Dorchester: a historic abbey town in Oxfordshire

Said to be the most historic spot in Oxfordshire, with its many timbered houses and thatched cottages, Dorchester is the archetypal quaint English village. It has a picturesque high street with several shops and inns, and a superb medieval Abbey.

What To Do And See

Although only a short walk from the River Thames, Dorchester actually lies on the River Thame, which joins the 'River Thames or Isis' just south of Dorchester to become the River Thames again. There is plenty of opportunity to walk along either river, and in addition, Dorchester and adjourning areas are rich in history, offering many a glimpse into the past. Numerous archaeological finds confirm continuous settlements back to 2500 BC.

The town was particularly important during Roman times and as a stage-coach stop in the 17th and 18th centuries. The Cloister Gallery is housed in a pentice built against the north wall of the Abbey and displays a permanent exhibition ‘If Stones Could Speak ……’ which tells the story of the Abbey through a collection of worked medieval stones.

Interesting Tidbits

There is evidence of human settlement in Dorchester from Neolithic times.

The town's coat of arms depicts the old castle that used to stand where the prison now does.

The biennial Dorchester-on-Thames Arts Festival is one of Oxfordshire’s leading celebrations of music, literature, dance and drama (the next festival is in 2013).

On a more somber note (the faint-hearted ought to skip the next two sentences): In 1642, just prior to the English Civil War, Hugh Green, a Catholic chaplain was executed in Dorchester. After his execution, Puritans played football with his head.

Thomas Hardy, an English novelist and poet, lived in and near Dorchester all of his life. Many buildings featured in Hardy's novels can still be seen today in Dorchester, including

  • St Peter's Church
  • The King's Arms Hotel
  • The White Hart Hotel

Surrounding Area

Dorchester is an ideal destination if you are looking to stay in a quiet rural location with basic amenities and excellent walking opportunities, yet not too far from the next larger town.

There are many fabulous walks outside of town, along the river and through open countryside. The nearby Little Wittenham Nature Reserve, which is particularly rich in wildlife, offers great views across the Thames Valley.

South of Dorchester, on the Thames, lies The Hurst Water Meadow. A public footpath crosses the meadow, and all 18 acres are open to the public. Access is on foot from Manor Farm Road behind Dorchester Abbey, or from Overy Lane.

There are many pubs and restaurants to choose from, such as the 16th century Fleur de Lys Inn with it's generous beer garden and playground for the little ones.

Oxford and its many attractions are a mere 9 miles away. Our welcoming and professional team pride themselves in offering you high quality local cuisine, fine wines and r

General Information

  • How to get there

    From Reading take the A4074 towards Oxford. At the roundabout joining the A329 near Benson follow the A4074 for about 1 mile and follow the signs towards Dorchester on the left side.

  • Further Information

    Dorchester Website:

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