Dorchester on Thames

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Dorchester on Thames
Dorchester Post Office - - 1419421.jpg
Dorchester with the abbey tower in the background
Dorchester on Thames is located in Oxfordshire
Dorchester on Thames
Dorchester on Thames
Location within Oxfordshire
Area4.18 km2 (1.61 sq mi)
Population992 (2001 census)[1]
• Density237/km2 (610/sq mi)
OS grid referenceSU5794
Civil parish
  • Dorchester
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townWallingford
Postcode districtOX10
Dialling code01865
PoliceThames Valley
AmbulanceSouth Central
UK Parliament
WebsiteDorchester on Thames
List of places
51°38′38″N 1°09′58″W / 51.644°N 1.166°W / 51.644; -1.166Coordinates: 51°38′38″N 1°09′58″W / 51.644°N 1.166°W / 51.644; -1.166

Dorchester on Thames (or Dorchester-on-Thames) is a village and civil parish in Oxfordshire, about 3 miles (5 km) northwest of Wallingford and 8 miles (13 km) southeast of Oxford. The town is a few hundred yards from confluence of the River Thames and River Thame.

Historically the Thames was only so named downstream of the village; upstream it is named the Isis, and Ordnance Survey maps continue to label the river as "River Thames or Isis" above Dorchester. In practice, however, this distinction is rarely made outside the city of Oxford.


The area has been inhabited since at least the Neolithic. In the north of the parish there was a Neolithic sacred site, now largely destroyed by gravel pits. On one of the Sinodun Hills on the opposite side of the Thames, a ramparted settlement was inhabited during the Bronze Age and Iron Age. Two of the Sinodun Hills bear distinctive landmarks of mature trees called Wittenham Clumps. Adjacent to the village is Dyke Hills which is the remains of an Iron Age hill fort.

Dorchester's position close to the navigable Thames and bounded on three sides by water made it strategic for both communications and defence. The Romans built a vicus[2] here, with a road linking the settlement to a military camp at Alchester, 16 miles (25 km) to the north.[3] The settlement's Roman name is unclear; back-formations from Bede's Dorcic are unsupported.[4]

In 634 Pope Honorius I sent a bishop called Birinus to convert the Saxons of the Thames Valley to Christianity. King Cynegils of Wessex gave Dorchester to Birinus as the seat of a new Diocese of Dorchester under a Bishop of Dorchester; the diocese was extremely large, and covered most of Wessex and Mercia. The settled nature of the bishopric made Dorchester in a sense the de facto capital of Wessex, which was later to become the dominant kingdom in England; eventually Winchester displaced it, with the bishopric being transferred there in 660.[citation needed] Briefly in the late 670s Dorchester was once more a bishop's seat under Mercian control.[5]

Dorchester again became the seat of a bishop in around 875, when the Mercian Bishop of Leicester transferred his seat there. The diocese merged with that of Lindsey in 971; the bishop's seat was moved to Lincoln in 1072.

In the 12th century the church was enlarged to serve a community of Augustinian canons. King Henry VIII dissolved this Catholic Abbey in 1536, leaving a small village with a huge new Church of England parish church.


The George hotel

Dorchester Abbey[6] is both the village's Church of England parish church and its main tourist attraction. The Abbey has a museum.

Of the ten original coaching inns, two remain: The George[7] and The White Hart. The George has a galleried yard dating back to 1495 and it used to serve coaches on the Gloucester-Oxford-London route. The George was used as a filming location for ITV's Agatha Christie's Poirot in the episode Taken at the Flood in 2006.[8]

Festivals and events[edit]

Dorchester on Thames is the home of a number of annual events:

  • The biennial Dorchester on Thames Festival, a 10-day fundraising event held every other May[9]
  • The English Music Festival[10]

Nearby is Day's Lock on the Thames, where an annual "World Poohsticks Championship" is held.

Notable people from Dorchester[edit]


  1. ^ "Area: Dorchester CP (Parish): Parish Headcounts". Neighbourhood Statistics. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 16 March 2010.
  2. ^ "No definite public or administrative buildings have yet been excavated" note Barry C. Burnham and J. S. Wacher, The Small Towns of Roman Britain 1990: "Dorchester on Thames" p. 337
  3. ^ Togodumnus (Kevan White). "DORCHESTER ON THAMES". Retrieved 25 December 2014.
  4. ^ Barry C. Burnham and J. S. Wacher, The Small Towns of Roman Britain "Dorchester on Thames"
  5. ^ Kirby Earliest English Kings p. 48-49
  6. ^ "Welcome". Retrieved 25 December 2014.
  7. ^ "The George Hotel, Doirchester : Webpage". Archived from the original on 18 December 2014. Retrieved 25 December 2014.
  8. ^ "Poirot Locations - Taken at the Flood". Retrieved 25 December 2014.
  9. ^ "Dorchester-on-Thames Festival - Fun for all the family". Archived from the original on 26 December 2014. Retrieved 25 December 2014.
  10. ^ "Welcome to The English Music Festival". Retrieved 25 December 2014.


  • Aston, Michael; Bond, James (1976). The Landscape of Towns. Archaeology in the Field Series. London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd. pp. 47, 52, 61, 62, 64. ISBN 0-460-04194-0.
  • Kirby, D. P. (2000). The Earliest English Kings. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-24211-8.
  • Lobel, Mary D, ed. (1962). A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 7: Thame and Dorchester Hundreds. Victoria County History. pp. 39–64.
  • Sherwood, Jennifer; Pevsner, Nikolaus (1974). Oxfordshire. The Buildings of England. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. pp. 576–586. ISBN 0-14-071045-0.
  • Booth, P. (2014). A Late Roman Military Burial from the Dyke Hills, Dorchester on Thames, Oxfordshire. Britannia 45(4), 243-273.
  • Booth, P. (2012). The Discovering Dorchester-on-Thames project : A report on the excavations, 2007-2011. Dorchester-on-Thames: Parochial Church Council, Abbey Church of St. Peter and St. Paul.
  • Dawson Tim, Falys, Mundin, Pine, Platt, Falys, Ceri, et al. (2017). The Southern Cemetery of Roman Dorchester-on-Thames (Monograph (Thames Valley Archaelogical Services) ; 29).
  • Dickinson, T. (1974). Cuddesdon and Dorchester-on-Thames, Oxfordshire : Two early Saxon princely sites in Wessex (BAR British series ; 1). Oxford: British Archaeological Reports.
  • Frere, S. (1964). Excavations at Dorchester on Thames, 1962. London: Royal Archaeological Institute.
  • Gibson, A. (1992). POSSIBLE TIMBER CIRCLES AT DORCHESTER‐ON‐THAMES. Oxford Journal of Archaeology, 11(1), 85-91.
  • Marshall, W. (2015). Dorchester-on-Thames, diocese of. The Oxford Companion to British History.
  • Morrison, W., & Crawford, S. (2013). Re-assessing Toys in the Archaeological Assemblage: A Case Study from Dorchester-on-Thames. Childhood in the Past, 6(1), 52-65.
  • Peveler, Edward C. (2016). Reassessing Roman ceramic building materials: Economics, logistics and social factors in the supply of tile to Dorchester on Thames, Oxfordshire. Arqueología De La Arquitectura, (13), Arqueología de la arquitectura, 13.
  • Tiller, Kate, ed. (2005). Dorchester Abbey: Church and People 635–2005. Stonesfield Press. ISBN 0-9527126-4-4.

External links[edit]