In 1870-72, John Marius Wilson’s Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales described Wimborne Minster like this:
WIMBORNE-MINSTER, a town and a parish in Wimborne district, Dorset. The town stands at the confluence of the rivers Allen and Stour, adjacent to the Somerset and Dorset railway, 6 miles N of Poole.
It is supposed to occupy the site of a Roman winter-station; was known to the Saxons as Winburnhamynstre; was taken, in 901, by Edward the Elder from Ethelwald; acquired, in 705, a nunnery, which was destroyed by the Danes, and refounded as a collegiate church by Edward the Confessor; had Matthew Prior as a native, or, at … least, as a school-pupil; ranks nominally as a borough, governed by a constable and two bailiffs; is a seat of petty sessions and county courts, and a polling place; carries on a manufacture of buttons and knit stockings; presents a clean and airy appearance; and has a head post-office,?a r. station with telegraph, two banking offices, two chief inns, three bridges over the Allen and two over the Stour, a grand ancient cruciform minster, three dissenting chapels, a free grammar-school rebuilt in 1851, national schools of 1843, an endowed school and alms houses with ?02 a year, an alms-house hospital with ?17, other charities ?88, a weekly market on Friday, and two annual fairs. The minster was founded for a dean, prebendaries, and other officers; is now managed, as to its temporalities, by 12 governors; had once 10 altars and many relics, and was once entirely covered with frescoes; measures 185 feet from E to W, and 97 feet along the transepts; comprises a very early English nave 68 feet by 53, a later English W tower 95 feet high, a Norman central tower 85 feet high, and a choir and a presbytery 36 and 30 feet long; includes, beneath the choir, a crypt 29?feet long, 20?feet wide, and 10 feet high; was restored in 1838-46; and contains a brass of King Ethelred, an altar-tomb of the Marchioness of Exeter who died in 1558, an alabaster tomb of the Duke of Somerset who died in 1444, and some other interesting monuments. Pop. of the town in 1861, 2,271. Houses, 438.-The parish includes Holt, Leigh, and Badbury tythings, Kingston-Lacy manor, and seven hamlets. Acres, 11,966. Rated property ?8,681. Pop. in 1861, 4,807. Houses, 989. Heron Court, Deans Court, Kingston-Lacy Hall, Canford Hall, Merly House, Gaunts House, High Hall, Knowle House, Uddens House, Critchell House, Henbury House, Lychet House, and Stone House, are chief residences either within or near the boundaries. Badbury hill, Cole hill, Corfe hill, and Pamp hill command fine views; and the first is crowned by an interesting ancient camp, noticed in our article Badbury. The living is a peculiar, with Holt chapelry, in the diocese of Salisbury. Patrons, the Corporation.
Extract taken from http://www.visionofbritain.org.uk/place/place_page.jsp?p_id=445