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A Brief History of Dorchester on Thames

Early Settlement

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

To the south, Iron Age people occupied a hill fort on Castle Hill; later the Celtic people enclosed their settlement by building the Dyke Hills, a rare example of a pre-Roman town, about half a mile from the present village.

Roman to Saxon

Dorchester today lies over the old Romano-British walled town, of which the southern and western boundaries can still be traced.

This town became the centre of a Saxon settlement.

The present day allotments were once the Hempcroft. Cynegils the king of the West Saxons was baptised in the River Thame by St Birinus in 635 and Dorchester became the episcopal centre for Wessex.

Later it came under the control of Offa, King of Mercia, which led to the See of Dorchester stretching from the Thames to the Humber, but in 1075 Remegius removed the See to Lincoln.

Medieval to Tudor

In 1140 Dorchester’s Augustinian monastery was founded and the Abbey was built on the old Saxon foundations.

At the time of the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII in the 1530s, the church building was saved for posterity through its purchase for £140 by local wealthy man Richard Beauforest who left it to the village in his will.


As Wallingford and Oxford grew, Dorchester’s importance as a centre decreased.

However, its location on the main roads from Gloucester and from Oxford to London ensured its role as a focal point for travellers, with several inns as well as two stagecoach inns. The road was one of the earliest to become a toll road.

The building of the bypass (the present A4074) in the 20th century brought further changes.

The population in 2000 was 1023.

Further areas of detail

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