Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Dorchester / Dornwaraceaster, Dorset ****

Dorchester is a market town in southern central Dorset, England, on the River Frome at the junction of the A35 and A37 roads, 20 miles (32 km) west of Poole and 8 miles (13 km) north of Weymouth. In 2001 the town had a population of 16,171 and a catchment population of approximately 40,000. There were 7,386 dwellings in 2001 and 205 shops in 1991. Dorchester has been the county town of Dorset since 1305.

A market is held on Wednesdays. Major employers include Dorset County Council, West Dorset District Council and Dorset County Hospital.
The town has two private schools, three first schools, two middle schools and one upper school. The upper school, The Thomas Hardye School, can trace its origins back to 1569, when it was founded by a Dorchester merchant of that name. The Dorset County Museum is centrally located in a Gothic-style building.


Maiden Castle from above showing the diameter and ring ditches around it. This is one of Uhtred's 'Old Britons Fort'

Dorchester's roots stem back to prehistoric times. Settlements were first based around Maiden Castle, a large Iron Age hill fort that was one of the most powerful settlements in pre-Roman Britain, with varying tribes having existed there since 4000BC. The Durotriges were likely to have been there at the arrival of the Romans in AD43.
The Romans finally defeated the local tribes by AD70. After possibly being converted from a garrison to a town, the Romans named the settlement Durnovaria. This was a Brythonic name meaning 'place with fist-sized pebbles' and almost certainly took part of its name from the local Durotriges tribe who inhabited the area. Durnovaria was first recorded in the 4th century Antonine Itinerary and became a market centre for the surrounding countryside, and an important road junction and staging post, and eventually one of the twin capitals of the Celtic Durotriges tribe.
The Romans walled the town and the remains can still be seen today. The walls were largely replaced with walks that form a square inside modern Dorchester. Known as 'The Walks' a small segment of the original Roman wall still exists today near the Top 'o Town roundabout.

Roman town house ruins in Dorchester

The town still has some Roman features, including part of the town walls and the foundations of a Roman town house, which are freely accessible near the County Hall. There are many Roman finds in the County Museum. The Romans built an 8-mile (13 km) aqueduct to supply the town with water, lengths of the terrace on which it was constructed still remain in parts. Near the town centre is Maumbury Rings, an ancient British earthwork converted by the Romans for use as an amphitheatre, and to the north west is Poundbury Hill, another pre-Roman fortification.
Little evidence exists to suggest continued occupation after the withdrawal of the Roman administration from Britain. Historians have suggested that the town became known as Caer Durnac, mistakenly recorded by Nennius as Caer Urnac. The area remained in British hands until the mid-7th century and there was certainly continuity of use of the Roman cemetery at nearby Poundbury where a settlement later grew up. Dorchester has therefore been suggested as the centre of a sub-kingdom of Dumnonia or other regional power base.

By 864, the area around Durnovaria/Caer Durnac was dominated by the newly established Saxons, who came to refer to themselves as Dorsaetas. In their own language, they referred to the town as Dornwaraceaster or Dornwaracester, combining the original name 'Dor/Dorn' from the Latin and Celtic languages with the word 'cester', which was an Anglo-Saxon word used for 'Roman Fort'.The name would further change to Dorncester/Dornceaster until modern Dorchester emerged some time later. It continued as a thriving commercial and political centre for south Dorset with a textile trading and manufacturing industry continuing until the 17th century.

Early modern history
"The town is populous, tho' not large, the streets broad, but the buildings old, and low; however, there is good company and a good deal of it; and a man that coveted a retreat in this world might as agreeably spend his time, and as well in Dorchester, as in any town I know in England". -- Daniel Defoe, in his A tour thro' the Whole Island of Great Britain (1724-1726).
In 1613 and 1725 great fires destroyed large parts of the town, but some of the mediaeval buildings, including Judge Jeffreys' lodgings, and the Tudor almshouse survive in the town centre, amongst the replacement Georgian buildings, many of which are built in Portland limestone.
In the 17th century the town was at the centre of the Puritan emigration to America, and the local rector, John White, organised the settlement of Dorchester, Massachusetts. For his efforts on behalf of Puritan dissenters, White has been called the unheralded founder of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. (Some observers have attributed the oversight to the fact that White, unlike John Winthrop, never came to America.)
In 1642, just prior to the English Civil War, Hugh Green, a Catholic chaplain was executed here. After his execution, Puritans played football with his head. The town was heavily defended against the Royalists in the Civil War. In 1685 the Duke of Monmouth failed in his invasion attempt, the Monmouth Rebellion, and almost 300 of his men were condemned to death or transportation in the "Bloody Assizes", held in the Oak Room of the Antelope Hotel, Dorchester and presided over by Judge Jeffreys.

