Dorchester England Walk 3

A Thomas Hardy Walk

From the Town Pump, walk south towards the Antelope Hotel (21), which was originally an 18th century coaching inn and the great rival of the King’s Arms (17). Sarah Eldridge, founder of the Eldridge Pope Brewery, took over the hotel in 1833 and brewed beer here. The hotel is mentioned by name in Thomas Hardy’s ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’.

The Old Oak Room (22) is reputed to be the room used by Judge Jeffreys for his infamous ‘Bloody Assize’ of 1685. Of 312 rebels tried by Jeffreys for supporting the Duke of Monmouth’s attempt to seize the crown, a total of 74 were executed and 175 were transported to the Caribbean ‘virtually as slaves’.

The Old Hospital (23) is a fine Victorian building that has recently been converted to apartments. On the corner of Somerleigh Road is a symbolic Roman fountain installed in 2003 near the point where a Roman aqueduct brought fresh water into Durnovaria.

The Borough Gardens (24) are a fine example of their kind. Major features include an ornate Victorian clock tower, a delightful bandstand and a fountain.

Fairfield Market (25) has been home to Dorchester’s famous historic open and covered Wednesday market since the 19th century. It is still very popular, especially during the summer when the town throngs with shoppers.

Maumbury Rings (26) were originally constructed as a Neolithic henge monument at least 4500 years ago, probably by the inhabitants of Maiden Castle. The Romans made some major changes by lowering the central area and raising the banks to create an amphitheatre capable of holding 10 000 people. More changes were made during the Civil War when the site was fortified with cannons by local Parliamentarian forces. The site is still used occasionally as the Romans intended, with outdoor performances during the summer and historical re-enactments.

Brewery Square (27) in Dorchester England consists of restored Victorian brick buildings that have been converted into shops, restaurants, a cinema and accommodation. This site had been the home of the Eldridge Pope brewery since 1880.

The Cenotaph and Victorian Post Box (28) are situated close to the site of the southern gate in the Roman walls. The post box, an early one designed by Penfold, dates from 1866; the Cenotaph, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, is made from Portland stone and was unveiled in 1921.

Barnes and Hardy Plaques (29) can be seen at first floor level opposite the entrance to the Hardye Arcade. Thomas Hardy’s poem ‘The Last Signal’ is a wonderful tribute to his friend William Barnes. Sir Frederick Treves attended Barnes’ school here. The Hardye with an ‘e’ was a successful merchant in London who founded the first grammar school in the town in the late 16th century. School buildings used to stand on the site of the arcade, hence its name.

Napper’s Mite (30) is now a restaurant but was built as almshouses by Sir Robert Napper to house ‘ten old men’ shortly after the great fire of 1613. It has a small, intimate courtyard, with a wonderful old clock over the entrance. This is the oldest building in South Street and one of the oldest still in use in the town.

The Mayor of Casterbridge’s House (31) is currently a branch of Barclays Bank. In ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’, Thomas Hardy wrote that it was ‘…one of the best, faced with dull red-and-grey old brick. The front door was open, and, as in other houses, she [Elizabeth-Jane] could see through the passage to the end of the garden – nearly a quarter mile off’.