Fun & Interesting Facts
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.
The history of Gillingham dates back to ancient times, with evidence of a stone age barrow and Roman settlement in the 2nd and 3rd centuries. However, the town was established by the Saxons. The notable church of St Mary the Virgin features a Saxon cross shaft dating from the 9th century.
The name "Gillingham" was used in the town's 10th-century Saxon charter and is mentioned in historical annals for a battle between Edmund Ironside and the Vikings in 1016. The name derives from a personal name combined with the Old English "inga" and "hām," meaning a homestead of the family or followers of a man named Gylla.
Gillingham has seen various periods of significance throughout history. In the Middle Ages, it served as a royal hunting lodge and was visited by Kings Henry I, Henry II, John, and Henry III. The town had a royal forest dedicated to the king's deer, but the lodge fell into disrepair and was destroyed in 1369 by Edward III. Notable figures have connections to Gillingham, such as Edward Rawson, the first secretary to the Massachusetts Bay Colony, who was born there.
Sports and cultural activities are also present in Gillingham, with a Non-League football club, a rugby union club (thank you for the amazing launch site), a long-standing brass band, and the only nightclub in North Dorset. Overall, Gillingham combines historical charm, a thriving community, and convenient access to transportation routes, making it a notable town in Dorset.