Hot Spot: Dorchester

This Dorset town offers everything from Hardy-esque cottages to the 'new vernacular'of Poundbury, says Robert Liebman

Dorchester gives you two towns for the price of one: the venerable county town commemorated by Thomas Hardy, and the Prince of Wales's Poundbury village. Framing the original town - and illustrating its rich and varied history - are Thomas Hardy's cottage in Higher Bockhampton and his final home Max Gate, the huge hill fort Maiden Castle and, to its north, Poundbury hill fort and Roman aqueduct. The former Poundbury Farm on Duchy of Cornwall land is the site of the new "vernacular" village.

The town is less than 10 miles from the fossil-rich Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site. "Dorset remains a particularly popular area for those wishing to retire or seeking peace and quiet in beautiful, unspoilt countryside," says Julian Bunkall of Jackson-Stops & Staff. "Dorchester has excellent shopping facilities, a main line railway station to London Waterloo, the county hospital and an increasing number of good restaurants. Poundbury village is now well established and is rapidly expanding." In at least one respect, it has been too successful: "The original idea was to attract first-time buyers, but minimum prices now are about £230,000 - out of their range."

Sue Burden of Connells confirms that in Dorchester generally, there are virtually no first-time buyers: "The majority of people moving into the town are over-50s, often buying a second home with the view to retiring here." But young families find Dorchester prices congenial: "Many people commute to Poole and Bournemouth because our property prices compare favourably with those towns. We have several sought-after schools, and buyers pay higher prices to be in certain catchment areas, for example, in Manor Park."

Area residents include comedian Martin Clunes, Gosford Park's Oscar-winning writer Julian Fellows, and Eric Clapton. "Sailing on the coast, golf on one of the many courses and hunting with one of the two local packs tempt many newcomers," says Peter Lewis of Stacks Property Search.

Polly Talbot of Goadsby & Harding says that despite rumours of a slow-down, she continues to receive many enquiries from London and the Home Counties. "Second homes are popular with investors, and new country-style properties appeal to retirees. Prince Charles has highlighted the popularity of the vernacular style, and new-build homes are no longer a poor relation. Using thatch and slate is authentic and traditional, and building a home that looks old is as good as old."


Getting there

Dorchester East station serves Eastleigh, Bristol, Exeter and Bournemouth international airport. Dorchester South station serves London Waterloo, two and a half hours away.


Waitrose, Somerfield, Tesco and Goulds department store are in the town. The traditional Wednesday market has hundreds of stalls, and there is also a farmers' market.

Sport and leisure

Thomas Hardye [sic] Leisure Centre has a pool, gym, aerobics and badminton. Borough Gardens offers tennis and bowls.


The multi-screen Plaza Cinema and Dorchester Arts Centre offer film, drama, dance, music, literature and other events. Line dancers queue at the Corn Exchange, which also hosts art exhibitions. St Mary's Church hosts concerts, and the Dorchester Festival is held every two years.

Museums and attractions

Dorset County Museum contains the contents Hardy's study. Other attractions include the Dinosaur Museum, Tutankhamun Exhibition, Teddy Bear House, the Keep Military Museum and the Grade I-listed Wolfeton House. The Hardy trail includes his birthplace at Higher Bockhampton, the family home Max Gate, and Stinsford Churchyard, which contains only his heart (his ashes are in Westminster Abbey).


Connells is selling a three-bed first-floor flat with mezzanine floor, triple-aspect living room and parking near the town centre for £250,000, and a newly converted two-bed flat in Herrison House, with communal grounds, tennis courts and cricket pitch in Charlton Down for £169,950.

Family homes

A five-bed three-storey period terrace near the town centre is £299,950 at Goadsby & Harding. A four-bed listed cottage with thatched roof in Charminster is £345,000 at Jackson-Stops & Staff.

Bargain thatch

A Grade II-listed thatched terrace in Tolpuddle, Dorchester with an L-shaped double bedroom (two single bedrooms merged) is £175,000 at Connells.


A new detached three-bed chalet bungalow with open fireplace in Puncknowle is £310,000, at Humberts. A Scandinavian-style two-bed timber lodge home overlooking open countryside in Corscombe is £139,950 at Humberts; tenure is "freehold share and held on a long lease".

Big spenders

Crockway House, a six-bed 10-acre home with a lake and River Frome frontage, c.£825,000 at Humberts. Birkin House is arranged as a B&B and flat; £1m at Knight Frank.


Bellway has converted the Grade II-listed former Herrison Hospital into flats and new-build houses; from £180,000 for a three-bed semi (01305 259472). Morrish Builders is selling flats and houses in Dorchester, Poundbury, Stratton, Drimpton and Maiden Newton. The agent is Connells.

Estate agents

Connells, 01305 266755; Goadsby & Harding, 01305 213213; Humberts, 01308 422215; Jackson-Stops, 01305 262123; Knight Frank, 01935 812236; Stacks, 01300 320480.

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Night job: Pacha nightclub DJ, Joan Ribas, is the new kingmaker on the island
Arts and Entertainment
Nicole Kidman plays Grace Kelly in the film, which was criticised by Monaco’s royal family
film'I survived it, but I’ll never be the same,' says Arash Amel
Life and Style
Retailers should make good any consumer goods problems that occur within two years
tech(and what to do if you receive it)
Life and Style
healthIf one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
Life and Style
Property search
Property search
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K YR1: SThree: At SThree, we like to be dif...

Guru Careers: Software Developer / Web Developer

£30 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Software / Web Developer (PHP / MYSQL) i...

Guru Careers: Account Executive

£18 - 20k + Benefits: Guru Careers: An Account Executive is needed to join one...

Guru Careers: Software Developer / Software Engineer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Software Developer / Software Engineer i...

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada