On This Page
Corfe Castle
Sherborne Abbey
Forde Abbey
Three Okefords
Isle of Purbeck
Tyneham - A lost village
Somerset & Dorset Railway
Battle of Portland
Hardy's Wessex
On This Site
Great Houses & Manors
Ancient Dorsetshire
Index of old Dorset maps
Smuggling     Hundreds
Domesday Place Names
Domesday Towns
Old Place Names
Dorset Dialect
Childrens Games
Old Towns & Villages
Buckland   Okefords
Portland   Wimborne
Sturminster Newton
Tyneham     Shaftesbury
Weymouth   Blandford
More in preparation
Somewhere Else
Martinstown most interesting site!
Belchalwell Don't miss this one!
Kingston Explore this Purbeck village, historians welcome!
NOT ON A DARK NIGHT! The_Dorset_Ooser!
Worth Matravers    Chideock    Bere Regis
Dorset Writers
Recently published are Roger Guttridge and Rodney Legg; look out for their books. Earlier books by Arthur Mee, Richard Ollard, L.M.G.Bond. The group of authors of the excellent 'Discover Dorset' series deserve particular mention. Map enthusiasts should buy the book from Dovecote by David Beaton entitled 'Dorset Maps'   We can supply this.
Sue Newman, Record Agent and History Researcher Hampshire and Dorset, specialising in CHRISTCHURCH ( UK ) history.
Old Towns
There are many towns and villages in Dorset which look very similar today to how they did in the early twentieth century. Shaftesbury, Gold hill, left is well known for its appearance in the Hovis bread advertisements in the 1970's and 80's.
Blandford, right, rebuilt in Georgian times after a fire, looks very similar today.

Grose's Antiquities of England and Wales (1787) description of Dorsetshire (part)
Is a maritime county; which, before the arrival of the Romans, comprized the whole of the third principality of the Britons, and was called the Durotrigae; and by the Romans was included in their province of Britannia Prima; and during the Saxon Heptarchy it made part of the West-Saxon dominions, whose commencement was in 519, and termination under 18 sovereigns was in 828; when its success by conquest reduced all the other six sovereignties; and the English government commenced under Egbert.

It is included in the Western circuit, in the province of Canterbury and the diocese of Exeter; bounded on the North by Somersetshire and Wiltshire; south by the British Channel; east by Hampshire and west by Devonshire. In this county was the first Saxon settlement in Britain. It is 52 miles long, 34 broad and 160 in circumference; containing 959 square miles, or 772,000 acres, having 22 market towns, viz. Dorchester, Lyme, Shaftsbury, Pool, Bridport, Sherborn, Wareham, Corfe-Castle, Blandford, Weymouth, Melcombe Regis, Cranborn, Beminster, Abbotsbury, Bere, Evershot, Frampton, Milton-Abbey, Stalbrodge, Sturminster, Winborn, and Cerne; here there are 1006 villages, 236 parishes, 68 vicarages. It is divided into 34 hundreds; sends 20 members to Parliament; pays nine parts of the land-tax, and provides 640 men to the national militia. The rivers are the Frome, Avon, Stour, Piddle, Allen, Lyddon, Ivel, Wey, Bert, Car and Ex. It produces sheep, aromatic plants, freestone, timber, marle, hemp, cattle, fowls, game, fish in great plenty, corn, marble, bone lace, linseys and woollen goods, tobacco-pipe clay, etc. The most noted places are the vale of White-horse, Marshwood vale, the White Hart, Gillingham and Holt forests, Cranborn Chace, Blackmore, Luckford Lake, Fordington Moor, Chesil Bank, and Portland Race.

There are Roman, Saxon or Danish encampments on Hoddle and Hamildon Hills, Maiden Castle near Dorchester, at Badbury near Winborn Minster, upon Egerton Hill near Maiden Newton, near Abbotsbury called Abbotsbury Castle, at Dudsbury near Winborn, near Stockland, upon Pillsdon Hill near Beminster, upon Castle Hill near Cerne Abbey, near Maypowder, Badbury Rings near Winborn Minster; Poundbury near Dorchester, and Flowerbury near Lulworth.

The Roman Ikening Street leads through this county by Vindogladia, now Badbury, near Crayford-Blandford, and Durnovaria, now Wareham.

The Three Okefords, comprising today Child Okeford, Shillingstone and Okeford Fitzpaine, were not always so named.
1650 nameNow
Shilling Auk fordShillingstone
Fippenny Auk fordOkeford Fitzpaine
Child OkefordChild Okeford
click here for more old maps of Okeford Fitzpaine & its surrounding area.
It is said that their names arose when a foundling child was discovered on the river at Child Okeford and that the other two villages contributed a shilling and five pennies respectively for its upkeep. Today this survives in two events:
The Three Okefords Annual Show and Rally (+ steam engines)
The Fippenny Fayre, Okeford Fitzpaine's annual village show
Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway

click here for maps of the Dorset section of the route, about 1935. Striking is the lack of development compared with today. +Links to very good sites. Pick out your village on the route!
Dorset Old Railways

click here for some photos of old stations & engines.

