History, Heritage and Factual Books on Dorset

Below we show some of the best history, heritage and factual books on Dorset, including The Little Book, history books and Secret Places of West Dorset.

King Alfred: A Man on the Move, by Dr Paul Kelly

Dr Kelly invites the reader to travel with him on a journey from the birth of King Alfred, passing through his life and battles, and arriving at the mysteries surrounding his death and final resting place.

This book is based on the author’s personal journey across the locations that are associated with King Alfred, combining his on-the-ground experiences with information gained through research. This book aims to make it easier for people to know where these places are and to create a greater appreciation of them.

Paul Kelly is a retired dentist and has a PhD from the University of Birmingham. He is now a keen amateur historian and lives in Dorset with his partner Danielle and a big black cat called Sidney.

From the author: “I start at Alfred’s reputed place of birth, which was Wantage, Oxfordshire. I continue to trace him across his military engagements with the Vikings, including at the famous battles at Ashdown and Ethandun (Edington), but also at less famous engagements such as at Reading, Exeter, Wilton, Basing and Wareham. I cover the “truce” with Guthrum, the Viking leader, and also the later engagements in Kent when the Vikings landed on the north and south coasts of that county. I trace him up the River Lea into Hertfordshire where he stopped the Vikings escaping by obstructing the river. Finally, I cover his burial locations in Winchester and I examine what there is to know about the current location of his remains. My research is based on a combination of written documents and my own journeys to explore the locations associated with King Alfred. This led me to try to find enigmatic locations such as Egbert’s Stone and Iglea (both covered in the book), not to mention the important battle sites of Ashdown and Ethandun. I also look at Alfred’s refuge at Athelney, on the Somerset Levels, and speculate as to where he might have been before he arrived there. I also spent some time trying to understand King Alfred’s relationship with London and his expanding influence beyond Wessex.

Holloway, by Robert Macfarlane, Dan Richards and Stanley Donwood

Holloway – a hollow way, a sunken path. A route that centuries of foot-fall, hoof-hit, wheel-roll and rain-run have harrowed deep down into bedrock.

In July 2005, Robert Macfarlane and Roger Deakin – author of Wildwood – travelled to explore the holloways of South Dorset‘s sandstone.

They found their way into a landscape of shadows, spectres & great strangeness.

Six years later, after Roger Deakin’s early death, Robert Macfarlane returned to the holloway with the artist Stanley Donwood and writer Dan Richards.

The book is about those journeys and that landscape. 

Moving in the spaces between social history, psychogeography and travel writing, Holloway is a beautiful and haunted work of art.

The Little Book of Dorset, by David Hilliam

The Little Book of Dorset is a funny, fast-paced, fact-packed compendium of the places, people, legends and true stories about the county’s past and present.

Here you can read about Dorset’s extraordinary characters, strange ghostly happenings, royal connections, peculiar traditions, weird pastimes, bones and curious burials. Not forgotten are the secrets of the fossil-rich coast, towns and villages with odd names and strong literary connections. A reliable reference book and a quirky guide, this can be dipped into time and time again to reveal something new about the heritage and the mysteries of this beautiful county.

This is a remarkably engaging little book – essential reading for visitors and locals alike. From Mary Anning to Thomas Hardy, and from the Tolpuddle Martyrs to a statue of Bournemouth’s first Inspector of Nuisances sitting on a loo, there are literally hundreds of stories featured here to surprise even those who think they know Dorset well.

50 Gems of Dorset: The History & Heritage of the Most Iconic Places, by John Megoran

Famous for its spectacular coastal scenery, its beautiful beaches and ancient castles, Dorset is a county with huge and diverse appeal.

From the delights of Lyme Regis to lovely Lulworth Cove, this book takes the reader on fascinating journey through spectacular scenery, sleepy villages and ancient castles. Beaches and coves, castles and museums and the magnificent Jurassic Coast, they re all here in a lovingly painted picture of Dorset today.

In 50 Gems of Dorset, author John Megoran explores some of the places that make this part of the country so special.

Secret Places of West Dorset, by Louise Hodgson

Highlighting some of Dorset’s most beautiful, untouched places, providing ideas for day visits. Clear directions and suggested walks allow you to explore for yourself and make further discoveries. The author provides a rich insight and deep understanding of the Dorset landscape and how we relate to it.

Exploring the Quiet Lanes and Villages of West Dorset, by Jackie Winter

For motorists, motorcyclists and cyclists, a practical book to inspire you to explore Dorset. It contains nine routes with maps and illustrations.

The author has spent the last 40 years cycling the area and shares her discoveries and fascinating snippets about Dorset. The quiet lanes of West Dorset are made for exploring (by two wheels or four). Away from hectic tourist routes, the old villages and gently rolling countryside entice you to linger awhile and admire the view.

Dorset History in 101 Objects, by Terry Hearing

THIS BOOK is an account of selected objects which illustrate the threads of the History of Dorset. Dorset is full of “objects”, and each one is a piece of History.

The definition of the word ‘object’ has been taken very widely, from the tiny Mesolithic microliths to the strip fields of Portland. Some of the objects are bizarre, such as the cannonball in the wall of a ladies’ lavatory in Weymouth; some are very beautiful, like the Tabernacle in Milton Abbey; some are huge, such as the prehistoric hillforts; some are mundane utilities, like roadside signposts; some are merely names like the list of the parish priests who died serving their flocks when the Black Death swept in.

All have their stories, and this book looks at just one hundred and one, out of countless millions. Each short chapter gives the flavour of the object to show its importance in the continuing story of a county rich in the remains of the lives of our predecessors.

Prehistoric Dorset, by John Gale

Dorset is one of the country’s richest counties in archaeological remains and over the last 30 years there have been a great number of new discoveries. This detailed, up-to-date and well-illustrated study of prehistoric monuments in and around Dorset explores the changing aspects of the county’s landscapes through the ages, captured by the monuments that were constructed within them.

Moving chronologically from the funerary and ceremonial landscapes of long barrows, cursus and henge monuments of the Neolithic period down to the war-like hillfort dominated landscapes of the pre-Roman Iron Age, John Gale illustrated the unique and diverse nature of these largely misunderstood prehistoric monuments and explains how they are closely linked to the landscapes around them.

History, Heritage and Factual Books on Dorset

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