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The History of Dorchester

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The historic town of Dorchester is positioned on the River From in the county of Dorset in South west England. It's rich and eventful history dates far back in time to the Stone Age and beyond. A legacy of which remains from the Stone Age farmers when they toiled the land, with the intriguing Maumbury Rings which has continued to feature across the pages of history for many centuries.

Iron Age settlers built a Hill Fort here, and when the Roman Legions arrived they expanded the ancient settlement of Dorchester and finally trade flourished, with them they brought their knowledge and expertise they fortified the town with the building of a wall, parts of which remain. Their building prowess came to the fore with the construction of houses, public buildings and an impressive Aqueduct which brought water to the town which grew in importance and they re-named Durnovaria. After the Romans left, the settlement went into decline. The 9th Century saw the arrival of the Anglo Saxons and the re-growth of the town. When William the Conqueror arrived on the south coast of England and tasted the sweet success of victory after the bloody battle fought in 1066 he marched across the land changing it forever, Dorchester was no different, they built a castle fashioned from wood in an effort to fortify the town and trade prospered.

By the time of the Middle Ages there were 3 markets and annual fares taking place, agriculture, the production of wool, and farming expanded and grew the economy. It was during this time that the Maumbury Rings re-emerged into history when their usage was changed, becoming the location of a Bear Baiting Ring which was a popular entertainment of the time. The 13th Century heralded the arrival of Franciscan Friars to the town who opened a hospital caring for the sick.

An unwelcome visitor arrived with The Plague, Black Death in 1563, 1579 and again in 1595 bringing with it many deaths, an important charter was issued in 1610, followed by another in 1630. The 17th Century saw the country divided by Civil War when Charles II believed in the Divine Right of Kings, Parliament and the people disagreed, battles were fought and Dorchester incorporated a Fort into Maumbury Rings in 1642. The town was attacked by Royalists in 1643, who left in victory and did not return until a year later when they were successfully beaten. 1685 saw an invasion by the Duke of Monmouth fail during the Monmouth Rebellion, which resulted in 300 men attending "The Bloody Assizes" which was presided over by Judge Jeffreys who decided that many would be executed and face horrible deaths, and the rest should be transported.

Fire devastated the town in 1613, and again in 1725 destroying many of the buildings, which resulted in the banning of all thatched roofs in 1776.

As the 19th Century dawned a prison was built which continues to detain men today at Her Majesty's pleasure, the welcome arrival of Gas lighting in 1835, and just a year later a Police Force. 1847 was the year that the Railway arrived again leading to an increase in trade and people, and a short while later the wonders of electricity were seen within the town in 1901, followed by the first Cinema which opened its doors in 1911.

With the onset of the Second World War Dorchester became a Garrison Town with the population increasing in numbers, the sight of Spitfires and Hurricanes engaging in dog fights during the Battle of Britain were watched in the skies above, and later soldiers from America arrived bringing nylons, candy and peanut butter to the town

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Captain Kidd Hanged for Piracy - 1701, Whipsnade Zoo Opened - 1931
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