"Dorchester on Thames, actually.............." Dorchester by leics

Dorchester Travel Guide: 20 reviews and 39 photos

....is a pretty little village near Oxford; it's not the other Dorchester in the VT index, which is the county town of Dorset. Ok?

Once, Dorchester was a Roman town, with a fort, ramparts (walled on one side) and a thriving centre. It is likely that previous occupation centred on the two hillforts nearby (one of which [Dyke Hills]may well be an Iron age 'oppidum', the precursor of towns) but the Roman town grew up after the establishment of the fort. There are several Roman villas within a ten-mile radius, as well as a pottery kiln site nearby.

But it is as a focus for the establishment of Christianity in england that Dorchester is most important. In 634 a papal emissary, a monk named Berin, was sent to England and eventually ended up in Dorchester. In 635 he baptised the King of Wessex there (King Cynegils), and the King gave Berin (or Berinius, to give him his Latin name) Dorchester as the base for his see. This was massive, extending from Hampshire to Yorkshire. Every King of Wessex after this was a Christian; the last King of Wessex was Alfred, and every monarch after him was also a Christian. A cathedral was built where Dorchester Abbey now stands, but the see moved to Winchester around 670.

The present abbey church was built on the site of the original, and was part of an Augustinian Priory which no longer stands. With the building of a shrine to St Berinius the Abbey became a site of pilgrimage and, in consequence, was able to expand its church with the addition of tower, aisels and the unique and beautifully-crafted Jesse window. In 1536, the abbey was dissolved by order of Henry Vlll and only the church now remains.

Dorchester is a pretty little village, lying between the river Thames and the River Thame, with a couple of old pubs (which were clearly originally established to cater for the stagecoaches running to/from London). The toll house in the photo is a typical example; at one time, many roads in the UK were privately constructed and tolls were collected to pay for their maintenance.

It's worth a wander round Dorchester itself, as well as exploring the Abbey church, as many old buildings survive in the village. There are pleasant river and countryside walks as well. And the Abbey has a tea-room!

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:History, architecture
  • Cons:None that I came across
  • In a nutshell:Dorchester-on-Thames
  • Last visit to Dorchester: Oct 2006
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Comments (1)

  • christine.j's Profile Photo
    Dec 10, 2007 at 6:03 AM

    I'm always impressed by the wonderful work the medieval stone masons did. So many details can still be seen after centuries!


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