Gillingham, Dorset

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Coordinates: 51°02′15″N 2°16′29″W / 51.0375°N 2.2748°W / 51.0375; -2.2748

Gillingham, High Street - - 1434129.jpg
High Street, Gillingham
Gillingham is located in Dorset
 Gillingham shown within Dorset
Population 11,756 [1]
OS grid reference ST805265
Civil parish Gillingham
District North Dorset
Shire county Dorset
Region South West
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district SP8
Dialling code 01747
Police Dorset
Fire Dorset
Ambulance South Western
EU Parliament South West England
UK Parliament North Dorset
List of places

Gillingham Listeni/ˈɡɪlɪŋəm/ is a town in the Blackmore Vale area of Dorset, England. It lies on the B3095 and B3081 roads in the North Dorset administrative district, approximately 4 miles (6.4 km) south of the A303 trunk road and 5 miles (8.0 km) northwest of Shaftesbury. It is the most northerly town in the county. The neighbouring hamlets of Peacemarsh, Bay and Wyke have become part of Gillingham as it has expanded.

Gillingham is pronounced with a hard initial 'G' as in 'Goat', unlike Gillingham, Kent, which is pronounced with a soft 'G' as in 'Germany'.


There is a stone age barrow[2] in the town, and evidence of Roman settlement in the 2nd and 3rd centuries; however the town was established by the Saxons. The church of St Mary the Virgin has a Saxon cross shaft dating from the 9th century.[3]

The name Gillingham was used for the town in its 10th century Saxon charter, and also in an entry for 1016 in the annals, as the location of a battle between Edmund Ironside and the Vikings. In Domesday Book (1086) it is Gelingham, and later spellings include Gellingeham in 1130, Gyllingeham in 1152 and Gilingeham in 1209. The name implies a "homestead of the family or followers of a man called Gylla", a model consistent with the occupation of Dorset by the Saxons from the 7th century.

50% of the town's population of 2000 died of the Black Death in the four months following October 1348.[4]

In the Middle Ages, Gillingham was the site of a royal hunting lodge, visited by Kings Henry I, Henry II, John and Henry III. A nearby royal forest was set aside for the king's deer. The lodge fell into disrepair and was destroyed in 1369 by Edward III.

Edward Rawson, the first secretary to the Massachusetts Bay Colony, was born in Gillingham.

Gillingham became a local farming centre, gained the first Grammar School in Dorset in 1516 and a mill for silk in 1769. Gillingham's church has a 14th-century chancel, though most of the rest of the building was built in the 19th and 20th centuries. Many other buildings in the town are of Tudor origin.

In the 1850s, the arrival of the railway to the town brought prosperity and new industries including brickmaking, cheese production, printing, soap manufacture and at the end of the 19th century one of the first petrol engine plants in the country. In the Second World War Gillingham's position on the railway from London to Exeter was key to its rapid growth. In 1940 and 1941 there was large scale evacuation of London and other industrial cities to rural towns, particularly in the north, southwest and Wales. Gillingham grew rapidly because of this[citation needed]. Gillingham was the centre of a Liberty of the same name. John Constable's painting of the old town bridge is in the Tate Gallery.


Gillingham's population has grown rapidly from 6,187 in the 1991 census to 9,323 in the 2001 census and 11,756 in the 2011 census. 35% of the population is retired. Gillingham has good transport links, being 4 miles south of the A303, the main road from London to SW England, and having a station on the Exeter to London railway line. Salisbury is about 30 minutes away by train, and 50 minutes by car.

The town has 70 shops, and the Gillingham education area has 7 primary schools (4 in the town) and 1 secondary school.

The town plays host to the annual 'Gillingham & Shaftesbury Show', which is a well attended agricultural show held every August at the showground on the outskirts of the town. Gillingham Town Carnival is held every October.

Sport and leisure[edit]

Gillingham has a Non-League football club, Gillingham Town F.C., who play at Harding's Lane, and a rugby union club. Until 2009, when it ceased for financial reasons, Gillingham hosted an annual 10-day festival of music and sport. Gillingham has had a brass band since 1928; they are currently nationally graded in the 3rd Section, and perform at civic events and carnivals. Gillingham has the only night club in North Dorset.

See also[edit]

List of hundreds in Dorset.


  1. ^ "Parish Population Data". Dorset County Council. 14 March 2013. Retrieved 4 May 2013. 
  2. ^ The Dorset Page's Gillingham Page
  3. ^ St Mary the Virgin
  4. ^ Times 1/2/07 Simon de Bruxelles Lost documents shed light on Black Death

External links[edit]