The Founding of Dorchester, Massachusetts and the Rev. John White

John White's House, Colliton Street, Dorchester

Behind the Museum – Rev. John White’s Rectory, Colliton Street, Dorchester, Dorset © DCM

Here is an article written by Captain J. E. Acland taken from the ‘Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society Volume 42,  1922 concerning ‘The Founding of Dorchester, Massachusetts and the Rev. John White

The founding of Dorchester, Mass., dates from the year 1630, i.e., ten years later than the better known expedition of the Mayflower to Province-town and Plymouth. The movement that induced “The Pilgrims,” to leave their homes, and face the risks and hardships of the “Great Enterprise,” was in its origin of a definitely religious character, thus quaintly recorded by a chronicler of the period.

He writes – “When many most godly and religious people that dissented from the way of worship then established by law in the realm of England were being denied the free exercise of religion after the manner they professed according to the light of God’s Word, and their own consciences, they did remove themselves and their families into the Colony of the Massachusetts Bay in New England, that they might Worship God without any burthensome impositions, which was the very motive and cause of their coming.”

Rev. John White House Plaque

The Plaque on the Rev. John White’s Rectory, Colliton Street, Dorchester, Dorset © DCM

In connection with this Puritan (or Separatist) movement, definite and combined action may be traced as early as 1607, when William Brewster, a gentleman of good social position, organized a Church of Puritans at the little village of Scrooby in Nottinghamshire, where “on the Lord’s Day he entertained the members with great love” in the Manor House. William Bradford of the near-by village, Austerfield, who became afterwards Governor of Plymouth (Mass.), was closely allied with Brewster in this movement. In the following year, 1608, being threatened with imprisonment (for the Act of 1593 made Puritanism an offence against the Statute law), they and their friends left England for Amsterdam, under the leadership of Rev. John Robinson, removing to Ley den in Holland in 1609.

Not wishing to lose their English nationality, which must have been the case had they remained in Holland, they once more started on their travels, sailing to Southampton in the Speedwell, August, 1620. Here they found other Puritan Pilgrims waiting for them in the Mayflower with the object of crossing the Atlantic, and founding new Colonies in a new land, with freedom of laws and religion which they could not hope for at home.

The Mayflower and Speedwell started down channel in company, but after delays at Dartmouth and Plymouth, Speedwell was finally abandoned, some of her passengers being taken on board Mayflower, which little vessel of 180 tons, with 102 passengers, left Plymouth on 6th September, and after a dangerous voyage reached Provincetown, Cape Cod Harbour, on 21st November, and New Plymouth, 21st December, (N.S.) 1620.

Although, up to this time, Dorset had made no important contribution to the flow of settlers into the New Country, there can be no doubt that the movement was coming more and more under the influence of the Rev. John White, Rector of S. Peter’s and Holy Trinity, 1606 – 1648, ” Patriarch of Dorchester,” known later as “Father of the Massachusetts Colony.” Born at Stanton St. John in Oxfordshire in 1575, he was educated at Winchester and New College, Oxon, being elected Fellow of the College, 1595. A man of conspicuous piety, learning, and power, a moderate but earnest Puritan, he was in touch with the struggle for religious freedom from its earliest days. Living in Dorchester at the time, he would have been specially interested in the emigrations of the “Pilgrims” from the Southern ports, Southampton, Weymouth and Plymouth, and gave both sympathy and assistance to the original emigration in the Mayflower. In 1623 he personally organized the formation of a trading post,” or station for fishing vessels, at Cape Ann, under Roger Conant. Near the spot where the first settlers landed there is now a fine bronze tablet set in a rock at State Fort Park, with the words

‘On this site in 1623 a Company of Fishermen and Farmers from Dorchester, England, under the direction of the Rev. John White, founded this Massachusets Bay Colony.’

About 20 years later, this Cape Ann settlement was given the name “Gloucester,” as at that time a large number of emigrants from the English town of that name had arrived there.

White next devoted all his energies to the acquisition of a Massachusetts Bay Charter, a most important event in the history of New England; it being mainly due to his skill and perseverance that the Company was ultimately formed. He journeyed frequently to London to create and cement the great alliance between the wealthy London merchants, and the seamen of the West of England. Before the final consummation of this work, other enterprises closely connected with Dorchester and Dorset were undertaken by Parson White, which prepared the way for future developments.

