Eight miles (13 km) southwest of Poole is the ancient riverside market town of Wareham. Its position as the highest navigable point on the River Frome made it a target for Viking raiders and the river is still one of the nicest ways to visit Wareham.
Strategically placed between the rivers Piddle and Frome with access to a seaport, Wareham has been an important settlement 1,500 years. It was so important that it was a royal burial place; when Beorhtric, King of Wessex died in 802 AD he was buried at Wareham.
In 876 AD King Alfred the Great drove out the marauding Danes and surrounded the town with earthen ramparts to protect it from subsequent invaders. These grassy banks are still clearly visible, and the sign posted ‘Walls Walk’ offers fine views over the meandering River Piddle.
Thriving Market Town
Wareham is a thriving market town with more than 200 buildings of architectural and historical interest. A lot of activity occurs along the Quay and a weekly Thursday market is held in the town centre. Many of the old buildings house restaurants, tea shops and a wide variety of pubs.
St Martin on the Wall
St Martin on the Wall
church at the end of North Street
is Dorset’s oldest church and houses the magnificent life-sized Purbeck stone effigy of Lawrence of Arabia (T E Lawrence
). This tiny Saxon church is one attraction not to be missed.
Few of the medieval buildings survived the 1762 great fire which destroyed two thirds of the town. However, in East Street the John Streche almshouses, built in 1418, are still standing. Also a number of the town’s Georgian facades hide medieval buildings.
With such an ancient town, one would expect to find the remains of a castle. One was built on the large mound in the southwest quarter of the town and it was here that King Edward the Martyr stayed before he was murdered at nearby Corfe Castle
in 978 AD. The King’s body was brought back to Wareham
and his marble coffin can be seen in Lady St Mary church. The King’s body was later removed to Shaftesbury
Abbey where it became a focus for pilgrims.
Until the Normans arrived in 1066, succession to the English throne was a precarious affair. In 1015 King Canute attacked Wareham to claim the throne but the little town recovered from this onslaught and continued to thrive.
The long and fascinating history of Wareham is told in the Town Museum in East Street - admission is free.
There is a lot to see and enjoy in historic Wareham
. Take a boat trip on the river, enjoy a pleasant meal or a drink in one of the riverside pubs or stroll along the grassy town ramparts and visit the ancient church of St Martin on the Wall
. Visit the Wareham TIC
in South Street
for maps and guides.
Plan Your Visit
Accommodation - Search & Book through Lastminute.com here: External Link
- By Car:
The town is situated on the A351 Poole
-Swanage road and at the eastern terminus of the A352 road to Dorchester
and Sherborne, both roads now bypassing the town centre.
- By Rail:
South Western Mainline trains from London
Waterloo to Weymouth stop at Wareham
providing a connection to Swanage Steam Railway
on special occasions.
- By River:
View Wareham from the water
Google Maps - Wareham