swuklink: History of Dorchester, Dorset, England    

, Dorset


A fortified town was founded on the site by the Romans shortly after they captured the Iron-Age hill fort at Maiden Castle a mile and a half to the south-west of the town in about AD43. It became their chief town in the south west.

see   ROMAN DORCHESTER   for more

The Normans built a castle here and a friary. The castle is thought to have been one of King John's many residences. Both castle and friary have vanished. medieval Dorchester was a cloth town, also famous for its ales.

The town became very Puritanical in the 17th century and a colony of its inhabitants emigrated to find religious freedom by founding New Dorchester in New England c.1628. Needless to say, the town supported Parliament in the Civil War.

Following Monmouth's rebellion in 1685, James II sent Judge Jeffreys into the West Country to preside over what became known as the 'Bloody Assizes'. Seventy-four people suspected of supporting the rebellion were hung then quartered, the parts of their bodies distributed around the country to be hung on poles as a warning to others.

The house where the judge lodged in the High Street is now a restaurant named after him and a room in the Antelope Hotel in South Street is thought to be his court room.

The main street of the town climbs westwards up from the river Frome. The buildings are of grey Portland stone and comparatively recent, the town having been ravaged by a series of fires in the 17th and 18th centuries. They were rebuilt without either the uniformity or inspiration of Blandford Forum, most of which was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1731.

The old Shire Hall in the High Street was the scene of another famous trial in 1834. It was here that the Tolpuddle Martyrs were tried and found guilty.

The courtroom is owned by the T.U.C. as a memmorial and is open to the public

The railway line from Southampton to Dorchester was completed in 1847 but, for reasons of cost, it by-passed Christchurch and Poole.

Dorchester was made famous by the novels of Thomas Hardy who was born at nearby Higher Bockhampton and lived his last years at Max gate on the Wareham Road, on the eastern outskirts of the town.

The railway line from Southampton to Dorchester was completed in 1847 but, for reasons of cost, it by-passed Christchurch and Poole.

The Southampton & Dorchester Railway, opened in 1847, ran inland via Ringwood. It was upgraded to two tracks in 1857-8. This route became known as the 'old road' after the opening of the Bournemouth Direct line in 1885. The Ringwood line was closed to passengers in 1964 but continued to carry freight traffic until finally closed in 1967.


  Towns & Villages of Dorset



<a href=BAAAGBUC.php title=" Dorchester, Dorset ">Dorchester</a>


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