The founding of Charlestown, in which the Spragues of Upwey took a leading part, is recorded in a pamphlet written by Mr. Henry Sprague, published in Boston, U.S.A., in 1910. He proves by evidence from early records that the first permanent settlement in Massachusetts Bay was due to three brothers, Ralph, Richard, and William Sprague, sailing from Weymouth in the Abigail in June, 1628, reaching Naumkeag (now Salem) on 6th September. He quotes from an independent historical account of the settlement, (John Greene, appointed to transcribe the records of Charlestown, at a meeting of the Select men, 18lh April, 1664) that ” the inhabitants that first settled in this place, and brought it into the denomination of an English town, was in Anno 1628, as follows, viz.:—Ralph, Richard and William Sprague, John Meech, Simon Hoyte, Abraham Palmer, Walter Pamer, Nicholas Stowers, John Stickline, with Mr. Bright, Minister to the Company.” The father of the three brothers was Mr. Edward Sprague, a fuller, and owner of the old mill at Upwey.

There seems little doubt that the Spragues went out in the Abigail with John Endecott, himself a native of Dorchester, selected as supervisor of a Company organized by J. White (more or less in the Puritan interest) for the purchase of land between the Merrimac and Charles Rivers. They would have been of great assistance in promoting this undertaking, being described as men of “character, substance and enterprise, excellent citizens, and generous public benefactors.” In the following year, 1629, his Company was re-inforced by emigrants filling three ships, one of them called the Lyon’s Whelp, consisting entirely of passengers from Weymouth and Dorchester.

Endecott had full power to take charge of the plantation, and to begin the ” Wildernesse work.” As a ruler he was zealous and courageous, behaving to the Indians with marked justice. It is recorded of him that, together with his Puritan Council, he objected to the growing of tobacco, as they ” believed such a production, except for medicinal purposes, was injurious both to health and morals.” They also insisted on the abolition of the use of the Book of Common Prayer, Endecott earning the title of ” Puritan of Puritans.” He exercised the chief authority as Deputy Governor, until the arrival of John Winthrop, the lirst Governor elected under the Charter of the home authorities. The original Mass. Plantation thus became a self-governing community, by: Royal Charter, sealed 4th March, 1629, to the Governor and Company of Massachusetts Bay, in New England.

The embarkation of Winthrop and his company from Yarmouth in the Arbella, in March 1630, was the occasion of the issue of a remarkable letter entitled “The humble request of his Majesties Loyall subjects, the Governor and the Company late gone for New England, to the rest of their brethren in and of the Church of England for the obtaining of their prayers and the removal of suspitions, and misconstruction of their intentions.” It was printed in London, in all probability drawn up by John White himself, although not one of the emigrants, being in fact a formal leavetaking, and exhibits very clearly the spirit in which the enterprise was undertaken. It has been re-printed, facsimile, by the New England Society of New York, a copy being presented to our Museum Library by the John Carter-Brown Library, Providence, Rhode Island, from which a few extracts are now taken, of special interest with reference to the reputed author.

It begins

” Reverend Fathers and Brethren, the general rumour of this solemn Enterprise, wherein ourselves with others are ingaged, as it may spare us the labour of imparting our occasion unto you, so it gives us the more incouragement to strengthen ourselves by the procurement of the prayers and blessings of the Lord’s faithfull servants…… We beseech you therefore lo consider us as your Brethren, standing in very great need of your helpe, and earnestly imploring it.”

“And  howsoever your charity  may  have  met  with  some  occasion of discouragement through the misreport of our  intentions,  or through the  disaffection,  or  indiscretion,  of  some of us, or rather amongst us, yet ws desire you would be pleased to take notice of the principals and body of our company as those who esteemc it our honour to call the Church of England from whence we rise our deare Mother, and cannot part from our native Countrie where she specially resideth without much sadness of heart and many teares in our eyes……..     Bepleased therefore Reverend Fathers and Brethren to helpe forward this worke now in hand, which if it prosper you shall bee the more glorious.”

“It is an usual and laudable exercise of your charity to commend to the prayers of your congregations the necessities and straights of your private neighbours ; Doe the like for a Church springing out of your own bowels……… What goodness you shall exiend to us in this or any other Christian kindness, wee shall labour to repay in what dutie wee are or shall be able to performe, promising, so farre as God shall enable us, to give him no rest on your behalfes, wishing our heads and hearts may be as fountaines of teares for your everlasting welfare, when wee shall be in our poore Cottages in the wildernesse, overshadowed with the spirit of supplication through the manifold necessities and tribulations which may not altogether unexpectedly, nor, we hope, unprofitably befall us.