Modern history
In 1833, the Tolpuddle Martyrs formed the Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers. Trade unions were legal, but due to them swearing an oath of allegiance, they were arrested and tried in the Shire Hall in Dorchester. This building still remains and is preserved as it was at the time. Under the court are the cells where the prisoners were held while waiting for their court appearance. Dorchester Prison was constructed in the town during the 19th century and the prison is still in use today, holding convicted and remanded inmates from the local courts.
Dorchester remained a compact town within the boundaries of the old town walls until the latter part of the 19th century due to the ownership of all land immediately adjacent to the west, south and east by the Duchy of Cornwall. This land composed the Manor of Fordington, and a select few developments had encroached onto it:
The Marabout Barracks, to the north of Bridport Road, in 1794
The Dorchester Union Workhouse, to the north of Damer's Road, in 1835
The Southampton & Dorchester Railway and its station east of Weymouth Avenue, in 1847
The Great Western Railway and its station to the south of Damer's Road, in 1857
The Waterworks, to the north of Bridport Road, in 1854
A new cemetery, to the west of the new railway and east of Weymouth Avenue, in 1856
The Dorset County Constabulary police station in 1860, west of the Southampton railway, east of Weymouth Avenue and north of Maumbury Rings.
This remaining Duchy land was farmed under the open field system until 1874 when the land was enclosed - or consolidated - into three large farms by the landowners and residents. Soon afterwards followed a series of key developments for the town: the enclosing of Poundbury hillfort for public enjoyment in 1876, the 'Fair Field' (new site for the market, off Weymouth Avenue) in 1877, the Recreation Ground (also off Weymouth Avenue) opening in 1880, and the imposing Eldridge Pope Brewery of 1881, adjacent to the railway line to Southampton. Salisbury Field was retained for public use in 1892, with land being purchased in 1895 for the formal Borough Gardens, between West Walks and Cornwall Road. The clock and bandstand were added in 1898.
Meanwhile, land had begun to be developed for housing outside the walls. This included the Cornwall Estate, between the Borough Gardens and the Great Western Railway, from 1876 and the Prince of Wales Estate, centred on Prince of Wales Road, from 1880. Land for the Victoria Park Estate was bought in 1896 and building began in 1897, Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee year. The lime trees in Queen's Avenue were planted in February 1897.

Recent developments
Poundbury is the well-known western extension of the town, constructed on Duchy of Cornwall land (owned by Charles, Prince of Wales) according to urban village principles since 1993. Being developed over 25 years, it will eventually be composed of four phases with a total of 2,500 dwellings and a population of about 6,000. Poundbury will also now house a new headquarters for the Dorset Fire and Rescue Service as well as a new fire station to be completed by September 2008. Prince Charles designed the estate (as well as the local tesco supermarket) and makes several visits throughout the year.
The Eldridge Pope brewery ceased production in July 2003. West Dorset District Council granted detailed planning permission for the redevelopment of the brewery in November 2007. The new town quarter, to be known as Brewery Square, includes 30 buildings; new restaurants, bars, 40 shops, a three-screen cinema and a replacement solar-powered railway station (the first in the country) at Dorchester South. A new four-star, 48 bed, Conran designed hotel, will be created from the conversion of the listed Brewhouse, originally designed by Crickmay & Sons. Crickmay was the architect who employed Thomas Hardy until 1872, when he became a full time writer. The scheme also includes c. 650 new flats and 22 houses. The architects are CZWG for most of the new buildings and Conran & Partners for all the conversion buildings and two new buildings. It is one of the largest regeneration projects in the South West, with over 72,000 sq.m. (770,000 sq ft.) of development on the 11.5-acre (47,000 m2) site situated between the main shopping area on South Street, the market and Dorchester South railway station.
The Maltings, one of the original 1880s listed buildings, is, subject to funding, to become a new arts centre for Dorchester. It would replace the existing and cramped premises on School Lane. Oliver Letwin MP, initiated the demolition of the 20th century industrial buildings in early-2006. Construction work on Phase 1, the conversion of the Italianate 1880s Eldridge Pope Offices, started on site in August 2007 and was completed in August 2008. The Sales & Marketing Suite for the development opened in August 2008 and in early September was hailed in the Dorset Echo as the fastest selling new homes development in the country. In June 2007 the Environment Agency granted a license to enable enough water for the scheme to be abstracted so that all the buildings will self sufficient in water from its own well; the same one used by the brewery since 1880.
Dorchester became Dorset's first Official Transition Initiative in 2008 as part of the Transition Towns concept. Transition Town Dorchester is a Dorchester community response to the challenges, and opportunities, of Peak Oil and Climate Change.
The town's Woolworths shop closed in January 2009 after the high-street retail chain entered administration. The store manager, however, secured investment to re-open the store in March 2009, under the name Wellworths.

