Four hundred years of history
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.
A favourite haunt of Thomas Hardy
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.
Dorchester, once a fortified walled Roman Town, Durnovaria, has been the county town of Dorset since its royal charter of 1305.