Dorset County Museum

Dorset County Museum is independently owned and managed by the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society.

It has an eclectic range of works relating to the local area covering as diverse subject areas as archaeology, geology, social history, fine and decorative art, photography, natural history and costume and textiles.

Permanent collections

Highlights of the collection include the Moule Dry-Earth Closet which was selected by the BBC and the British Museum as one of the A History of the World in 100 Objects, the Reverend Henry Moule of Dorchester invented this composting toilet in 1859.
The floor of the Victorian Hall at the museum contains the Durngate Street Roman Mosaic Pavement and is one of the few places in Europe where you can actually walk on a Roman mosaic.
The museum has a strong collection of portraits including work by Gainsborough and Thomas Beach. Frederick Whitehead's scenery of Thomas Hardy's Wessex is well represented. From 1893 he travelled in Dorset for six months each year in his caravan, with his wife Beatrice who entered into the spirit of the lifestyle by dressing up as a gypsy and telling fortunes. There is also a portfolio of Hardy's Wessex views painted by John Everett, the Dorset-born artist and friend of Augustus John and Thomas Hardy.
 Included among the museum's sculpture collection is a maquette of Dorset-based Elisabeth Frink's Martyrs, commemorating all in the county who had died for their faith.

Art Funded works

Dorset County Museum has received nine grants from the Art Fund totalling over £100,000. Highlights include three portraits by George Romney of Thomas Rackett the Elder and his family. Rackett had been rector at Spetisbury, Dorset for 59 years. Thanks to Art Fund assistance the museum also has amongst its collection two Bronze age neckrings; the Portesham Mirror dating to 40 AD and a Baroque decorative Coach Panel by Dorset born painter James Thornhill which, it is believed, was painted for one of George I's coaches.


Visitor information

The gallery is situated in the centre of Dorchester and also has a shop and café. Monthly guided tours of the Writer's Gallery takes place on the second Tuesday of every month.

Art we've helped buy at Dorset County Museum

Venue details

Dorset County Museum High West Street, Dorchester Dorset DT1 1XA 01305 262735

Entry details

Free with National Art Pass (standard entry £6.35)

1 Apr  –  31 Oct
Mon –  Sat, 10am ​–  5pm

19 July – 13 Sept
Sun, 11am ​–  4pm

1 Nov –  31 Mar
Mon –  Sat, 10am - 4pm

Closed 25 –  27 Dec