Beaminster town centre
Beaminster shown within Dorset
|Population||3,100 (2013 estimate)|
|OS grid reference|
|– London||145 miles (233 km)|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|EU Parliament||South West England|
|UK Parliament||West Dorset|
Beaminster // BEM-in-stər is a small town and civil parish in Dorset, England, situated in the West Dorset administrative district approximately 15 miles (24 km) northwest of the county town Dorchester. It is sited in a bowl-shaped valley near the source of the small River Brit. The 2013 mid-year estimate of the population of Beaminster parish is 3,100.
In its history Beaminster has been a centre of manufacture of linen and woollens, the raw materials for which were produced in the surrounding countryside. The town experienced three serious fires in the 17th and 18th centuries; the first of these, during the English Civil War, almost destroyed the fabric of the town.
Beaminster parish church is notable for its architecture, particularly its handsome tower.
In the English Civil War the town declared for Parliament and was sacked by Royalist forces in 1644. Prince Maurice stayed in the town on Palm Sunday, though his stay was brief because a fire, caused by a musket being discharged into a thatched roof, almost totally destroyed the town. The town suffered further accidental fires in 1684 and 1781.
Previously Beaminster was a centre for the production of linen and woollens. Flax was grown and sheep kept on the surrounding hills and the town was locally more important than it is today: factories were constructed in the 18th and early 19th centuries, and as many as seventeen inns existed in the town in the early 20th century.
Horn Park, about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) north-west of Beaminster, is a neo-Georgian country house of five bays and two-storeys designed by architect T. Lawrence Dale and completed in 1911. Inside the house the central corridor is barrel vaulted and leads to a drawing room whose groin vault is reminiscent of the work of Sir John Soane (1753-1837). The drawing room includes Jacobean features re-used from a 16th-century country house at nearby Parnham, which was being altered and restored at about the time that Horn Park was being built. Horn Park is Listed Grade II. Its gardens are occasionally open to the public as part of the National Gardens Scheme.
Beaminster is sited between 50 to 80 metres (160 to 260 ft) above sea-level in a bowl-shaped valley, surrounded by hills which rise to 244 metres (801 ft) at Beaminster Down to the northeast. The River Brit and many small streams emerge from springs on the slopes above the town. The confluences of several of these streams are within the town's boundaries. Beaminster's growth has historically been along the course of these streams, resulting in a settlement pattern that is roughly star-shaped.
Beaminster is situated approximately 45 miles (72 km) south of Bristol, 38 miles (61 km) west of Bournemouth, 35 miles (56 km) east of Exeter and 15 miles (24 km) northwest of the county town Dorchester.
Beaminster is sited mostly on Middle Jurassic Fuller's earth clay, with some Inferior Oolite in the south of the town and Bridport and Yeovil Sands north of the town centre. The hills north and east of the town are Cretaceous chalk with a scarp face of Upper Greensand, while those to the south and west are of Bridport and Yeovil Sands. There are several faults running westnorthwest to eastsoutheast through the town and its southern environs. Horn Park Quarry SSSI  produced building stone from the Inferior Oolite and some quality fossil specimens  before becoming a light industrial estate on the road to Broadwindsor. Apart from the ammonites, the site displays a remarkable flat erosion surface and the most complete succession in the Upper Aalenian ironshot oolite limestone of the area.
The historic population of Beaminster parish from the censuses between 1921 and 2001 is shown in the table below.
|Census Population of Beaminster Parish 1921—2001 (except 1941)|
|Source:Dorset County Council|
Published results from the 2011 national census combine information on Beaminster parish with the small neighbouring parish of Mapperton to the southeast. Within this area there were 1,680 dwellings, 1,529 households and a population of 3,136.
Economy and society
DuPont produce Nisaplin, a commercial formulation of the natural bacteriocin nisin, at a factory in the town. It was first isolated by Aplin and Barret and produced in the 1950s in the factory laboratory then situated in 11-15 North Street. The Clipper tea company is based in Beaminster. It is currently held by the Dutch company Royal Wessanen.
Beaminster hosts the Beaminster Festival, an annual music and art festival. Whitcombe Disc Golf Course at Beaminster has hosted the British Open Disc Golf Championship on a number of occasions and the European Disc Golf Championship in 2003. The town is twinned with the town of St James on the Brittany / Normandy border in France.
The nearest railway station is 5 miles (8.0 km) north of the town at Crewkerne. Exeter International Airport is 30 miles (48 km) to the west. The main road through the town is the A3066, which leads to Bridport to the south and Mosterton and Crewkerne to the north. The road north passes through Horn Hill tunnel, which opened in June 1832 and is the sole pre-railway age road tunnel that is still in daily public use.
Primary schools in the town include St Mary's Church of England Primary School.
Beaminster has an Anglican church, St Mary's, and a Catholic church, St John's. St Mary's is notable for its architecture, which is considered among the best in the county. The tower in particular has been described as "a handsome example of its period" and "the glory of Beaminster". St Mary's construction mostly dates from the 15th and 16th centuries, but was restored twice in the 19th. The eastern part of the north aisle incorporates part of an earlier 13th-century building, and the font bowl is late 12th-century. The pulpit is Jacobean.
Sweet Be'mi'ster, that bist a-bound
By green and woody hills all round,
Wi' hedges, reachen up between
A thousand vields o' zummer green.
Beaminster is the adopted hometown of actor Martin Clunes, and was where singer PJ Harvey went to school. Mat Follas had his first restaurant The Wild Garlic in the town square, though in 2013 it was moved to larger premises elsewhere. Beaminster is also home of Lynne Reid Banks, author of The L-Shaped Room and The Indian in the Cupboard. The furniture maker John Makepeace lives in the town after selling nearby Parnham House, where his school for craftsmen in wood was originally based. Parnham was also the home of William Barnard Rhodes-Moorhouse, the first airman ever to receive the Victoria Cross, following a daring bombing mission over Courtrai in 1915. Beaminster was the boyhood home of the arctic explorer and author Samuel Hearne. Hearne is considered by some to have been the inspiration for the tragic figure in Samuel Taylor Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Beaminster is also the home of the clothier and serge-maker Levieux family, that started producing high-quality wool products in 1700 by the innitiative of Theodore Levieux and that for over a hundred years they supplied wool items to the Royal Family, until the 1800s by the clothing production of Gersom Levieux.
Beaminster is twinned with:
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- The Wild Garlic
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