6 cool things to do in Dorchester

The panoramic view from The Keep

The panoramic view from The Keep - Credit: Archant

We take a quick look at some of the best things to see and do in the town of Dorchester

The best bird’s eye view

The large flat rooftop of the Keep Military Museum in Barrack Road gives panoramic views across Dorchester. You can see the Poundbury development and the site of the former POW camp. And look out across the water meadows (near the Duchy’s latest development) to the church at Stinsford where the heart of Thomas Hardy is buried. The Keep is currently commemorating 100 years since the Battle of the Somme with an exhibit of items including the bugle of Drummer Starn from the 1st Dorsets which still holds one of the bullets which wounded him on 1st July 1916 at Authuille Wood. Gift Aid your entry fee and return free for a year.

For news of other special events and offers go to keepmilitarymuseum.org

In the footsteps of a medical legend

Portrayed by Sir Anthony Hopkins in the David Lynch’s moving film The Elephant Man, Dorchester’s Sir Frederick Treves befriended Joseph (John) Merrick whose disfiguring congenital disorder made him an “attraction” in a sideshow. Treves, a pioneering surgeon who performed a life-saving operation on King Edward VII, is the inspiration behind the newly launched Treves Trail which reveals the story of his life in 19th century Dorchester. Find the free trail leaflet at Dorset County Museum, Dorset History Centre, Dorchester Tourist Information Centre and Damer’s Café at Dorset County Hospital.

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Tea with ‘The Hanging Judge’

One of the most interesting places to tuck into tea and cake is at The Oak Rooms in Antelope Walk. The rooms were once the court of the notorious Judge Jeffreys, known as The Hanging Judge, who ordered the execution of 74 people and the transportation of 175 following the Duke of Monmouth’s rebellion in 1685. The Bloody Assizes were held in the Oak Room of the Antelope Hotel and it was long thought that the Judge had a secret passageway from his lodgings to the court. There is a hidden door in the oak panelling and part of the tunnel is now used by the tea rooms as a larder.

An art Deco gem

Dorchester’s Plaza Cinema on Trinity Street opened its doors to film fans in 1933. The impressive Art Deco building held one screen at that time, and the first film shown was King Kong starring Fay Wray. The cinema has retained many of its original internal features and now boasts four screens. It’s a favourite haunt for local film lovers and also shows live theatre productions. The ticket prices are fairly retro too at just £2.50 on weekdays and £3.50 at weekends.


Antiques and Curios

Duke’s Auctioneers and the town’s many antiques shops often feature on television, as does a favourite for antiques hunters and up-cycling fans - the Dorchester Curiosity Centre. Housed in the Old Bus Depot on the Grove Trading Estate this treasure trove of curiosities is home to 90 traders and also has a lovely café.


Dorchester’s secret tunnels

Talking of Judge Jeffreys’ secret tunnels, there have long been rumours of all kinds of mysterious tunnels beneath the county town and one local Councillor has made it his mission to discover what evidence there is for these rumours. Cllr David Taylor has been searching for what lies beneath Dorchester for a while now and you can see more of his intriguing discoveries on the Urban Explorer website.


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