Our county town has a rich history that goes back to the Romans, but with the opening of new shopping areas and additional visitor attractions it has been undergoing something of a transformation
There has been a settlement at Dorchester for at least 6,000 years. The town was founded by the Romans after defeating the Durotriges tribe at Maiden Castle in 43AD. Many elements of its ancient past remain, including Maiden Castle, the largest and most complex Iron Age hillfort in Britain, which looms south west of the town. Poundbury hillfort, a smaller, middle Bronze Age construction, overlooks the town to the north-west. Below the northern rampart ran the sevenmile Roman aqueduct, and just outside the hillfort was a large Romano-British cemetery, which was excavated during the 1970s.
More recent reminders of Dorchester’s past are everywhere, from the Corn Exchange, a Grade II* Listed Building in the centre of town with its distinctive clock tower known as Galpin’s Folly; to Brewery Square, a magnificent collection of renovated buildings that once housed the Eldridge Pope Brewery.
These, along with an array of brand spanking new apartments, have created a stylish new shopping, entertainment and residential area by the Dorchester South railway station. Brewery Square is currently the temporary home to Dorset County Museum, until Saturday April 27 when it goes on ‘tour’ around the county, while its 1880’s home in High West Street undergoes an extensive 21st century refurbishment prior to reopening 2020.
A stone’s throw from Brewery Square and the railway station is Maumbury Rings. This Neolithic henge is a large, circular earthwork, 85 metres in diameter, with a single bank and an entrance to the north east. The Romans adapted Maumbury Rings to use as an amphitheatre, it was an artillery fort during the English Civil
War, and during the late 17th and 18th centuries, it was used as a place for public execution including 19-year-old Mary Channing who was strangled and burned at Maumbury Rings in 1705 for poisoning her husband. Thankfully, these days, there is a much calmer air to the place. It’s now a public space used for concerts, festivals and re-enactments.
‘The Romans adapted Maumbury Rings to useas an amphitheatre’