Sherborne, Dorset:not one but two castles

Sherborne is positioned in the North West part of Dorset near the border with Somerset.

sherborne abbey

Gettiing there

The town is well served by roads from all directions and has rail links to London Waterloo and Exeter St Davids with trains run by South West Trains.There is ample paid parking in the town centre.You can get a three to eight day parking permit from the Tourist information office located in Digby Road DT9 3NL phone 01935 815341.

If you are coming by train then book with Rail Easy here:

Sherborne landmarks

Your staring point should be the Conduit at the bottom of Cheap Street which was used as the monk's lavatories being moved here after the dissolution of the monastery in 1539.

If you are facing up Cheap Street go left past the Conduit and you will find the Sherborne Museum located in Church Lane DT9 3BP which asks for a £1 adult entry fee.

The museum is quite small and will not take you long to move round.It includes a history of the Sherborne Missal which is one of the treasures of the British Library.

This manuscript is one of the masterpieces of late medieval book painting written at the beginning of the 15th century for the Benedictine Abbey of Sherborne.

It contains text and music to be used in the Christian service of Mass and the best example of such a book to have survived the Middle Ages.In has many images of birds that existed in the Middle Ages.

Moving on up to the first floor there is a section of how Sherborne was bombed by mistake in 1940.

The German bombers mistook Sherborne for Yeovil and dropped there payload killing a number of people.

sherborne castle interior

After leaving the Museum you will arrive at the Abbey which was founded by St Aldhelm in 705.It is famous for it's fan vaulted the earliest and possibly finest in England.

Relations were not always good between the townsfolk and the monks who resented being pushed out of "their" church so they were delighted when the Reformation came and they got it back.

Look out for the monument to John Digby Third and last Earl of Bristol in the south transept.He played an important role in throwing Dorset behind William of Orange at the time of the Glorious Revolution in 1688 which saw the accession of William to the throne.

Please make a donation in the box provided as you leave the Abbey,these buildings always cost mega bucks to run.

Retail therapy and eating

olivers sherborne dorset

Come out of the Abbey and then walk back down to Cheap Street which is the main retail street of Sherborne.Thankfully it has a few local retailers not just the nationals you find in every town.it has a fair few antique shops and also some good coffee houses.

My friend and I visited Oliver's which is at the top end of Cheap Street.It does some good cakes and quiches.You can sit on long tables and read the paper or go through to the back which has a bit more privacy.We had a quiche egg mayo sandwich pot of tea and hot chocolate for about £12.

Keep going up Cheap Street and turn right into Newland.You will see on your right Sherborne House which reached the final of the BBC Restoration programme.It has now been sold to a developer who is going to turn the building into offices thought the ground floor will remain as an arts centre.

Work seems well underway as at the time of writing (April 2010) scaffolding covers much of the building.

sherborne house

Sherborne Castles old and new

Now if you kept walking down Newland to Oborne Road you can cross the railway line and reach the Old Castle.

sherborne old castle

This is maintained by English Heritage which is open from the beginning of April to the end of October.Access is 10am to 5pm and 6m in July and August.

Cost is £3.20 adult and £1.50 for children.Please note you cannot access the New Castle which you will see across a large ornamental lake which is owned and run by the Digby family.

sherborne new castle

You will have to go down New Road and get access that way paying another £4.90 per adult to access just the gardens and £9.50 to get inside the castle as well

The old castle met much the same fate as Corfe Castle in that it backed the Royalists during the Civil War who of course lost.So when the Parliamentarians won the castle was pulled down just like Corfe.

It seems to me the demolition party did a more thorough job at Sherborne than Corfe as there are fewer walls standing.

The castle was built in the 12th century for Roger Bishop of Salisbury and eventually ended up in the hands of Sir Walter Raleigh the favourite of Elizabeth I.

After his fall from favour it passed to the Digby family.

The Southwest gate tower and part of the great tower are all that remain.My vote goes to Corfe Castle.

Sherborne New Castle

sherborne castle close up

This was built by Raleigh in 1594 and is reached via a long sweeping drive after you have handed over your entrance fee.Look out for the impressive stables on the left.The car park is to the right of the house.The castle is open April to the end of October.

The Digbys added four wings in the 1620s with a further Georgian extension in 1787.In WW1 the castle was used as a hospital for wounded soldiers and in WW2 it was an HQ for the D-Day landings.

As well as viewing the rooms you can have lunch in the Tea Room which was the Nursery.From the tea room you can see a Roman Mosaic which was found at nearby Lenthay and installed on the floor of the dairy.

It depicts Apollo playing a lyre and Marsyas a double flute.

sherborne mosaic

Weddings Parties,Anything

If you are getting married soon you might want to consider having both your civil ceremony and reception here.

orangery sherborne castle

The Orangery is used for the service and a marquee can be constructed behind said Orangery for the reception.If you want more details call 01935 813182.The place can also be booked for seminars ,corporate events,and private functions.

You can walk around the lake up to the ramparts of the old castle but as I said you cannot gain access.However the view back across the lake to the New Castle is the best of all in my opinion,so make the effort.

However at the beginning of May there is open access between the two.Check the website Sherborne Castle for details.

Events on at the castle in 2010

There is a summer fair on 31st May a classic car festival on 18th July a vintage wine fair on 21st July and a big firework display on 6th November again check out the Castle website for booking details.

So there you have it this is one of the better Dorset towns and I've been to most of them.Any locals reading this if you think I've missed something use the "Contact the Guru"Page shown on the navigation bar.

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