Oxfordshire A Glorious County. Dorchester-on-Thames.

Abbey Guest House, Dorchester on Thames, Oxfordshire

One of the places featured in the book Oxfordshire A Glorious County is Dorchester-on-Thames.

Dorchester-on-Thames has been described as ‘the most historic spot in Oxfordshire’. It is a charming village with a picturesque High Street, the splendour of the Abbey Church of St Peter & St Paul, and many attractive houses some dating back to medieval times. It has been one of the delightful locations used in episodes of ‘Midsomer Murders’.

Situated near the junction of the River Thames and the River Thame it had a Roman garrison here. It was also once a cathedral city and today the Abbey Church is a reminder of the former glory.

Many visitors come to Dorchester to see the Abbey Church. A massive wooden lychgate leads from the High Street to the former Abbey Guesthouse which now houses a museum, and the Abbey Church.

The Abbey is one of the early shrines of Christianity in the country. Dorchester was given to St Birinus by the King of Wessex and it became a missionary centre for the south of England. In 1170 the cathedral became an Augustinian Abbey and the current church was built which has been described as ‘a glorious building’. Nothing remains of the Saxon Cathedral built by St Birinus and the monastic buildings were virtually all destroyed after the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536.

The Abbey Church was purchased by Richard Beauforest, ‘A great and rich man of Dorchester’, and he presented it to the parish.

The church is a beautiful building which is two hundred feet long. It has a superb Norman lead font decorated with eleven apostles, and a unique Jesse window which has stone tree branches with carved figures and richly coloured glass.  The church has some of the finest thirteenth century heraldic glass in England and a marvellous gallery of sculpture.

The Lady Chapel has the shrine of St Birinus. Dedicated in 1964 it incorporates fragments of the medieval shrine which had been discovered in a blocked-up doorway in the nineteenth century.

Two former coaching inns remain in the town. There were several other inns in the town as well as the coaching inns catering for travellers on roads from Gloucester and Oxford to London.

The village has a number of curiosities including an unusual feature for Oxfordshire in a thatched cob wall in the High Street. A restored preaching cross stands in the churchyard and the George Hotel has a marvellous reminder of the coaching days standing near its carriageway.

Locations in Dorchester have appeared in a number of episodes of ‘Midsomer Murders’ including ‘Things that Go Bump in the Night’, ‘The Ballad of Midsomer County’, and ‘The House in the Woods’.

Visitors from many countries are attracted to the village its marvellous Abbey Church.