2-8-0 locomotive No.83 on goods train near Wincanton, S&DJR
Lyme Regis
famous for fossils, the film of John Fowles' novel The French Lieutenant's Woman and The Cobb.
A written record identifies Lyme in the eighth century. Before 1066 recorded as being held by the Saxon Aelfeva, and mentioned in the Domesday Book: fishermen paying fifteen shillings a year to Sherborne monks for fish and a villager with half a plough (!). Until 1759, was somewhat isolated at the base of steep cliffs, provisions arriving by sea, wheeled vehicles having no access.
A 1905 account describes Lyme as: A bathing and health resort, Dorsetshire, England, five miles SE of Axminster. The town is picturesquely situated, and the district is of great geological interest on account of its 'blue lias' rocks. Monmouth landed here (1685) a few days before the battle of Sedgemoor. Population (1901) 2095.
1900 map by Bacon

1695 map by Robert Morden

The Cobb in 1950
Hardy Supposed Real Name
Casterbridge Dorchester
Budmouth Regis Weymouth
Shottsford Forum Blandford Forum
Havenpool Poole
Melchester Salisbury
Sandbourne Bournemouth
The Wessex of Thomas Hardy
  • Under the Greenwood Tree, 1872
  • Far from the Madding Crowd, 1874
  • The Return of the Native, 1878
  • The Mayor of Casterbridge, 1886
  • Wessex Poems, 1898
  • Poems of the Past and the Present, 1901
Full list of Wessex novel placenames Dorset Poets Page: Thomas Hardy and William Barnes
Old Isle of Purbeck (1612)
Some of the names have disappeared, many altered, and some are unchanged. Note particularly Sandwich for modern Swanage. Outlined in red are Tyneham and Encombe, situation of two of Purbeck's three great houses of later years. Whilst not a true island, it is easy to see how most journeys to/from Purbeck were reliant on bridges or boats.

See also the archive for JWG Bond's Edwardian paintings of the Purbeck coast.
Old Weymouth

click here for maps and a print of Weymouth from 1650 onwards. Can you solve the Weymouth/Melcombe Regis puzzle?
click here for the Domesday entry and maps of Portland from 1650 onwards.
click here for the archive page on Victorian Weymouth.
The whole village requisitioned by the British Government for military training during WW2 (as was Imber** on Salisbury Plain), then never returned. Parts are occasionally reconstructed for filming, and it is open for visitors on Sundays. Tyneham House, A fine Elizabethan manor house, was one of the three great houses of the Purbecks. It was demolished in 1966 after, with no maintenance by the army, it become dangerous.
Rodney Legg has recently published a new book on Tyneham.
Also on this site:
** Imber on the Down, Six miles from any town.
1935 Swanage
Called Sandwich in 17th century maps ( 1650,   1695 ) it acquired its modern name sometime in the 18th century. A very small town in 1935, it has now spread out both northwards and southwards. Dorset schoolchildren may be familiar with Leeson House Field Studies Centre just south of the A351. The old railway closed, the Swanage steam railway now runs to Corfe Castle with plans to link to the national system at Wareham.

more 1900's paintings by R.W.G.Bond of Purbeck villages
more 1930's maps of Stour valley and Somerset/Dorset railway line
Maps of Old Dorset
Sherborne Abbey
England's finest abbey. Founded in 998, it has a 12th century core but is mostly 15th century. Supreme fan vaulting, sit and admire it! Read more here
Forde Abbey
Just when you think you're lost, there it is. Go there. Read more here
Corfe Castle
Thought to have been built by King Edgar in c.970, Corfe Castle has a textbook strategic position on a hill in a gap in the Purbeck downs. 18-year old King Edward the Martyr was murdered here in 978, at the instigation of his stepmother who desired the throne for her son, Ethelred the unready. Supposedly King John sent 22 French knights to be starved in its dungeons. The current castle dates from 1570 and is largely derelict, being owned by the National Trust. Don't miss the view from the top, and also the even better view from the top of West hill (the hill to the west, sorry). The stone from the village's old houses bears a striking resemblance to that from the castle.....
Also worth a visit for the crab sandwiches in the pub.

This an Edwardian painting by RWG Bond more 1900's paintings of Purbeck villages

click here for more of this map of Bournemouth, Branksome and Boscombe 100 years ago.
You can request some detailed areas.
Old Bournemouth

Bournemouth was in Hampshire until the county boundary revisions of 1974. The fine aerial view dates from approx. 1935. Bacon's map below dates from c.1900
click here for the archive page with Arthur Bell's paintings of the coast near Bournemouth.
Geology & Fossils
Lulworth Cove and the neighbouring Stair hole are very interesting geologically - crumpled beds of Purbeck stone. The fossil forest is on the seaward (east) side of Lulworth Cove itself.
Whilst Lyme (Regis) has the reputation, many other parts of the Dorset coast have interesting beaches with fossils lying around on the beach, sticking out of cliffs (just out of reach) or inside easily broken rocks or lumps of clay. The geologist's hammer appears least necessary here. Injury under cliffs or drowning by being cut off by the tide await the over-enthusiastic amateur.
click the picture for a larger version
Portland and its Battle
In February 1653 Admiral Robert Blake (according to school textbooks having a reputation second only to Nelson) fought a running battle with the Dutchman Martin Happertzoon van Tromp, up the channel to Dover starting from Portland. The Dutchman was in a convoy with returning Dutch merchant ships laden with treasure from the East Indies.
Did you know that Portland used to be the home for Newfoundland sea dogs, a large highly adapted dog with a long history, typically saving drowning seamen, swimming with lines to other ships in impossible seas and of course retrieving small barrels of spirits from shipwrecks. For more details see here and the book 'Shipwrecks' by Maureen Attwooll, in the 'Discover Dorset' series published by the Dovecote Press.

Click here for a larger (38kb) or much larger(115kb) picture.
The Duke of Dorset was an 18th-century ship
ref.1, ref.2
The Dorsetshire was (a different?) ship sunk during the Napoleonic Wars(?) as well as the Royal Navy cruiser which was involved in the sinking of the Bismark in WW2 (when HMS Hood was sunk).
link to National Maritime Museum
Old Towns: