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Dorsetshire has a variety of Soils: in the southwestern district the low lands are mostly a deep, rich loam, while on the hills a sandy loam, intermixed with flint, predominates; around Sherborne the best arable land is found, and in the centre of the County the soil is tolerably good, and generally well managed. Draining is not much in use, although in many places it would be beneficial. The soil of the Downs is light and chalky, but they bear a fine turf. The Mineral productions of this County are few, and of little importance, with the exception of the vast masses of freestone, found in the Isles of Portland and Purbeck. Limestone, and pipe-clay, abound near the course of the rivers Piddle and Frome; and a bituminous slaty coal, which burns with a bright flame, is met with.
The Rivers of Dorsetshire are neither numerous nor important: the Piddle rises near Cerne Abbas, and flowing in a south-easterly direction, passes Wareham, and falls into Poole Bay. The Frome has its source in the western part of the County, and after receiving several smaller streams, passes Dorchester, and being augmented by the Winterbourne, runs in a south-easterly course, and is received by Poole Bay at a short distance from Wareham. - The Stour flows into this County from Wiltshire, near Gilling, ham, and running south as far as Sturminster, it thence assumes a south-easterly, but very winding direction, and after passing Blandford and Wimborne Minster, enters Hampshire at a short distance from the latter. The Ivel, or Yeo, rises near Sherborne, and pursuing a short westerly course enters Somersetshire. Within the limits of the County are many smaller streams; the only ones deserving mention are the Brit, the Char, and the Wey, which after a short course, respectively fall into the Channel near Bridport, Charmouth, and Weymouth.
The Climate of Dorsetshire is salubrious. In agriculture it is considered to stand in need of improvement; but great attention is paid to the breeding of sheep, and immense numbers are every year sent out of the County; both their flesh and their wool are in much esteem. The breed of horses is not much attended to, and oxen are frequently.employed in the labours of the field; considerable dairies are also established; and some bacon is made, but is not considered equal to that of the adjoining county of Hants.
The principal Manufactures here are those of twine, cordage, petting, sacking, and sailcloth, all produced from the great quantities of hemp and flax grown iu this County; some small branches of the woollen manufacture are carried on in various places, and considerable numbers of the women and children are employed in the making of shirt buttonsi The Beer and Ale made here are celebrated for their excellence, and barley is grown, and malt manufactured, to a great extent, for the internal consumption of the County. The Fishery is carried on along the coast: to a great extent, but is stated to be not now so successful as at former periods; although great quantities of mackerel are still caught, between the months of April and June.
Dorsetshire was formerly the See of a Bishop, but now forms a part of the diocese of Bristol, of which it is an Archdeaconry. It is in the Western Circuit, and contributes 640 men to the national Militia. The present Lord Lieutenant is Earl Digby.
HISTORY OF THE COUNTY.
The annals of Dorsetshire are unusually barren of incidents According to Ptolemy, its earliest inhabitants were the Durotriges and the Morini; but as both these terms are derived from British words signifying inhabitants of the sea-shore, or dwellers by the water, it is probable that they formed but one tribe, although the imperfect information of the geographer led him to consider them as two. Many Druidical remains still exist in the County, in confirmation of the fact of its having been inhabited by the Britons: but we have no account of any events connected with their establishment here, nor is it known at what
period they submitted to the Roman conquerors. Under the latter it formed a part of the province of Britannia Prima; and from the number of their stations, and the several roads which crossed it, many of which are yet traceable, it appears to have been of importance; history is, however, as silent on the subject of its occupation by the Romans as by its preceding inhabitants; and it fell under the Saxon yoke, and formed a part of the Kingdom of Wessex, without presenting a single incident worthy of notice. - During the Heptarchy, and under the Saxon Kings of England, Corfe Castle, and other places in this County, were frequently distinguished by the resi. dence of those monarchs. After the Conquest, and until the Civil War between Charles I and the Parliament, Dorsetshire remained in peaceful obscurity; at this period, however, it became the scene of several conflicts, which will be narrated in treating of the places where they occurred. The last event by which this County was distinguished, was the unfortunate and ill-concerted attempt of the Duke of Monmouth, who landed at Lyme in 1685; and the horrible vengeance inflicted by Jeffreys and Kirk on those who were convicted, or suspected, of participating in the rebellion.
