Dorchester

Here we have the county town of Dorset which is situated more or less in the centre of the county, and where the seat of local government can be found housing the offices of both the Dorset County Council and the West Dorset Council.

Founded by the Romans who named it Durnovaria after taking the iron age hill-fort of Maiden Castle in 43AD. Today though Dorchester is more a Georgian town with a lot of its old buildings destroyed by fires in the late 17th and 18th centuries. Maiden Castle was the largest and strongest Iron Age fort in England and is two miles to the southwest of the present town. There are some rather intricate devices for defence at its two entrances that were so designed to repel Celtic tribesmen armed only with a spear or a club. And at the eastern end is a pile of 2,000 stones that were  dug up durng excavations and are thought to be for slings.

Here is where Judge Jeffery the notorious 'Hanging Judge' of the 17th century held his bloody assizes and he lodged in what is now a restaurant in High West Street and the Antelope Hotel which is now a shopping arcade, has a room where it is said to be a courtroom  where 292 rebels were held, and 74 of them were sentence to be hung, drawn and quartered and bits of them distributed around the country.

Two other famous Dorset men came from here, one is the Reverent John White who though never having crossed the Atlantic is renowned for his efforts in the county that formed the Massachusetts Company that eventually let to the founding of Dorchester in New England. He gathered together the pioneering party of 150 colonists that in 1630, sailed from Plymouth in the Mary and John.

His house is still standing today behind the church of St Peter in the middle of the town and he now rests in the church porch where the following inscription is to be seen

"In this porch lies the body of the Revd. John White M.A. of New College, Oxford. He was born at Christmas 1575. For about forty years he was rector of this parish and also of Holy Trinity, Dorchester. He died here 21st July 1648. A man of great godliness, good scholarship and wonder- full ability and kindness he had a very strong sway in this town. He greatly set forward the emigration to the Massachusetts Bay Colony where his name lives in un-fading remembrance."

Outside of St Peters Church can be seen a statue of Dorsets famous dialect poet William Barnes, he was a churchwarden here before his ordinations after which he served for may years as a clergyman at Whitcombe and at Winterbourne Came, where he is buried.

The Tolpuddle Martyrs who formed the first trade union movement and were sentenced to seven years transportation to Australia were tried here in the Old Shire Hall in 1834 and the Old Crown Court is still there today.

Thomas Hardy is remembered here as this was his famous Casterbridge in his novel the "Mayor of Casterbridge" and a statue to him stands at the top of the town. He was born in Higher Bockhampton

IMAGES OF DORCHESTER

Entering the town from Bournemouth
Photo kindly contributed by Diane and Dave Wills, Ontario, Canada
 
The Main Street through the town centre
 
The Old Town Pump
 
The Judge Jeffery's Restaurant in High West Street where the notorious judge had lodgingw when holding is bloody assizes in the town
 
A narrow backstreet by the prison   The town Hall clock
 
Side of the town hall   The Memorial Tablet to Thomas Hardy
 
The interior of St Peters   The elaborately carved lectern
 
William Barnes tine Dorset Dialect poet   William Barns 1801-1886,
Z00 Now I hope his Kindly peace
is gone to vind a better place
but still wi 'vok' a-left behind
He'll always be a kept in mind
 
The last supper (The reredos)   The North Aisle has a memorial to Denzel, Lord Holles 1599-1680)
 
St Peters church
 
The South Hardy Chapel
 
The North (Williams) Chapel now accommodates the organ but was formerly occupied by a monument commemorating Sir John  Williams of Herringston and his Lady Eleanor Uvedale. The monument now raised high show the couple kneeling at prayer under a decorated domed canopy. It is made of marble but has had some haevy varnish painted on   The Font in St Peters
Gray's Bridge Sign just outside of Dorchester
Photo submitted by Davy Canon

As you crossed Gray's bridge with the jail ahead
Past the spire of the church and the graves of the dead
Did you feel regret for the things you'd said,
The oath that you had sworn
Were you sure in your heart that your cause was right
Were you firmly resolved to stand and fight
For the right to resist the master's might
And for children yet unborn
From  ROAD TO DORCHESTER (G.Moore & Mick Ryan) Tolpuddle Man
http://www.bymoore.co.uk/lyrics.html

To the northwest lies Poundbury Earthworks which was another fortress which again was taken by the Romans as was Maumbury Rings which was originally a Neolithic henge and the Romans made it into an amphitheatre. Much later it became the place where public hangings were carried out and the last hanging was a woman by the name of Mary Canning in 1705 and it is recorded that at the time of her executions over 10,000 people turned out to witness it.

Today the town is a thriving place and there have been some dramatic changes  here. And it is popular for its livestock market and the farmers shopping centre with a large brewery as well as the market every Wednesday and the Sheep Fair in October.

 

Elizabeth Frink Statues on the South Walk
Photos courtesy Jean Harding, Poole

  An old Victorian post-box makes a contrast to a modern green waste bin!
Photo kindly submitted by Davy Canon