Skip to content

Bradshaw’s Guide

Dorchester

High Street West, Dorchester, England. Taken between ca. 1890 and ca. 1900. Original: Library of Congress

The station is about a quarter of a mile from the town, well situated, and neat in its arrangements, the arrival and departure platforms and coverings being complete, and well ordered in every respect.

Dorchester is a small parliamentary borough, and the capital of Dorsetshire, in a pretty part of the South Downs, at the termination of the South Western railway, 141 miles from London. It returns two members; population, 6,823. A trade in sheep, grain and other agricultural produce. It is pleasantly situated on an ascent above the river Frome.

The town forms an irregular square, and consists principally of three spacious streets, which join each other about the middle; these, with the subordinate ones, are well paved, and, in general, adorned with handsome buildings of brick and stone.

In early times it was a Roman town called Durnovaria, after a burn or water Dwr which runs through it, – the Frome, crossed by three small bridges. Parts of the ancient walls remain, about 6ft. thick, the stones or tiles being laid herring-bone fashion, which usually marks Roman work. Another undoubted relic of their rule is Maumbury Ring, an amphitheatre cut in the chalk, 30 ft. deep, and about 340 ft. diameter. It is to the south of the town, close to the Roman way. Remains of seats are visible; and when Mary Channing was burned here in 1705, for poisoning her husband, it held 10,000 spectators. It is calculated to hold 12,960. Poundbury, Maiden Castle, and other camps raised by the Britons or Saxons are within view. Many coins called Dorn pennies were found on the site of the large County Gaol.

Dorchester has three churches, one rather old, and St. Peter’s, with a tower; County Hall and Town Hall, a cloth factory and barracks. The walks in the neighbourhood are pleasant. About 700,000 South Down sheep are fed on the hills, and early house lamb is sent to market; while the pastures to the north, on the Stour &c. yield excellent Dorset butter (which being washed is often sold for fresh), and Double Dorset streaked skim cheese. Black Down, one of the highest points, is 817 feet above the sea.

Spotted a mistake? Suggest a correction on GitHub.

Places nearby