Dorset

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Dorset,

county (1991 pop. 645,200), 1,025 sq mi (2,655 sq km), SW England, on the English Channel. The county seat is DorchesterDorchester
, 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.
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, and the county is divided into six administrative districts: West Dorset, Weymouth and Portland, North Dorset, Purbeck, East Dorset, and Christchurch. The rolling country is crossed by the North Dorset and South Dorset downs, chalk ranges running east and west. The rocky coastline has a harbor at PoolePoole,
borough and unitary authority (2011 pop. 147,645), S England, on the north side of Poole Harbour. Poole has shipbuilding, pottery-making, and other industries. It is a naval supply station and a seaplane base with considerable coastal trade.
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, historically part of the county but now administratively separate. The fertile valleys (the Vale of Blackmore, the Stour, and the Frome) are devoted to agriculture. Sheep, cattle, pigs, and poultry are raised, and barley, kale, wheat, oats, beans, and peas are grown. There is also dairy farming. PortlandPortland,
town (1991 pop. 12,945), Dorset, S England. It is on the Isle of Portland, a small rocky peninsula. Portland stone has been used in St. Paul's Cathedral and other important London buildings. Lobsters and crabs are harvested. There is a naval base in Portland harbor.
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 and PurbeckPurbeck, Isle of,
peninsula, c.12 mi (20 km) long and c.8 mi (13 km) wide, Dorset, S England, between Poole Harbour and the English Channel. St. Albans Head is the most southerly point of the rocky shore. Ranges of chalk hills cross the peninsula from east to west.
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 marble are quarried in Dorset. Tourism is increasingly important to the economy; BournemouthBournemouth
, borough and unitary authority (1991 pop. 142,849), S central England, on Poole Bay. It has grown since the middle of the 19th cent. from a small fishing village in the sheltered, pine-wooded valley of the Bourne to a popular resort and fine-arts center.
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, also now administratively separate from the county, has been a resort since the late 19th cent. The county's pre-Roman antiquities include Maiden CastleMaiden Castle,
prehistoric fortress, Dorset, S England, near Dorchester. The finest earthwork in the British Isles, c.120 acres (50 hectares) in area, is there. Two sets of large-scale excavations at this site indicate it was first occupied during the Neolithic period (c.2000 B.
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. Dorset, also known as Dorsetshire, was part of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of WessexWessex
, one of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in England. It may have been settled as early as 495 by Saxons under Cerdic, who is reputed to have landed in Hampshire. Cerdic's grandson, Ceawlin (560–93), annexed scattered Saxon settlements in the Chiltern Hills and drove the
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. Thomas HardyHardy, Thomas,
1840–1928, English novelist and poet, b. near Dorchester, one of the great English writers of the 19th cent.

The son of a stonemason, he derived a love of music from his father and a devotion to literature from his mother.
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 was born there and treats the region in some of his novels. In 1974 the county was reorganized as a nonmetropolitan county, and a section of Hampshire was added.

Dorset

a county in SW England, on the English Channel: mainly hilly but low-lying in the east: the geographical and ceremonial county includes Bournemouth and Poole, which became independent unitary authorities in 1997. Administrative centre: Dorchester. Pop. (excluding unitary authorities): 398 200 (2003 est.). Area (excluding unitary authorities): 2544 sq. km (982 sq. miles)
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