32 Facts About Dorset


Dorset is a county in South West England on the English Channel coast.

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Dorset has seen much civil unrest: in the English Civil War, an uprising of vigilantes was crushed by Oliver Cromwell's forces in a pitched battle near Shaftesbury; the doomed Monmouth Rebellion began at Lyme Regis; and a group of farm labourers from Tolpuddle were instrumental in the formation of the trade union movement.

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Dorset has a varied landscape featuring broad elevated chalk downs, steep limestone ridges and low-lying clay valleys.

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Agriculture was traditionally the major industry of Dorset but is in decline and tourism has become increasingly important to the economy.

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Dorset has ports at Poole, Weymouth and Portland, and an international airport near Bournemouth.

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Dorset derives its name from the county town of Dorchester.

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However, by the end of the 7th century, Dorset had fallen under Saxon control and been incorporated into the Kingdom of Wessex.

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The Saxons established a diocese at Sherborne and Dorset was made a shire—an administrative district of Wessex and predecessor to the English county system—with borders that have changed little since.

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However, Dorset was devastated by the bubonic plague in 1348 which arrived in Melcombe Regis on a ship from Gascony.

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Dorset came under the political influence of a number of different nobles during the Middle Ages.

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However, the industrial revolution largely bypassed Dorset which lacked coal resources and as a consequence the county remained predominantly agricultural.

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Dorset is largely rural with many small villages, few large towns and no cities.

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Dorset has a number of limestone ridges which are mostly covered in either arable fields or calcareous grassland supporting sheep.

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South-east Dorset, including the lower Frome valley and around Poole and Bournemouth, comprises younger Eocene deposits, mainly sands and clays of poor agricultural quality.

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The Dorset section has yielded important fossils, including Jurassic trees and the first complete Ichthyosaur, discovered near Lyme Regis in 1811 by Mary Anning.

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Jutting out into the English Channel at roughly the midpoint of the Dorset coastline is the Isle of Portland, a limestone island that is connected to the mainland by Chesil Beach, a 27-kilometre long shingle barrier beach protecting Britain's largest tidal lagoon.

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The third most southerly county in the UK, Dorset is less affected by the more intense Atlantic winds than Cornwall and Devon.

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However, Dorset maintains higher summer temperatures than Devon and Cornwall, with average highs of 19.

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Dorset's population has a high proportion of older people and a lower than average proportion of young people: According to 2013 mid-year estimates, 23.

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Dorset became a two-tier non-metropolitan county after a reorganisation of local government in 1974 and its border was extended eastwards to incorporate the former Hampshire towns of Bournemouth and Christchurch.

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Representation in Parliament Dorset is divided into eight Parliamentary constituencies—five county constituencies and three borough constituencies.

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Between 1997 and 2019, West Dorset was represented by Conservative MP Oliver Letwin who was the Minister of State at the Cabinet Office in David Cameron's government.

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Marginal seat of South Dorset is represented by Richard Drax, who gained the seat from Labour representative, Jim Knight, in 2010.

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One of Dorset's most noted cultural institutions is the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra which was founded in 1893.

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The Dorset County Show, which was first held in 1841, is a celebration of Dorset's agriculture.

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Inside Out Dorset is an outdoor arts festival that takes place every two years in rural and urban locations across Dorset.

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Dorset hosted the sailing events at the 2012 Summer Olympics and 2012 Summer Paralympics at the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy.

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Dorset is famed in literature for being the native county of author and poet Thomas Hardy, and many of the places he describes in his novels in the fictional Wessex are in Dorset, which he renamed South Wessex.

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Dorset is one of the few counties in England not to have a motorway.

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Mediaeval churches are more prevalent in Dorset; most are 15th century and are of a Perpendicular style.

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Responsibility for state schools in Dorset is divided between three local education authorities: Dorset Council, which covers the majority of the county, and Bournemouth and Poole unitary authorities.

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Dorset has two higher education establishments situated in the heart of the county's south east conurbation.

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