ABBOTSBURY, now an inconsiderable town, situated on the coast, 127 miles from London, is súpposed to derive its name from a magnificent Abbey, founded here before the Conquest, and which existed in great splendour until the Dissolution. At that period it was much dilapidated, and its remains are now little better than a heap of ruins: they consist of a decayed porch, supposed to have formed the entrance to the Church; a building, imagined to have been the Dormitory, now used as 'a stable; a large Barn, the walls of which are in some places ruinous, and overgrown with ivy; the principal Gatehouse; and a part of the walls of the building. By Henry VIII this Abbey was granted to Sir G. Strangeways, who preserved one of the numerous Chapels (St. Mary's) on account of its “ singular beauty," and erected'“ a faire Mansion," with some of the materials of the other buildings: during the Civil War both the Chapel and the Mansion were destroyed.
The parish Church of Abbotsbury is dedicated to St. Nicholas, and appears to have been built early in the sixteenth century; it consists of three aisles, and has an embattled tower; over the west door is an ancient carving, representing the Trinity by an old man seated, with a dove at his right ear, and a cross between his knees. At the east end was a very large' window, filled with painted glass; and near this, on the south side, an ancient painting of the Resurrection, which, after having been spared at the Reformation, and during the Civil Wars, was barbarously defaced by the parish officers in beautifying the Church. The pulpit is pierced in two places, apparently by musket balls, supposed to have been done in the attack made by the Parliamentary party on the Royalists, who had entrenched themselves here, in 1654. The population of this town is 907 persons, who are chiefly employed in fishing; it has a weekly Market on Thursday,
On an eminence about half a mile from the town is
ST. CATHERINE'S CHAPEL,
TO conjectured to have been founded in the reign of Edward IV; it is now in a state of great decay, and has long been disused as a place of devotion, but was preserved as a sea-mark, to which purpose, from the foftiness of its situation, it is well adapted. It is 45 feet in length, about 15 in width, and has a tower at the north-west angle: the walls are strengthened on each side by buttresses which rise above the parapet, and terminate in square tops: a very extensive pruspect is obtained from the roof of this building.
About a mile and a half to the west of the town are some considerable remains of an ancient forti. fication called Abbotsbury Castle, which, however, consists of no more than some ramparts and ditches, enclosing an area of about 20 acres. A mile southwest from Abbotsbury is a Decoy, in which great numbers of wild fowl are taken; and not far from hence, in a kind of lake or inlet of the sea called West Fleet, is a noble Swannery, in which as many as 1500 swans were formerly kept; the number has latterly been reduced to 600 or 700.,
Between two and three miles to the north, on Ridge Hill, are several vast fragments of rock, called Hell Stones, from the vulgar tradition of their having been thrown into their present situation by his Satapic majesty while diverting himself at quoits. It appears to have been one of those erections attributed to the Druids, the mode and the object of whose formation are equally perplexing to antiquarians. This Cromlech consisted of nine upright stones, each about six feet high, supporting one 107 feet long; they are now nearly all thrown down, Some other stones, but of a smaller size, are found on a neighbouring Down; and several human skeletons, with some small earthen vessels, were discovered in digging in a field at a short distance.
ST. ALBAN'S (or St. Adhelm's) HEAD, is a bold cliff, forming the southern point of the Isle of Purbeck, and rising almost perpendicularly to the height of 440 feet. On the brink of the precipice is an ancient Chapel, about 20 feet square, now in ruins, in which a priest was maintained to pray for the safety of the mariners who navigated this dangerous coast, and to say mass for the souls of those who perished. Near this cliff, the Halsewell, East Indiaman, was lost, in January, 1786; and so violent was the storm, that within two hours after the ship struck on the rocks, not an atom of her remained *.
* From an account published at the time, the following particulars of this melancholy event are taken. Captain Pierce had been many years in the service of the Company, and was proceeding on his last voyage to India,. with two of his daughters, and other relatives. 4 A short time