The first records of an inn on the site of The King’s Arms date back to the 16th century. Though its roots are medieval, it is doubtful whether any of this earlier building survives, with the current building dating from 1720. Built on the main route from London to the South West, it underwent a large-scale rebuilding in the early 19th century when it was owned by the Earl of Shaftesbury, a major landowner in Dorchester. The resulting exemplary and stately Georgian good looks are still striking today: a porch with Doric columns; an entablature carrying cast iron railings; and large bow windows on the first and second floors.
Dorchester is the heart of Thomas Hardy country, the Casterbridge of his novels. The King’s Arms featured in his writing and his life. He dined here, wrote here, and welcomed friends here. Literary friends, including Robert Louis Stephenson, in 1885, stayed at The King’s Arms whilst visiting Hardy. It is presumed much of The Mayor of Casterbridge was written here between June 1883 and June 1885.
By 1888 The King’s Arms was owned by the Rt.Hon Henry Gerard, Baron Alington of Crichel. Then, sadly, for most of the 20th Century it was owned by large breweries and subject to corporate mergers and buyouts. It passed from local Weymouth based John Groves & Sons, to Greenalls, Scottish & Newcastle and The Spirit Group. In 2005 the property was sold by The Spirit Group to a local property developer Mark Bowley and refurbished only to be sold again two years later to another local entrepreneur, Simon Pickup, before going into receivership. Throughout this time the many original feature of this lovely building, were sadly ripped out and covered over.
The Stay Original Company stepped in and bought the building from the receiver in 2015.They invested in the refurbishing of this very special historic building, breathing life again into an illustrious property, restoring it to the high level it deserves and finally re-opening it again in September 2020.