Norman Wareham

1066 – 1300

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Bayeux Tapestry
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Wareham's Norman keep

Mentioned in the Domesday book...

The Norman Conquest of 1066 would have had a profound effect on the Saxon town of Wareham. There is a mention of Wareham in the Doomsday Book, the report commissioned by William the Conqueror in 1086 as an inventory of all the assets previously owned by the Saxons.

Wareham’s entry reveals there was around 350 houses in the town although around half were classed as derelict or destroyed, perhaps to make way for the building of Wareham’s new motte and bailey Norman castle (located in the south west of the town on a mount overlooking the river Frome –  now called ‘Castle Close’ later destroyed). Excavations of the walls have also revealed that some of the stone wall on top of the earthworks was robbed and most likely used to build the new castle. The walls would never retain their defensive strength again. The castle is believed to have been completed around 1110.

Despite the upheaval on the Norman invasion Wareham continued to flourish due to its ideal location an important sea-port.

1135 – 1153

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Wareham under siege
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King Stephen

'Anarchy' comes to Wareham...

Upheaval returned to Wareham during the 1135-1153 so called ‘Anarchy civil war’ fought over the succession crisis between the King Steven and his cousin, the Empress Matilda over the English throne.  The war resulted in widespread breakdown of law and order throughout England. In 1139, the powerful Baron Baldwin de Redvers landed at Wareham to capture the port for the Empress Matilda but he was driven back to Corfe Castle by Stephen’s army.  During the war Wareham’s Castle was used as a prison. On several occasions the town came under siege as attempts were made to rescue the important captives held there.

By the late 12th century Wareham castle fell out of use as King John favoured the nearby Corfe Castle instead.

There is a legend that a hermit, known as Peter de Pomfret prophesied that King John’s reign would come to an end. Imprisoned at Corfe Castle the hermit was was tied to a horse and dragged from Corfe Castle to Wareham. The spot on the walls where he was then hanged became known as the bloody bank.

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Ale testing at the Court Leet
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Bread testing at the Court Leet

Wareham's Court Leet...

One remaining relic of Wareham’s mediaeval history is its ‘Court Leet.’ The court is an early form of “trading standards office” which ensured that the traders gave good measure when brewing ale and fair weight when baking bread.

Also of interest is that Wareham can trace its town mayors back to 1336 and every name is recorded on panels in the Council Chamber.

Let's continue our travel through Wareham's history...!

Prehistoric Period

Prehistoric evidence has been found in Wareham, from worked flint to ancient huts…
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Roman Period

Take a trip back to the Roman age, where a Roman villa has been found…
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Saxon Age

King Alfred the Great’s battles against the Vikings, and the building of Wareham’s famous walls...
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Norman Age

During the ‘Anarchy’ civil war Wareham is again at the centre of British events…
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Renaissance period

Tudor to Stuart Period. Clashes in Wareham between the Roundheads and Cavaliers during the English Civil War, and the bloody executions on Wareham’s walls…
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Georgian Period

The Great Fire of Wareham and why Wareham was described as a ‘Rotten Borough' during this period… !
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Victorian Era

The industrial revolution results in a workhouse being built, but also later a brickworks, a pottery factory, and a brewery...
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20th Century

Wareham plays an important role in the two World Wars, and later in the century, while it loses industries, it gains thousands of tourists…
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Useful links / Further reading…

Wareham Town Museum located at the Town Hall in East Street has an interesting display of local Norman era finds. Museum website here…

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