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Page 3 ~ Wareham, Dorset

Wareham is built on a site that was occupied as far back as the Iron Age. The town became established as an important cross channel port in Saxon times and was a strategic stronghold for King Alfred the Great. In 876 the town was captured by the Danes, and as a result of this and similar attacks, Wareham was one of a number of Wessex towns that were subsequently defended by high walls.


The Quay – it is difficult to imagine that this leisure area during Saxon times was the hub of Wareham when ships arrived from the continent and unloaded their cargoes of chiefly salt and potters' clay. However during the Middle Ages the river silted up and trade transferred to the new port of Poole.


The River Frome – Wareham sits between the Rivers Frome and Piddle, which flow to Wareham Channel, Poole Harbour and the sea.




Never known to refuse a meal the gulls and ducks welcome their lunch at Abbots Quay.


Dinghies out of harm’s way for the winter, overlooked by the Church of St Mary – see pictures below.


Until 1726 most of the buildings in Wareham were wooden and thatched, but when a devastating fire consumed the town's timber buildings, it resulted in a rebuilt town centre with Georgian stone houses and later Victorian buildings. The present Town Hall opposite the Red Lion was built in 1870 and replaced an earlier Town Hall, school, jail and butcher's shop which were built in 1768. The Town Hall is still used for Town Council meetings and the ground floor for social functions. The clock in the Town Hall tower is a key Wareham landmark, kept meticulously accurate on weekly visits by the Council's appointed clockwinder. Legend states that it was donated by a former Town Clerk on condition that it remained in the tower in order that he could see it from his bedroom.


South Street, looking towards the Town Hall.


The Oddfellows Hall was built in 1889 and provided various entertainments such as travelling theatrical shows, banquets, concerts etc. In 1920 the Empire Theatre opened in the Hall and in 1927 the first "talkies" arrived. The cinema is still privately owned and is the only gas lit cinema in Britain and its carbon arc projectors are still used to show the latest films.


The Parish Church of Lady St Mary with the Priory Hotel in the foreground. The hotel is a 16th century building which was formerly the home of a monastery. Although the house has been greatly altered over the years the main features of the 16th century layout can still be traced. The monastery was preceded by a nunnery founded, according to legend, by St Aldhelm in the 8th century.


The Parish Church of Lady St Mary is one of the most ancient and
largest in the county and has a Tudor Tower with a ring of ten bells.


The Nave and Chancel of Lady St Mary Church. Tradition has it that St Aldhelm (639-709) founded this church and although added to, it remained untouched until 1841. Demolition of the Saxon nave occurred in 1841-2 and was instigated by the vicar who wished to have a modern nave with galleries, which at the time was much in vogue.


The 14th century chancel with the Victorian east window which replaced the Saxon window. The organ was presented to the church in 1883 by Mrs Mary Rodgett in memory of her husband Miles Rodgett a keen amateur musician, who died in June 1882. The organ was originally built at the east end of the south aisle in front of the present opening to St Edward's chapel and opened in May 1883. In 1893 Crickmay of Weymouth designed and built the present organ chamber on the north side of the Chancel, the cost of this work was met by Mrs Rodgett's brother.

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