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 established as an important cross channel port in Saxon times.
The town's strategic setting has made it an important 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, 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 of 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 are in fact disguising earlier buildings which also survived.
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 re-located 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: