Genealogical and historical information and links for anyone researching their ancestors in England and the British Isles

 Home ==> County Links ==> Dorset


 <== Devon


Themes Explorers and Adventurers Nobel Prize Winners
Actors/Actresses and Directors Famous People Places of Interest
Anglo-Saxons and Danes Historic Events Prime Ministers
Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty Inventors and Scientists Royal Consorts and Heirs

Artists and Architects

Monarchs World Heritage Sites
Composers National Parks Writers and Poets


Dorset lies in south-western England on the English Channel. In 1974 the Bournemouth area of Hampshire was incorporated into the county.

Towns include the county seat of Dorchester.

Anglo-Saxons and Danes
Anglo-Saxon Kings Danish Kings
Once part of the West Saxon kingdom of Wessex.

Ethelbald was the first of four brothers to become King of Wessex. He died in 860 and was buried in Sherborne Abbey.

Ethelbald's younger brother Ethelbert succeeded him as King. He died in 866 and like his brother was buried in Sherborne Abbey.

The third brother to became King of Wessex was Ethelred I. He died in 871 from injuries received at the Battle of Merton and was buried in Wimborne Minster. He was succeeded by the fourth and youngest brother, Alfred the Great.

Edward the Martyr ruled England from 975 until his death in 978 when he was killed at Corfe Castle by supporters (possibly including Elfrida, his step-mother and Queen) of his half-brother Ethelred, who succeeded him. He was buried in Shaftesbury Abbey.

The Danish King of England, Denmark and Norway Canute, famous for trying to turn back the waves, died at Shaftesbury in 1035. He was buried in Winchester in Hampshire.

King Canute
Monarchs buried at Winchester

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty
The Dorset AONB was designated in 1957 and covers 44% of the county, including much of the county's coastline. The protected area stretches from Lyme Regis in the west to Brownsea Island near Poole in the east and includes such beauty spots as Lulworth Cove and Chesil Beach.

Cranborne Chase and the West Wiltshire Downs was designated an AONB in 1981 and spreads across four counties with the majority of its southern portion lying in Dorset. The mainly chalk landscape includes the wooded Vale of Wardour which separates Cranborne Chase in the south from the Wiltshire Downs in the north. The area was once heavily forested and home to several royal hunting forests of which remnants still remain.

Explorers and Adventurers

T.E. Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia, died in 1935 in a motorcycle accident near his home Clouds Hill. He had lived there since 1923 when he had moved to the area to join the tank regiment at nearby Bovington Camp. The small cottage lies on the road between Bovington and his friend Thomas Hardy's home Max Gate. Lawrence paid many visits there until Hardy's death in 1928. Lawrence is buried at Moreton.

T.E. Lawrence

T.E. Lawrence Society

Historic Events

Landings and Departures
In 1348 it was at the port of Weymouth where the first case of Black Death was recorded. The plague spread throughout England eventually killing a third of the population.

Black Death

In 1471 Margaret of Anjou the wife of the Lancastrian monarch Henry VI landed at Weymouth before being defeated and captured by a Yorkist army under Edward IV at the Battle of Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire.

Margaret of Anjou

On the death of Charles II in 1685 his son, the Duke of Monmouth, landed at Lyme Regis beginning the ill-fated Monmouth Rebellion. Proclaiming himself king and being a Protestant he drew support from those opposed to the rule of the Catholic James II. At the Battle of Sedgemoor near Bridgwater in Somerset Monmouth's army was defeated and he was taken to the Tower of London and executed.

Duke of Monmouth
Famous people imprisoned at the Tower of London

Important Events
In 1834 six farm labourers from the village of Tolpuddle were transported to Australia for trying to form a trade union. They became known as the Tolpuddle Martyrs and after widespread protests they were eventually pardoned.

Inventors and Scientists

The scientist and environmentalist James Lovelock died at his home in Abbotsbury (near Chesil Beach) on 26th July 2022, his 103rd birthday. In the 1960s he had developed what later became known as his Gaia theory (a name suggested by his friend the writer William Golding) which saw the planet Earth as a self-regulating organism. Although his theory created controversy at the time (it challenged Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection) it would come to be accepted by the scientific establishment and community. Impossible to pigeon-hole (he was an environmentalist who was highly critical of parts of the Green movement and a supporter of nuclear power) he was a passionate defender of the idea that a sustainable planet is only possible by working with nature and not against it.

James Lovelock

Nobel Prize Winners

The economist James E. Meade was born in Swanage in 1907. In 1977 he shared the Nobel Prize for Economics with the Swedish scientist Bertil Ohlin.

James E. Meade

Places of Interest

Corfe Castle

Sherborne Castle was once home to Walter Ralegh and his family.

Walter Ralegh

Maiden Castle

Cathedrals and Abbeys
Shaftesbury Abbey

Sherborne Abbey

Wimborne Minster

Historic Buildings
Clouds Hill, T.E. Lawrence's cottage

Thomas Hardy's cottage, Upper Bockhampton

Max Gate, Thomas Hardy's home

Notable Places
Cerne Abbas Giant, the figure cut into a chalk hill near Sherborne, was once believed to date from before Anglo-Saxon times. The figure - like the similar Long Man of Wilmington in Sussex - has now been dated to around the 17th century.

World Heritage Sites

The Dorset and East Devon coastline was designated a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO in 2001. The rocks exposed in the coastline's cliffs illustrate 185 million years of earth's history.

Writers and Poets

Thomas Hardy was born at Upper Bockhampton in 1840. He lived in the cottage until 1862 and wrote Far From the Madding Crowd there. From 1885 until his death in 1928 he lived at Max Gate, the house that he built in Dorchester. His ashes are interred at Westminster Abbey but his heart was buried at the church in the village of Stinsford.

Thomas Hardy
Famous people buried at Westminster Abbey
Thomas Hardy Society

She whose youth had seemed to teach that happiness was but the occasional episode in a general drama of pain.
The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886)

And meadow rivulets overflow,
And drops on gate-bars hang in a row,
And rooks in families homeward go,
And so do I.
Weathers (1922)

The later intelligence office and novelist, John Le Carré was born in 1931 in Poole as David Cornwell.

John le Carré

In 1972 the poet Cecil Day-Lewis (father of the actor Daniel Day-Lewis) was, like Thomas Hardy, also buried at Stinsford. He had been Poet Laureate since 1968 and was succeeded by Sir John Betjeman.

Cecil Day-Lewis
Poets laureate

John Fowles, author of The Magus and The French Lieutenant's Woman, lived at Belmont - his house which overlooked the historic harbour wall known as the Cobb - in Lyme Regis from 1969 until his death in 2005.

John Fowles

Whole sight; or all the rest is desolation.
Daniel Martin - Opening line of novel (1977)

County Links Genealogy in England

Genealogy Links

Family History Societies
Somerset & Dorset
Online Parish Clerk