A Town & River Walk
From the Town Pump, head east down the right hand side of High East Street to All Saints Church (13). This is an important landmark along the High Street with its elegant spire. Stand in the ‘Levelled Churchyard’ at the rear and read the Thomas Hardy poem of the same name. There are extensive wine vaults under much of the High Street and there is talk of haunted underground passages. Cross High East Street and continue downhill.
At Mariners Parade (14), the Pale Ale Brewery sign is a reminder of the importance of this industry to the town over many centuries. Continue on past Tom Brown’s pub, which brews its own beer, and the Casterbridge Hotel, a fine Georgian building dating from 1798.
You will then reach The White Hart (15), which was a popular gathering point for the carriers’ carts in earlier times. It stands by the bridge over the Mill Stream, which flows through Fordington. Continue westwards along the Mill Stream. For a pleasant diversion, you can follow the boardwalk to the right of the Mill Stream to see the Riverside Nature Reserve.
Next you will come to Chubb’s Almshouses (16), one of the oldest buildings still in use in Dorchester. This establishment dates its founding to the rebuilding of the town after the great fire of 1613 and today comprises four flats.
Back on the High Street is The King’s Arms (17), an elegant bow-windowed 18th century coaching inn, which features by name in Thomas Hardy’s novel ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’. The fastest coaches to London took about 16 hours – a travelling time reduced to about 6 hours when the railway first reached Dorchester in Dorset in 1847. You can find out more about famous visitors, including King George III and Queen Victoria, on a board in the entrance hall.
Further along is the Corn Exchange (18), which dates from 1848, and which was originally built without the clock tower. This was added later thanks to Alderman Galpin but became known as Galpin’s Folly as the townsfolk were sure it would soon fall down. The Town Hall and Council Chamber are here. Reputedly the table and chair in the Chamber were used by Judge Jeffreys in 1685.
St Peter’s Church (19) dates mainly from the 15th century. The Reverend John White, who was a leading figure in the early settlement of North America, is buried in the porch. There are many monuments inside including a very grand one to Sir Denzil Holles who was the town’s MP and one of five Parliamentarians that Charles I attempted to have arrested in 1642 immediately before the outbreak of the Civil War. Outside the church is the Statue of William Barnes (1801-1886), a popular and respected poet and inspiration to Thomas Hardy, who wrote mainly in the Dorset dialect. He was a schoolmaster, linguist, engraver and parish priest. His best known poem ‘My Orcha’d in Linden Lea’ was later set to music by Ralph Vaughan Williams.
This walk concludes at the Dorset County Museum (20). This is a fine Victorian building dating from 1883 and houses a variety of interesting collections.