Dorchester is the county town of Dorset and is located in the south of the county, approximately seven miles from the coast. As the county town, it enjoys superior amenities and employment opportunities than many other towns of a similar size. County Hall, for example, is a significant employer as is Dorset County Hospital which is also situated in the town.
Dorchester is a delightful place in which to live. Borough Gardens, for example, is a charming Victorian park, with formal flower beds and a bandstand. It is the site of many community events, especially in the summer months.
There is a good selection of shops in the town, including a Waitrose and a new shopping development called Brewery Square. There are numerous shops and cafes – in fact, some locals complain that there are too many new cafes opening at the expense of other shops!
Schools in Dorchester are almost all judged ‘good’ by OFSTED. The town is one of the few areas in the county with a middle school system, so children attend one of four primary schools until the age of nine, then switch to either Dorchester Middle School or St Osmund’s. At the age of thirteen, most Dorchester children attend the Dorchester Thomas Hardye School, which enjoys an excellent reputation locally, and has a highly competitive sixth form with many pupils going on to study at Oxford or Cambridge.
Dorchester is visited by many tourists each year because of its fascinating history. Maumbury Rings, near the railway station, is an excellent example of a Roman amphitheatre and an ideal destination for a picnic. Judge Jeffrey’s Lodgings – he was a notoriously bloodthirsty judge during the Monmouth Rebellion – is now a restaurant, but much of the original building remains. Thomas Hardy, the world-famous Victorian author, grew up in a nearby village and went to school in the town which features as ‘Casterbridge’ in many of his novels. The town has a lovely River Frome on its outskirts, along which you can walk to ‘Hangman’s Cottage’ and admire its beautiful 17th-century exteriors. Less than two miles from the town is Maiden Castle, one of the largest and most complex Iron Age hillforts in the world.
Dorchester has many museums; the Dorset County Museum, the Military Museum, the Dinosaur Museum and the Tutankhamun exhibition. There is also a swimming pool and a skate park, as well as numerous other sporting and cultural venues, including two cinemas. One of these, the Dorchester Plaza, is an impressively restored 1920s Art Deco theatre. Dorchester is generally a lively and friendly town with plenty of opportunities for entertainment.
Architecturally, the housing in Dorchester is pleasingly varied. In the Fordington area, there are a few Georgian houses, but most of the oldest properties are Victorian and full of character. There are many Victorian terraces near the two railway stations. Queen’s Avenue is the location of the most expensive properties in the town, but there are also several housing estates offering more modern and affordable properties. Properties in Dorchester move quickly though, with some estate agents in the area reporting listing times of only three weeks.
Poundbury Village, Prince Charles’ intriguing architectural project, adjoins the town. It was once a somewhat controversial project, as many resented the fact that much of Dorchester’s focus shifted to the new development. Most now agree that Poundbury, with its boutique shops and unobtrusive factories – it is the home of Dorset Cereals – has been advantageous to the town.
Crime in Dorchester is very low compared to many towns of a similar size. There is a police station in the town. This is one of the reasons Dorchester typically scores very highly on quality of life surveys. People love the relaxed lifestyle and the excellent transport links – there are two railway stations, and you can be at London Waterloo in two and a half hours. Residents are only a short drive from the Jurassic Coast and many of the picture-postcard villages and countryside for which Dorset is justly famous.
With its beautiful country surroundings, unspoiled ambience and excellent amenities, Dorchester is truly a town that offers the best of both worlds.