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Dorchester (dôrˈchĭstər) [key], town (1991 pop. 13,734), county seat of Dorset, S central England. Dorchester is a busy agricultural market, especially for sheep and lambs. Printing, leatherworking, brewing, and the manufacture of agricultural machinery are important industries. Nearby is Maiden Castle, a fortification originally built in prehistoric times. In Roman times, Dorchester was called Durnovaria; Maumbury Rings, another pre-Roman site, was used by the Romans as an amphitheater. Baron Jeffreys of Wem held his Bloody Assizes in the town in 1685. It was also the site of the 1834 trial of the "Tolpuddle Martyrs," important in the history of British trade unionism. Thomas Hardy lived in Dorchester, which is the "Casterbridge" of his Wessex novels.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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