People’s Dorset

Sweep through around 500,000 years of people’s history, from the Palaeolithic to the present day, on Dorset’s key themes of land, sea and community.

Marvel at objects from some of Britain’s most important archaeological sites, from spectacular Bronze Age gold and finds from Maiden Castle – one of Britain’s largest Iron Age hillforts – to treasures from Roman Dorchester. Let your fingers walk Dorset’s ancient landscape on a large touchscreen. Then head forwards in time to see the belongings of Dorset’s prestigious families alongside items revealing agricultural workers’ hard lives. Move on to 20th-century Dorset to see how inventive people, creativity and enterprise helped shape its recent history.

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT

The Victorian Hall will be hosting a private event on Friday 10th June 2022, all day and Saturday 11th June 2022, 12 noon to 5:00 pm, and therefore will be closed to visitors.

What's Inside

Highlights

1840 

Rural worker’s shoe              

Workers’ shoes rarely survive because they were often used until they wore out. This shoe was discovered in a barn and still has mud and…

1850-1900

Sunbonnet    

Cotton bonnets shielded women’s faces and necks from the sun and rain. They shared similar print patterns or colours with the dresses women wore.  …

c.6th to 7th century CE

Germanic style glass bowl fragment

This was a strongly curved, low drinking vessel with molten glass trailed around it for decoration. It is rare and only normally seen in the…

c.1800-1851

Brass dog collars

Reverend Thomas Warren, the Anglican vicar of Tolpuddle’s St John the Evangelist church, used these collars to identify his dogs. Warren witnessed an agreement over…

c.1800-1900

Costrel, Verwood pottery

Verwood produced many ceramic products. Their most famous was the Dorset Costrel – a flask with ear-like lugs, used by labourers for taking cider or…

1850-1900

Shepherd’s smock

Dorset shepherd Job Green owned this smock made from hardwearing cotton and gathered at the front to give it shape. The thick fabric, stains and…

1857

Tolpuddle trade show sign  

The Fowl and Fatstock Show was a traditional event when farmers came to town to show off their market-ready birds and animals. People would travel…

43-410 CE

Engraved glass bowl from Colliton Park, Dorchester  

Engraved with followers of Dionysus, Greek god of wine.

43-410 CE

Shale table leg from a three-legged table 

Found in excavations at Colliton Park, Dorchester. Kimmeridge shale was used for many objects in Roman Dorset and beyond.

c.1695

The Bond family raised-work box   

Raised, or stump, work was a popular 17th-century embroidery technique. Its padded decoration often featured biblical motifs, plants and flowers, but the figures on this…

c.1720

Embroidered shoe   

18th-century shoes often matched the colours of women’s luxurious silk gowns. Professional embroiderers would have decorated the fabric with floral designs ready for the shoemaker…

c.2,200-1,950 BCE

The Tarrant Valley lunula  

Named after the shape of a crescent moon, this Bronze Age lunula is very rare and the only one known from Dorset. These objects were…

c.100 BCE - 53 CE

Stone and glass beads, both local and imported 

From an Iron Age burial at Langton Herring, these beads belonged to a young woman.

Early Bronze Age

Bronze Age beaker    

Beakers of this type are associated with the first objects made from metal. This beaker was found in Broadmayne.

70-50 BCE

Hoard of sixteen gold Durotrigian staters

Staters were the earliest coinage in Britain. Hoards of them were sometimes treated in similar ways to other deposits of special objects.

43-410 CE

Bronze plaque fragment, with engraved figure  

The engraved figure of Minerva discovered during excavations of the Roman Temple, Maiden Castle.

43-410 CE

Plait of red human hair  

Hair was preserved in several graves at the Roman cemetery at Poundbury because bodies were packed with gypsum. Women wore their hair long, often plaited…

1700-1750

Deerstalker hat

Illicit deer hunting often took place in the evening when men ventured out wearing hats made of straw and bramble strips for camouflage. They also…

19th century

Selection of Dorset buttons

Dorset buttons were first produced in Shaftesbury in the early 17th century. By the 19th century over 100 different types of button were made in…

20th century

The Dorset Ooser

Every year Morris dancers use this replica Ooser for their May Day celebrations on a hillside near Cerne Abbas. The monstrous mask has its origins…

1873

Moule earth closet

Dorchester vicar Henry Moule (1801-1880) worked for better sanitation in the squalid slums of his Fordington parish. He invented this simple but effective composting toilet…

Mid-13th century

Mosaic fragment from Wimborne Minster

Saint Cuthburga founded Wimborne Minster around 700 CE as a monastery for monks and nuns. This mosaic fragment is thought to come from her…

c.1940-1945

Spitfire windscreen, goggles and microphone

Sgt Kenneth Christopher Holland served with Squadron 152 at RAF Warmwell in Dorset. On 25 September 1940, flying Spitfire N3173 he was shot down…

c.1915

Mabel Stobart’s medical kit

Mabel Stobart (1862-1954) used this medical kit to treat her patients during the First World War. Before the war she had set up a medical…

c.1480-1483

Jousting helmet

This helm was used at ‘Jousting of the peace’ tournaments by a knight of the Browning family. Until the Second World War, it was displayed…

1886

Statue of William Barnes

Maquette for a statue of William Barnes by Edwin Roscoe Mullins (1848-1907)…

c.1880

William Barnes’ shoes

William Barnes (1801-1886) was well known and respected in Dorchester as a teacher, rector and one of the founders of Dorset Museum. A writer of…

Mid-3rd century to mid-4th century CE

Glass jug from Bucknowle Roman Villa

A large, oval-shaped glass jug with distinctive chain handle. A rare survivor, this is one of the finest examples of Roman glassware ever discovered in…

Iron Age

Skeleton of dog from Maiden Castle

Dogs were common on Iron Age sites. They had roles herding livestock, as guard dogs and pets. Most were a similar size to this one.

4th century CE

Roman mosaic roundel from Hemsworth Roman villa

This round central section of a mosaic floor shows the head of the Roman sea god Neptune, with crab legs and claws growing from his…

c.900-1000 CE

The Wareham Sword

Made of silver, bronze and horn, this sword was found in the River Frome. The name engraved on it begins ‘Aethel…’, a name only associated…

800-600 BCE

The Langton Matravers Axe Hoard PD

This hoard contained 373 intact or broken bronze axes, and 404 fragments of bronze. It is one of the largest hoards found in Britain. The…

Late Bronze Age

The Winfrith Newburgh flesh hook (reconstructed)

Found as part of a hoard discovered in the 1930s, this is an extremely rare pronged object known as a flesh hook. Their exact use…

Iron Age c.25-50 CE

The Portesham mirror

This bronze mirror came from a grave close to the coast, and belonged to a middle-aged woman. There are only about 60 of these mirrors…

Late Bronze Age

The Chickerell neck rings

These two Late Bronze Age neck rings are constructed of solid gold bar. They were influenced by plain designs from Spain, western France and Ireland.

Early Bronze Age

The Newton Peverill jadeite axe   

Fewer than 20 jadeite axes are known from Neolithic Britain and this is one of the finest examples. It was made from stone taken from…

Early Bronze Age

The Clandon Barrow lozenge   

Decorated with a series of six deeply incised diamonds of diminishing size, punched dots and chevrons. The gold may be from Ireland…

c.2,200-1,950 BCE

The Tarrant Valley lunula

Named after the shape of a crescent moon, this Bronze Age lunula is very rare and the only one known from Dorset. These objects were…