Dorset Ambassador County Module

Dorset History

In this lesson we are going to look at Dorset’s history, which is of great interest to many visitors, and international visitors in particular. You may have seen the many ancient hill forts which can be found across the county, such as Maiden Castle near Dorchester or Badbury Rings outside Wimborne.

Also of interest are the various chalk figures across the hills, including the Cerne Abbas Giant (linked with fertility rites) and the White Horse near Osmington, Weymouth, created in the 1800s as an early tourist attraction!

Throughout the ages the many hidden coves, cliffs and deserted paths on the coast have made it an ideal location for smuggling.  Dorset is also strongly linked with the formation of the trade union movement – in 1834 when a group of farm labourers from Tolpuddle refused to work for less than 10 shillings a week, trade unionism was born. The Martyrs Museum at Tolpuddle  features displays and interactive exhibits about these men, who were transported to Australia and became known as the Tolpuddle Martyrs.

During the Second World War Dorset was heavily involved in the preparations for the invasion of Normandy with the large harbours of Portland and Poole – two of the main embarkation points. The village of Tyneham (between East Lulworth and Kimmeridge)was evacuated so that British and American troops could be trained for D Day and although the villagers had been promised they would return after the war they were never allowed back.   The village fabric deteriorated, and it is now a popular attraction as a ‘ghost village’, open at certain times of the year. Close by is the Tank Museum at Bovington, which displays Dorset’s role in military history.

Historic Buildings

Scattered across Dorset are many historic buildings including castles, churches and historic houses.  If your visitors are members of the National Trust then entry is free to many of these places.  More detail can be found in the regional sections, or at Visit, but here are some of the most popular with visitors:

Lulworth Castle Built in 1608 to attract King James 1 to hunt in Purbeck  In the grounds is St Mary’s, the first free-standing Roman Catholic place of worship to be built after the reformation.
Corfe Castle  (pictured above) the ruins of a 1000-year-old castle with breath-taking views across Purbeck (National Trust)
Athelhampton House is a privately-owned historic 15th century house with formal gardens near Dorchester
Sherborne Castle  is a magnificent historic house built by Sir Walter Raleigh and set in beautiful gardens
Kingston Lacy  is an elegant country mansion set in attractive formal gardens and extensive parkland.  (National Trust)
Christchurch Priory  a magnificent medieval monastic church with the longest parish church nave in England and spectacular views of Christchurch Bay from the tower.
Wimborne Minster   is an historic church famous for its chained library and the ‘Quarter Jack’ clock on the bell tower.
Sherborne Abbey  is an historic church in West Dorset with a glorious fan vaulted ceiling.
Shaftesbury Abbey Museum and Gardens  Once an important and influential Abbey, now you can enjoy its peaceful walled garden, see the extensive herb garden and enjoy its museum.