We love our little corner of West Dorset, it’s buzzing with life, has a rich history and stunning countryside – in short, it has so much to offer visitors to Dorset.
Our shepherd’s huts are high in the hills above the picturesque market town of Beaminster (pronounced bem-minster). Beaminster is nestled in a bowl shaped valley surrounded by hills where ancient trackways and burial mounds suggest human activity has taken place here for over 3000 years.
The recorded history of Beaminster dates back to around the 7th century (where it was called “Bebyngminster”). By the Domesday Book of 1086 it had changed to “Betminster” and was recorded as being owned by the Bishop of Salisbury and described as “very large” with 78 households.
Beaminster prosperity and growth came from the wool cloth trade and the manufacture of sailcloth and rope from locally grown hemp and flax (this was a key industry in this part of Dorset and nearby Bridport has many long buildings specifically designed for the manufacture of rope). In 1284 it was granted a charter for a market once a week and a three-day fair in September.
In 1644 the town had a major set-back. During the Civil War the town was strongly Parliamentarian, and Royalist forces plundered Beaminster causing a devastating fire in a thatched roof that spread and destroyed three quarters of the town’s buildings.
Visiting Beaminster Today
Surrounded by some of the highest hills in Dorset – this area provides some of the finest views to be found anywhere.
Today, the square is an attractive mix of late-18th and early 19th century buildings with the Robinson Memorial, known as “Julia”, in the centre (a covered cross erected in 1906 by Vincent Robinson of Parnham House in memory of his sister). There are some fantastic independent shops, and lovely places to eat (whether a quick lunch or a special dinner out). Looking back at historical photographs, the centre of Beaminster has changed very little in the last hundred years. Then, as now, shops were mainly located in the Square and in Hogshill Street and many of the buildings have hardly altered.
The parish church of St Mary is one of the earliest buildings in Beaminster and is worth a visit. Built on the site of an earlier Norman church it has a 100-foot tower, erected in about 1500, which is one of the highest in Dorset. The eastern end of the church has elements from of an earlier 13th-century building, and the font is 12th century. One of the carvings on the west face is a man with a fuller’s bat and mill used in the flax trade – a link to the town’s heritage.
Travelling from Mosterton you go through Beaminster Tunnel – which was opened in 1832 to create a new north-south route for access by carriages – and is today the only pre-railway road tunnel still in everyday use.
Culture of Beaminster
Beyond the bricks and mortar Beaminster is immortalised in Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles, where it is called Emminster.
It is well worth visiting Beaminster during the wonderful Beaminster Festival. It happens each year and includes a wide range of wonderful arts performances, exhibitions and plays.