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Dorchester


4000 years ago there was a settlement 1 mile southwest of what we now know as Dorchester. Over the following 2000 years invaders came and the settlement was gradually fortified, growing in size all the while. By the time Vespasian stormed it in AD44, Maiden Castle, from Mai-Dun, (‘hill of strength’), covered 115 acres and was surrounded by triple ramparts.


The Romans settled in Maiden Castle, but soon established a new town, Durnovaria, which became Dorchester. Many relics of these times remain within the old town walls; in the grounds of County Hall is a Roman townhouse, with tessellated pavements and a mosaic. Maumbury Rings was an amphitheatre where all sorts of sporting ‘and other entertainment’ took place including well-attended public executions until 1705.


Today, Dorset’s county town is probably best known for being the home and birthplace of the nineteenth century novelist and poet, Thomas Hardy. While he lived in Dorchester Hardy wrote his famous book ‘Far From the Madding Crowd’, but many people remember him for ‘Tess of the Durbervilles’ in which, Dorchester featured as the town of Casterbridge.


In its past, the town has had its share of infamous men too, the drunken, blaspheming Judge Jeffreys arrived in Dorchester in September 1685 to serve justice on all those suspected of being linked with the failed rebellion of the Duke of Monmouth. The Bloody Assizes were held in the Oak Room of the Antelope Hotel and Judge Jeffreys, who had been instructed to show no mercy, had 74 rebels executed, many of whom had the slenderest of connections with the rebellion.


Jeffrey’s lodging in the High Street is now a restaurant, and is in fact one of the few medieval buildings left in Dorchester; like many similar towns, Dorchester had a series of disastrous fires in the 16th and 17th centuries which destroyed most of the buildings.


Enjoy an exciting day out by visiting five major attractions in Dorchester. They have joined together to offer visitors a great money saving Gold Pass, allowing visitors to visit these five great museums and exhibitions for the price of two, and… it’s valid for seven days!


Britain’s original Dinosaur Museum combines fossils, skeletons and life-size reconstructions with hands on and interactive displays. The museum is a great all weather attraction and fun


for kids and families.


Every school holiday sees the popular Great Dinosaur Hunt at the museum.


The Tutankhamun Exhibition is a must. This spectacular


Exhibition allows visitors to walk through Tutankhamun’s superbly recreated tomb, marvelling at his treasures and mummy, stepping back in time to 1922 and the greatest archaeological discovery of Ancient Treasure.


Head to the Teddy Bear Museum and meet Edward Bear and his family of people-size bears. See the earliest teddies to today’s TV favourites, in this enchanting family museum with hundreds of teddies on show.


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