
      Single woman (wholly disabled)2s-0d and 1 loaf
      Man and wife (wholly disabled)3s-6d to 4s-0d and 2 loaves

      Able-bodied in Sickness

      Man or woman (paying their own lodgings)2s-0d and 1 loaf
      Man or woman (with no lodging to pay)1s-6d and 1 loaf


      Man and wife3s-6d to 4s-0d and 2 loaves
      With 1 child4s-0d and 3 loaves
      With 2 children4s-0d and 4 loaves
      With 3 children4s-0d and 5 or 6 loaves
      With 4 children4s-0d and 6 or7 loaves
      With 5 children4s-6d and 7 or 8 loaves
      With 6 children4s-6d and 8 or 9 loaves
      Widows with Families
      Woman1s-6d and 1 loaf
      With 1 child2s-6d and 2 loaves
      With 2 children3s-0d and 3 loaves
      With 3 children3s-6d and 4 loaves
      With 4 children3s-6d to 4s-0d and 5 loaves
      With 5 children4s-0d to 4s-6d and 6 loaves
      With 6 children[figure omitted]
      Families of Widows who support themselves
      1 child1s-0d and 1 or 2 loaves
      2 children2s-0d and 2 or 3 loaves
      3 children3s-0d and 3 or 4 loaves
      4 children3s-6d and 4 or 5 loaves
      5 children3s-6d and 5 or 6 loaves
      6 children4s-0d and 6 or 7 loaves
      Orphans1s-6d and 1 loaf

      Part II

      1 There is one relief district and one relieving officer.

      2 There is no assistant relieving officer.

      3 There is no pay clerk.

      4 The relieving officer does all the visiting; he does not keep a diary.

      5 Sick cases are visited never less than once a fortnight; generally once a week, and sometimes oftener.

      Widows are visited generally once a month; never less than twice in 3 months.

      Old and Infirm chronic cases are visited never less than once a quarter.

      6 The relieving officer visits before giving an order for the workhouse, except in cases well known to him, and in cases of extreme urgency. He reports the case to the Board at their next meeting.

      7 The relieving officer visits at the time of giving temporary provisional relief. Such relief is always in kind, and is reported to the Guardians at their next meeting.

      8 The Guardians frequently direct the relieving officer to relieve at discretion. They require a report from him at each ensuing meeting.

      9 The relieving officer visits at uncertain times and unexpectedly.

      10,11 (Mode of Payment) In three parishes the poor are paid in a room belonging to a benefit club, for which the Guardians pay 6d a week. The room belongs to a public house, but is detached from it and Is under a separate roof. In Mere the poor are paid at a relief office in the relieving officer's house. In other places they are paid in a room in a cottage for which the Guardians pay 6d a week, the cottage in one case being the home of a pauper.

      When the head of the family, or the wife, is unable to come in person for the relief it is generally sent by some neighbour in receipt of relief. The relieving officer inquires from time to time to ascertain that it has been properly received, and would not intrust it to any person not previously known to him.

      No pauper has to come more than 2 and a quarter miles to receive relief.

      Bread, not baked by the Guardians, is taken round in the contractor's cart, and meets the relieving officer at each relief station. Weights and scales are taken round with it.

      17 There is no dispensary for out-door poor in the Union.

      18 The relieving officer is at home until 10 a.m, and has fixed hours at each relief station.


      Area - 33,245 acres: Population 8,056.

      Maximum number of cases in receipt in any one week 371 : of persons, 645.

      Minimum number of cases 340 ; of persons 516.

      Note :- The above numbers are taken from the year ended September 1870.

      Signed - Val. H. Norris - Relieving Officer




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