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Dorchester Holiday Guide

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Dorchester - Weymouth places to visit - What to do in Dorchester

Thomas Hardys Dorchester

Dorchester is the county town of Dorset and can be found 10 miles to the north of Weymouth. A visit to Thomas Hardys Dorchester or Casterbridge as he called it in his novels - is well worth doing if you are looking for places to visit from Weymouth on holiday. Thomas Hardys 'Mayor of Casterbridge' was based in Dorchester and many of the properties surviving in Dorchester today exist from Thomas Hardys time including the large town house that was home to Hardys' Mayor of Casterbridge, today it can be found in Dorchesters Cornhill where a blue plaque explains it famous connection. Thomas Hardys home, Max Gate is also found on the outskirts of Dorchester. Designed by Thomas Hardy himself - a trained architech, Max Gate was where he composed some of his most famous novels, including the Mayor of Casterbridge and Tess of the D'urbervilles. Thomas Hardy lived at Max Gate until his death and it is now under the care of the National trust, Max Gate is now open to the public for a small visitors fee and includes the very room that Thomas Hardy used as his study and where he wrote some of his most famous Dorset based books. Max Gate can be found on Allington Avenue, Dorchester. Another link to Thomas Hardy in Dorchester is St Peters Church on High West Street, though built in the 15th century, Thomas Hardy worked on the restoration of the church during his days as an architectural student and a copy of his plans of the church is still on display in St Peters church in Dorchester. Thomas Hardys birthplace, a quaint cottage with a delightful English country garden is also under the ownership of the National trust and open to the public and can be found close to Dorchester in Higher Bockhampton.

Dorchester Roman links

Dorchester has many interesting and historic properties to visit if you are on Holiday in Dorchester or are looking for different places to visit from Weymouth or one of the neighbouring holiday locations. Dorchester is home to the only visible Roman house left in England. The Roman house at Dorchester is open to the public and is a reminder of the Roman invasion and settlement at Dorchester. The Roman House at Dorchester can be found in Colliton Park and is a free attraction to visit. Maiden Castle is another reminder of Dorchesters Roman past. A hill fort dating back to Neolithic times, Maiden castle is the largest hill fort to be found in Britain and defended Dorchester until the Roman invasion when it was initially taken over by the Romans and then abandoned as they created the larger settlement at Durnover (what is modern day Dorchester). Maiden Castle hill fort is accesible to the public for free and you can walk around its ramparts, giving spectacular views across Dorchester and the surrounding countryside. Maiden castle is under the care of English Heritage, it is a free Dorchester attraction and can be found at the end of Maiden Castle Road, off Weymouth Avenue. Another hint of roman life in Dorchester is the Maumsbury rings, also found off Weymouth Avenue and close to the Brewery Square attractions. The Maumsbury Rings monument was a neolithic fort before being converted to a ampitheatre after the Roman occupation. Maumsbury rings though much smaller than Maiden castle has its fair share of history and hides a macabre past. It was here that provided the execution site of the many men sentenced to a brutal and agonising death by hang, drawing and quartering in the infamous Judge Jeffreys bloody assizes following the failed Monmouth rebellion in the 17th century. It was also the execution site of Mary Channing, convicted of murdering her husband, she was sentenced to death by strangulation and then to burn at the stake. The macabre execution was carried out at Maumsbury rings shortly after the birth of her child when she was just 19 and a plaque marks the spot detailing this execution. Back in Weymouth is the Jordan Hill Roman temple, found close to Bowleaze coveway, this small monument is open to the public, high above Bowleaze coveway and it is well worth a look if you are around the area. There are plenty of places for refreshment around Bowleaze Coveway.

Judge Jeffreys Dorchester and the Bloody assizes in Dorchester

Judge Jeffreys infamous association with Dorchester comes from his series of trials, some of which were held in Dorchester following the defeat of Monmouth at the battle of Sedgemoor - The battle that ended the uprising known as the Monmouth rebellion. Judge Jeffreys held his bloody assizes in Dorchester in 1685, sentencing some 80 men to be hanged, drawn and quartered at the nearby Maumsbury rings. Judge Jeffreys sentenced many more men to almost certain death by transportation to the West Indies where they would have been used for hard labour until succumbing to tropical diseases that were prevalent to the region and to which the transported men had no immunity to. Judge Jeffreys held bloody assizes throughout the West country with a large majority being sentenced to die. Two of the most important buildings during the trials are still standing in Dorchester today, Judge Jeffreys lodgings on High West Street Dorchester, now a restaurant and the Oak room where Judge Jeffreys held his bloody assizes, now a tea rooms on Antelope Walk Dorchester. There is a underground walkway between the lodgings and the Oak room which Judge Jeffreys would have used during the trials but at present this isnt open to the public.

Museums in Dorchester

As noted above, Thomas Hardy fans will want to visit Max Gate at Dorchester and Thomas Hardys birthplace at Higher Bockhampton but Dorchester has many more museums worth a visit too and some of the best ones found in Dorchester town are listed below.

The Keep Military Museum Dorchester (Bridport Road)

The Keep Military Museum, found right in the heart of Dorchester is a mock Norman castle, originally the gateway into the Dorchester barracks, it is now the Keep Military museum. The Keep Military museum houses over 300 years of Dorset and Devonshire regimental history, detailing the Boer wars, the World Wars and more and offers fantastic views across Dorchester from the top. For a small admission charge, the Keep Military museum will keep you entertained all day.

The Dorset County Museum Dorchester (High West Street)
The Dorset county museum can be found on High West Street Dorchester and contains displays and galleries detailing Dorset life through the ages including Roman times, the Victorians, Thomas Hardy, The Jurrasic coast and much more. A visit to the Dorset county museum will give you a detailed insight into all you could ever wish to know about Dorset and its county town Dorchester.

The Dinosaur Museum Dorchester (Icen Way)

Dorchesters Dinosaur museum is Britains only dedicated museum that focuses entirely on Dinosaurs - where better to have it than right in the heart of the Jurassic coast? With life size reconstructions, fossils and real dinosaur skeletons, its easily worth a visit if you are visiting Dorchester.

There are more than enough museums to keep the whole family entertained during your visit to Dorchester.

Dorchester walks

The River Frome continues on its route to the sea through Dorchester and provides a beautiful walk throughout the seasons. The River Frome is only navigable from where it meets the sea at Poole Harbour to Wareham Quay meaning after this wildlife can live on the river fairly undisturbed. The river Frome at Dorchester is currently home to at least one pair of mating swans and many sets of ducks. During May and June, you may see the swans and ducks looking after their young on the River Frome in the Dorchester area. Starting at High west street, you can walk along the quaint river frome, watching out for the ducks and swans as you walk along the path. If you continue to follow the path round, you will come to Johns Pond, a small pond that was once part of the water meadow system - here a information board gives some information on its history and the wildlife in the area. Continuing on, you can walk on the public footpath through the fields and meadows. If you fancy a picnic while you are in Dorchester, the borough gardens are the ideal place to go. Dorchester Borough gardens can be found just a few minutes walk from the town and feature a childrens play area, flower displays, a water fountain and the clock tower. The Borough gardens at Dorchester also host a number of events and live bands throughout the summer months.

From Thomas Hardy, Dorchester history, the Romans and Museums to trendy high street shops, whatever it is you are looking for, you should find it when you visit Dorchester.