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The History of Dorset


Although for most of its history Bournemouth was in Hampshire, for the past half century it’s been a proud part of the county of Dorset. In fact, the Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch area accounts for about half the county’s population.

From its rich dinosaur fossils to its role in World War 2, Dorset has a fascinating history — and there’s plenty of it to be seen, if you’re spending a holiday down this way. You need the right base, though — and that’s Bournemouth family hotel Marsham Court.

Early Dorset

The history of Dorset goes back long before humans, as evidenced by the numerous dinosaur fossils found along the Jurassic Coast. As far as humans are concerned, the county has been inhabited continuously since the ice finally retreated about 10,000 years ago. During the Iron Age, it was the site of many large hill forts, most notably Maiden Castle.

Dorset was an important part of Roman Britain, as shown by the Roman town of Dorchester and the many remains that have been found around the county. It was later fought over by the British and Saxons, before it eventually became part of the kingdom of Wessex. Key parts of Alfred the Great’s campaigns against the Danes took place in Dorset.

Mediaeval and Early Modern Dorset

Throughout the mediaeval and early modern period, Dorset remained largely rural — a fact reflected by the county still containing no cities or motorways. Nevertheless, there was some industry (notably the quarrying of Purbeck Marble) and a number of significant ports such as Weymouth, Poole and Lyme (now Lyme Regis).

Dorset saw action in a number of civil wars, from the Anarchy in the 12th century to 17th century battles between the Roundheads and Cavaliers, as well as the 1685 Monmouth Rebellion.

During the 18th century, the county became notorious for smuggling. Its rugged coast, dotted with the numerous half-hidden coves that make it so picturesque today, were perfect for the “gentlemen” (as Kipling called them) to evade the Excise men.

The 19th and 20th Centuries

In the early 19th century, Lyme Regis, Weymouth and Bournemouth joined a number of fashionable seaside resorts along the south coast, and Lyme features prominently in Jane Austen’s Persuasion. Dorset’s most important literary association, however, is with Thomas Hardy, whose novels are set in a thinly disguised version of the county called Wessex. Besides visits to Hardy’s cottage, generations of his fans have enjoyed touring the county, picking out locations in his stories.

Dorset played a prominent part in both World Wars, with Portland Harbour serving as one of the Royal Navy’s largest bases. The Dorset coast was used as a training-ground for D-Day, with both Portland and Poole Harbours used as launching-pads for the invasion.

Exploring Dorset’s History from Marsham Court Hotel

Whether you want to explore the Jurassic Coast, look at the Roman remains in and around Dorchester, stand at the top of Maiden Castle or on the Cobb at Lyme Regis, or tour Hardy Country — Marsham Court Hotel provides the perfect base for it all. It’s an elegant, welcoming 4-star Bournemouth family hotel that’s situated so that you can easily reach any part of Dorset, either under your own steam or on a coach trip.

Marsham Court features award-winning accessible facilities, and we welcome well-behaved dogs. And, after a day exploring the fascinating history of Dorset, it’s within walking distance of all of Bournemouth’s facilities.

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