Abbotsbury is a village and civil parish in the English county of Dorset. It lies in the West Dorset administrative district, and is known for its swannery, subtropical gardens and historic stone buildings. It is a gateway village on the Jurassic Coast, and consequently is popular with tourists.
One and a half miles northwest of the village, at the top of Wears Hill, are the earthworks of Abbotsbury Castle, an Iron Age hill fort. The earthworks cover a roughly triangular area of about , of which about are inside the ramparts.
In the 10th century a charter of King Edmund records a granting of land at Abbedesburi, a name which indicates the land may have once belonged to an abbot. In the 11th century King Cnut granted land at nearby Portesham to the Scandinavian thegn Orc (also Urki, Urk), who took up residence in the area with his wife Tola. The couple founded Abbotsbury Abbey and enriched it with a substantial amount of land. The abbey existed for 500 years, but was destroyed in the dissolution, although the abbey barn survived and today is the world's largest thatched tithe barn. The barn is a Grade I listed building. Stone from the abbey was used in the construction of many buildings in the village, including the house of Abbotsbury's new owner, Sir Giles Strangways.
In 1664, during the English Civil War, Roundheads (Parliamentarians) and Cavaliers (Royalists) clashed at Abbotsbury. Parliamentarians besieged the Royalists in the church of St. Nicholas; two bullet holes from the fight remain in the Jacobean pulpit. The Strangways house which had replaced the Abbey after the dissolution was also the scene of a skirmish, as the Royalist Colonel Strangways resisted the Parliamentarians, who besieged the house and burned it. The house gunpowder store exploded in the fire and the house was destroyed, together with the old abbey records which had been stored there.
In the late 17th and early 18th centuries Abbotsbury experienced several fires, resulting in the destruction of virtually all its medieval buildings. Most of the historic secular buildings in the village today were built from stone in the 17th and 18th centuries.
County historian John Hutchins (1698–1773) recorded that fishing was the main industry in the village, and 18th-century militia ballot lists reveal that husbandry was also particularly important. Ropemaking, basketry and the manufacture of cotton stockings were other notable trades within the village, with records indicating hemp and withies being grown in the area.
In the early 19th century Abbotsbury's population grew steadily, from about 800 in 1801 to nearly 1,100 sixty years later.
Between 1885 and 1952 Abbotsbury was served by the Abbotsbury Railway, a branch from the main line to Weymouth. It was primarily designed for freight, in anticipation of the development of oil shale deposits and stone at Portesham, as well as iron ore at Abbotsbury which would be shipped to South Wales for processing. The Abbotsbury terminus of the line was inconveniently sited east of the village because the railway could not buy the land needed to build the station closer to the village.
During the Second World War, the coastal front was fortified and defended as a part of British anti-invasion preparations of World War II. Later, The Fleet Lagoon was used as a machine gun training range, and bouncing bombs were tested there, for Operation Chastise (the "Dambuster" sortie).