Infobox UK place
region= South West England
static_image_caption= St Mary's Church
population= 2,579 (2001 Census)
post_town= Sturminster Newton
constituency_westminster= North Dorset
Stalbridge is a small town and
parishin Dorset, England, situated in the Blackmore Valearea of North Dorsetdistrict, near the border with Somerset. In 2001 the town had a population of 2,579, and is still growing [Dorset County Council & ONS, 2001 " [http://www1.dorsetcc.gov.uk/LIVING/FACTS/Census2001.nsf/6cadf4da179fc19500256663004afece/25c6a81095f8c97e80256ec500445f51?OpenDocument Stalbridge Parish Profile] ." Accessed 2003-07-19.] . 30.8% of the inhabitants are retired. The nearest towns are Sturminster Newton, four miles south east, Sherborne, six miles west, and Shaftesbury, seven miles north east. The town is situated on the A357 roadon a low limestoneridge, one mile west of the River Stour. The settlement became a town in April 1992 [Stalbridge Town Council, 2005. [http://www.stalbridgetowncouncil.gov.uk/ Introduction] . Accessed 2005-12-30.]
Though relatively small, Stalbridge is quite independent, with its own small
supermarket, newsagent, electronics store, GP Surgery and many other services, reflecting its catchment area of surrounding farms and hamlets. The town is also home to the local free newspaper, the Blackmore Vale Magazine.
There was a settlement near Stalbridge in Roman times. The town has a 15th century church with a 19th century tower, dedicated to
Saint Maryand designed by T. H. Wyatt,Michael Pitt-Rivers, 1966. "Dorset". London: Faber & Faber.] which overlooks the town from a hill. The town has had market rights since the time of King George I, though it has not held a regular market for many years. In the town centre stands a 10 metre (30 ft) tall market cross, said to be the finest in the country.The Dorset Page, " [http://www.thedorsetpage.com/locations/place/S190.htm Stalbridge] ."]
Stalbridge was home to scientist
Robert Boyle(see below), and writer Douglas Adams, who wrote much of " The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy" in the town. The town also boasts that it is home to the oldest living male twins in the world.
James Thornhilllived just south of the town, in Thornhill Park, which he bought in 1725. In 1727 he erected an obeliskin the park to honour the accession of King George II.
From September 1863 Stalbridge was served by the
Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway, with trains to Bath and Bournemouth. During World War IIa Ministry of Fooddepot was situated here. The last train ran on 7 March 1966, and most of the tracks, station and goods yard have been replaced, though tracks still cross the road. [Mike Oakley, 2001. "Dorset Railway Stations". Wimborne: Dovecote Press ISBN 1-874336-96-2]
In 1618 Mervyn Tuchet (or Audley), 2nd Earl of Castlehaven, who had inherited Stalbridge Park from his father, decided to build a
mansionhouse on his Stalbridge estate. He enclosed an area used as common landto the northwest of the church, moving tenant farmers out, and built a Jacobean style mansion, the fifth largest house in Dorset.
In 1631 the earl's eldest son James brought a case against him for "unnatural practices", and he was subsequently executed.
James sold the house to
Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Cork. After his father's death, the scientist Robert Boylebecame Lord of the Manor, and the house was his residence between 1644 and 1655. It was here that he conducted many of his experiments.
At some point during the house's history a 2 metre high stone wall was built around the boundary of Stalbridge Park. There is some argument as to when and why the wall was built. It may have been commissioned by Castlehaven as a status symbol, work for French prisoners of the
Napoleonic Wars, or as work for local labourers in times of high unemployment.
By 1822 the house was in poor repair and the current owner, the Marquess of Anglesey, had it demolishedDenys Kay-Robinson, 1984. "The Landscape of Thomas Hardy". Exeter, Webb & Bower ISBN 0-86350-020-X] . By 1827 all that remained was the raised area where it had stood. The stone was sold off and much of it is in use elsewhere in the town, including the large farm house which now stands in the park.
There are many popular local myths and ghost stories about the demise of the house, mostly involving a fire destroying the house.
Stalbridge Park features in
Thomas Hardy's Wessexas "Stapleford Park".
* [http://www.stalbridgetowncouncil.gov.uk/ Stalbridge Town Council official website]
* [http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://www.stalbridge.net WayBackMachine archive of 'Stalbridge.net']
* [http://www.uk-genealogy.org.uk/england/Dorset/towns/Stalbridge.html Stalbridge Genealogy site]
Blackmore Valearticle contains a panorama taken from the hill above Stalbridge.
* [http://www.cotch.net/special:search.php?key=Stalbridge Photographs of Stalbridge]
* [http://www.north-dorset.gov.uk/framesets/c_district_fs_5.htm North Dorset District Council (showing Stalbridge church and market cross).]
* [http://www.uk-genealogy.org.uk/england/Dorset/towns/Stalbridge.html More photograhs of Stalbridge showing the town, church, and cross]
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