A gentle walk around Dorchester
Dorchester, the county town of Dorset, is steeped in history. When you are walking through the streets shopping it’s easy to miss its many points of historical interest. This circular route gives an easy walk around the town centre area and is suitable for pushchairs and wheelchairs.
The town centre
Park in Trinity Street Car park and make your way to the end of South Street.
Walking along South Street keep an eye out for the blue plaques of Barnes and Hardy on the wall opposite the Hardye Arcade. A little further on you will come across Thomas Hardy’s Mayor of Casterbridge’s house (currently housing Barclays Bank!) on your right.
A few hundred metres further on you will see the location of the Old Town Pump. It is centrally located, next to Dorchester’s Corn Exchange and the impressive clock tower on High West Street. Antelope walk is a small arched pathway on the left. Turn up here and you will find the Old Oak Room. This is reputed to be the room where Judge Jeffreys held his infamous Bloody Assize of 1685 of the 312 rebels who supported the Duke of Monmouth’s attempt to seize the crown!
Cross the road and head into Princes Street. Halfway along you will see a Victorian building which was the old hospital and a mock Roman fountain. This is located close to where a Roman aqueduct brought water into the town. At the end of Princes Street, is the entrance to Borough Gardens…
The Borough Gardens were laid out to a plan by William Goldring of Kew and were opened to the public on 30th July 1896. As you enter the gardens there is an outdoor gym, a children’s playground and a kiosk selling drinks and snacks on your right. You will then come across a wonderful bandstand and a beautiful clock. The bandstand was donated by Col. W.E. Brymer MP as a permanent memorial of Her Majesty Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee and was also an acknowledgement of the kindness received by him from Dorchester townspeople.
The bandstand was designed by G.J. Hunt, the Borough Surveyor, and built by Messrs. T. MacFarlane and Co. of Glasgow for £200. It is still the focal point for live music and other events which take place in the Gardens over most weekends during the summer. The ornate Edwardian cast-iron clock tower was a gift to the town by Charles Hansford in 1905. The sundial on the lawn below the bandstand is an analemmatic dial and is unusual because the user forms part of the dial system. In other words, if you stand in the right place, your shadow will tell you what the time is! Leave the gardens through a small gate and cross over the junction. Walk through the Fairfield Market (car park) and past the skateboard park. Just after the police station, you will see a metal gate leading to Maumbury Rings.
Walking through the gate you are led to the entrance of a wonderful amphitheatre. Originally constructed as a Neolithic henge some 4,500 years ago, the Romans then turned the site into an amphitheatre. During the Civil War, the Parliamentarians fortified the site with cannons. Later use was for executions, the most notable being that of Mary Channing, a nineteen-year-old woman found guilty of poisoning her husband. She was executed by strangulation and burning at the Rings – she originally had a stay of execution following her trial as she was found to be pregnant. She gave birth to a son on 19 December 1705 whilst in prison and was finally executed in public on 21 March 1706 watched by some 10,000 people!
Leave the site via the same gate turning right and walk down Weymouth Avenue with the police station on your right…
The old Eldridge Pope Brewery is on your right, celebrated with a magnificent bronze statue of a horse. The 12ft (3.7m) statue called Drummer, was modelled on a dray horse called Drummer, who was the last to be based at the brewery in the 1970s. Brewery Square is now home to a cinema and a wide selection of restaurants and shops. The main square has fountains in the centre and plays host to many events throughout the year. Dorchester South railway station is also nearby if you fancy a trip down to the seaside at Weymouth!
On leaving the square make your way back to Trinity Street. Next to the traffic lights and war memorial, you will find a red Victorian pillar box. This was designed by Penfold in 1866. The adjacent Portland stone Cenotaph was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and unveiled in 1921.
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