Dorchester South railway station
This is the station I get off at when visiting my mum. Then a bus ride through the lanes to Bridport

The town has two railway stations. Dorchester South railway station on the South Western Main Line to London, Bournemouth & Southampton, until the 1970s an idiosyncratic structure where trains to London reversed twice, then rejoined the through line, was rebuilt in 1989, but Dorchester West railway station, serving Westbury, Bath and Bristol via the Heart of Wessex Line, is still the original Great Western Railway structure designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. A bypass road was completed in 1988 by construction company Mowlem to the south and west of the town, diverting through traffic using the A35 and A37 from the town.

A map of Dorchester in 1937

Thomas Hardy's Grave containing his heart as his ashes are buried in Westminster Abbey Poets Corner

Local author and poet Thomas Hardy based the fictional town of Casterbridge on Dorchester. Hardy's childhood home is to the east of the town, and his house in town, Max Gate, is owned by the National Trust and open to the public. William Barnes, the local dialect poet, was Rector of Winterborne Came, a small hamlet near Dorchester, for 24 years until his death in 1886, and ran a school in the town. Statues of both men stand in the town centre; Barnes is outside St Peter's Church and Hardy's beside the Top o' Town crossroads. Cecil Day Lewis is buried in Stinsford, one mile (1.6 km) from Dorchester. Hardy is buried in London, but his heart was removed and buried in Stinsford.

Thomas Hardy Monument

On the hills to the south west stands Hardy Monument, a memorial to the other local Thomas Hardy, Sir Thomas Masterman Hardy, who served with Lord Nelson, which overlooks the town with views of Weymouth, the Isle of Portland and Chesil Beach.
Tom Roberts, Australian painter, was born in Dorchester in 1856.
Aaron Cook, a taekwondo athlete who competed in the 2008 Olympic Games finishing in fifth place, was born in Dorchester.
Lubbecke (Germany) is the twinned town of Dorchester. On December 15, 2004, Dorchester was granted Fairtrade Town status.
Dorchester Town F.C., a Conference South football team, is based at the Avenue Stadium on Weymouth Avenue.

Saint/ Bishop Birinus

The Bishop of Dorchester was a bishop in the pre-Reformation Church of England in the Anglo-Saxon period, in charge of the Diocese of Dorchester. His seat, or cathedra, at the cathedral in Dorchester-on-Thames in Oxfordshire.

A cathedral at Dorchester was founded in 634 by the Roman missionary, Saint Birinus. It was the seat of a Bishop of the West Saxons; the episcopal see for that kingdom was moved to Winchester in 660 and so the Wessex Bishops of Dorchester were succeeded by the Bishops of Winchester.
In the 660's, the seat at Dorchester-on-Thames was abandoned, but briefly in the late 670's it was once more a bishop's seat under Aetla, under Mercian control.
The town again became the seat of a bishop in around 875, when the Mercian Bishop of Leicester transferred his seat there. The diocese merged with that of Lindsey in 971; the bishop's seat was moved to Lincoln in 1072 and thus the Mercian Bishops of Dorchester were succeeded by the Bishops of Lincoln.

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Chandler, J. H. (1990) Wessex images, Gloucester: Alan Sutton and Wiltshire County Council Library & Museum Service, ISBN 0-86299-739-9
Draper, J. (1992) Dorchester : An illustrated history Wimborne: Dovecote Press, ISBN 1-874336-04-0
Morris, J. and Draper, J. (1995) "The 'Enclosure' of Foridngton Fields and the Development of Dorchester, 1874 – 1903", Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society proceedings, v. 117, p. 5–14, ISSN 0070-7112
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Waymark, J, (1997) "The Duchy of Cornwall and the Expansion of Dorchester, c. 1900 – 1997", Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society proceedings, v. 119, p. 19–32, ISSN 0070-7112
Tiller, K. (ed.), 2005. Dorchester Abbey: Church and People 635–2005. Stonesfield Press. ISBN 0-9527126-4-4.
Kirby, D. P. (2000). The Earliest English Kings. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-24211-8.

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