Find the nearest History & Heritage in Dorset
Our History and Heritage category brings all Coast Radar’s Dorset listings related to looking for something to do or a place to visit together where they offer some form of historic or heritage based activity.
Finding the best things to see and do on a Dorset day out with your family or friends is easy – simply explore the historic and heritage links below, hit the jump to my location button or use the search bar to plan your next Dorset activity.
- The Russel Cotes Art Gallery and Museum is located next to the Royal Bath Hotel on East Cliff. The building itself is a Grade II listed building originally known as East Cliff Hall. East Cliff Hall was the home of Merton and Annie Russell-Cotes, designed by the architect, John Frederick Fogerty but with significant input from Merton and Annie. Buyilding started in 1897 and was completed in 1901. The house was to be a showcase, not simply for their own enjoyment, but also for the people of Bournemouth to whom it was given. As well as the resident exhibits the museum and gallery hosts ever changing exhibitions, please check the website for opening times and what is currently showing.
- Corfe Castle once controlled the Isle of Purbeck, a thousand-year-old castle, that was destroyed during the English Civil War when Parliamentary forces sieged the castle that was only taken over after betrayal within. The wife of Sir John Bankes led the defense and gained the name ‘Brave Dame Mary’. Facilities include car park, information points, tea rooms, and shop.
- The Lyme Regis Museum is also known as the Philpot Museum as it was commissioned in 1901 by Thomas Philpot, a relative of the fossil collector Elizabeth Philpot. Elizabeth Philpot befriended Mary Anning when Anning was still a child; despite the almost 20-year age difference the two became close and were frequently seen collecting fossils together. Philpot encouraged the young Anning to read about geology and understand the science behind the fossils she collected and sold. The museum sits in the heart of Lyme Regis with views out over Lyme Bay. The museum has collections telling Lyme’s local history and includes maritime and domestic objects, paintings, prints and photographs. This area of Dorset is known as the Jurassic Coast and is noted for its fossils, and the town’s literary connections, from Jane Austen to John Fowles, are illustrated in the Writers Gallery. As well as the displays the Museum also organises fossil walks.
- Max Gate was the home of novelist and poet Thomas Hardy – it is believed Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Jude the Obscure and the Mayor of Casterbridge were written here. Thomas Hardy designed this red-brick mansion himself and lived here for the last 40 years of his life, and died here on 1928, although his ashes were buried in Westminster Abbey, Thomas was a Dorset man through and through.
- Maiden Castle was built in about 600 BC; the early phase was a simple and similar to many other hill forts in Britain and covering 6.4 hectares (16 acres). Around 450 BC it underwent major expansion, during which the enclosed area was nearly tripled in size to 19 ha (47 acres), making it the largest hill fort in Britain and by some definitions the largest in Europe. At the same time, Maiden Castle’s defences were made more complex with the addition of further ramparts and ditches. Then around 100 BC habitation at the hill fort went into decline and became focused at the eastern end of the site. It was occupied until at least the Roman period. After the Roman conquest in the 1st century AD, Maiden Castle appears to have been abandoned, although the Romans may have had a military presence on the site. In the late 4th century AD, a temple and ancillary buildings were constructed. In the 6th century AD the hill top was entirely abandoned and was used only for agriculture during the medieval period. There is a small car park at the fort which can become busy at peak times.
- Clouds Hill, the former home of T. E. Lawrence (“Lawrence of Arabia”) and is now run as a museum by the National Trust. The cottage remains largely as Lawrence left it at his death. It features an exhibition detailing Lawrence’s extraordinary life, and most of his original furniture and possessions. The cottage reflects his complex personality and close links to the Middle East.
- Shaftesbury is a charming market town and Dorset’s only hilltop town founded over 1,000 years ago as the home of King Alfred’s citadel Benedictine Abbey. The Shaftesbury Abbey Museum and garden brings to life the story of the Abbey and its inhabitants. The walled garden includes excavations of the Abbey Church. The Gold Hill is a charming collection of traditional sandstone cottages on a steep cobbled stone hill. This is one of the most photographed roads in England and has featured in TV commercials.
- Sherborne actually has two castles. The now ruins of Sherborne Old castle which was built in the 12th century as a strongly defended palace, Sherborne Old Castle became a powerful Royalist base during the Civil War. Sherborne Castle ‘new castle’ was built in 1594 by Sir Walter Raleigh as a stately home and now reflects over 400 years of English history. The 42 acres of grounds includes the 50-acre lake created by Capability Brown in 1753 and magnificent landscaped gardens of specimen trees, borders and sweeping lawns. The Castle’s interiors include collections of art, furniture and porcelain, together with Raleigh’s original kitchen, family artefacts and archaeological ‘finds’ from the old medieval castle on view in the castle cellars. The Castle Tea Room serves morning coffees, light lunches and afternoon teas, whilst the Gift Shop has a selection of gifts, souvenirs and our very own Sherborne Castle wines.
- Christchurch Castle is a Norman motte and bailey castle that has stonework dated to 1160 AD. The castle’s site is inside the old Saxon Burh dominating the River Avon’s lowest crossing. Alonmgside the castle you have a chamber block now known as the Norman House.