Learn more about the Isle of Purbeck

in the Isle of Purbeck

Wareham is a Saxon walled town on the north edge of the Isle of Purbeck, between the rivers Frome and Piddle.

Built on a low dry island between the marshy river plains, Wareham became an important cross-channel port in Saxon times.

The town's strategic setting has made it a significant settlement throughout its long history. Excavations at the nearby Bestwall site have produced evidence of transient early Mesolithic activity dating to around 9000 BCE.

Wareham's oldest features are the town walls and ancient earth ramparts surrounding the town, likely built by Alfred the Great in the 9th century to defend the town from the Danes as part of his system of burh towns. The Danes invaded and occupied Wareham in 876 and only left after Alfred returned with an army and made a payment to Danegeld. In 998, they attacked again, and in 1015 an invasion led by King Canute left the town in ruins.

The town was a Saxon royal burial place, notably that of King Beorhtric (d. 802). Also, in the town at the ancient minster church of Lady St. Mary is the coffin said to be that of Edward the Martyr, dating from 978. His remains had been hastily buried there and were later taken from Wareham to Shaftesbury Abbey in north Dorset.

In 1762, a fire destroyed two-thirds of the town, which has been rebuilt in Georgian architecture with red brick and Purbeck limestone, following the earlier street pattern.

The town is divided into four quarters by the two main roads, which cross at right angles. The medieval almshouses escaped the fire, and some of the Georgian façades disguised earlier buildings which also survived.

Wareham from the Church
Wareham Quay
The Quay

With the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Wareham became a garrison town with up to 7,000 soldiers living and training locally.

The camp was relocated to nearby Bovington in 1922. The town survived the Second World War largely intact, although five houses were destroyed when a bomb dropped by a German aeroplane fell near St Martin's Church in 1942.

Further information about the town of Wareham can be found on the following websites:



Click to view Church at Wareham - Ref: 585
Click to view Quay at Wareham - Ref: 588
Click to view Wareham river at dusk - Ref: 1083
Click to view Wareham River - Ref: 1124
Click to view Wareham Quay - Ref: 1634
Click to view Wareham River sunrise - Ref: 1736
Click to view Wareham Town Hall and Square - Ref: 2231



Blue Pool
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Arne Nature Reserve and Village
Attraction - 3.09 miles away

Purbeck Mineral and Mining Museum
Attraction - 3.38 miles away

Church Knowle
Attraction - 3.50 miles away

Dorset Adventure Park
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Corfe Castle
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