Your assured Friends and Brethren

From Yarmouth        Jo. Winthrope, Gov.          Rich. Saltonstall
aboard the Arbella    Charles Fines                    Isaac Johnson
April 7, 1630            George Philips                   Tho. Dudley
                                &c.                                      William Coddington

Model of the Mary and John

Model of the ‘Mary and John’ in the Dorchester Gallery, Dorset County Museum, Dorchester, Dorset © DCM

About a month in advance of the Arbella, a company met at Plymouth, where the Mary and John, a vessel of 400 tons, had been chartered for the voyage, the first ship of the fleet of 1630 to arrive in Massachusetts Bay. These are the Pilgrims that are termed the ” Founders of Dorchester.” Among them were, Roger Clap, Henry Wolcott, Thomas Ford, George Dyer, William Gaylord, William Phelps, William Rockwell, Israel Stoughton, George Minot, George Hall, Richard Collicott, Nathaniel Duncan, and Captains Mason and Southcote.

The 17th June, 1630, (N.S.) may be safely named as the official birthday of our namesake in Massachusetts. It is fixed by two reliable authorities. In the First Parish Church, Dorchester, is a tablet bearing the following inscription :—

“Dorchester, named from the town of Dorchester in Dorset, England. The first settlers sailed from Plymouth, England in the Mary and John, one of the Winthrop fleet, March 20, 1630, arrived at Nantasket, now Hull, May 30, and landed in Dorchester June 6, 1630.(These dates are Old Style.) “

Also, at the great gathering in Dorchester to celebrate the 250th aniversary of the planting of the Church, and foundation of the Town, the 17th June (N.S.), was the date observed.

Thus as the Mayflower stands in history for the founding of the New England States at Provincetown and Plymouth, so does the Mary and John mark the commencement of the colony of Massachusetts Bay, composed for the most part of emigrants from Dorset and the Western Counties. When she was ready to leave Plymouth, John White was on the spot to speed the Pilgrims on their way. Although the commercial aspect of the emigration was not forgotten, the religious character of the movement was always kept in view. A proof of this is the fact that before leaving these shores the Pilgrims on the Mary and John selected their pastors, and organized themselves as a Christian Church. One of the passengers has left on record that ” a solemn day of fasting and prayer was held, and that Mr. John White of Dorchester was present and did preach unto us the Word of God; the people did solemnly make choice of and call those godly ministers to be their officers, so also the Rev. Mr. Warham and Mr. Maverick did accept thereof, and expressed the same.”

Two hundred and fifty years after this scene was enacted, two great religious gatherings took place in The First Church and Parish, Dorchester, Mass., on 31st March, and 17th June, 1880, to commemorate the gathering of the Church at Plymouth (just mentioned), and the arrival of the Dorset Colonists in America. The celebration was an important event, the Governor of the State being present, with his staff, and also the pastors of the Dorchester and Boston Churches and many descendants of the early settlers. An address was delivered by Rev. Dr. Hale, an authority on the early history of New England, who pronounced with no uncertain voice the debt they owed to John White. He said:-

“If we build statues to our heroes and founders, it would be to John White of Dorchester, the founder of Massachusetts, that we should build the first. Let him be clad in his ministerial robes and bands, as when he spoke his farewell to the colonists. Let him bear in his hand the Sacred Book he was so fond of illustrating. So let us show who conceived the idea of this free State, and who was the very hero who called this free State into existence. Do not think simply of Dorchester. Let us remember that it is the birth of Massachusetts that we are celebrating. It is the birth of the Colony of the Bay that we are celebrating. The hero of the Colony, the founder of the Colony, is John White of Dorchester, England.” It was he who made the great alliance between the London Merchants and the sea-men of the West of England. It was he who taught Old England what it was which was waiting for them in the pre-emption of New England. It was John White who blew that Gospel trumpet. (Gather yourselves together, your wives and little ones, the people of Christ oppressed and denied, and be shipped for His Service in the Western world, the united colonies of New England). Yes – John White is the hero of this day,”

Grand words surely for us to remember, a testimony to his character and life work that had stood the test of two centuries and a half, uttered by one who had personal and impartial experience of the fruitfulness of his labours.

St. Peters Church Dorchester

St. Peters Church Dorchester, Dorset , © DCM

Another glimpse into his personality is given by Thomas Fuller, a contemporary (1608—1661) and indeed Rector of the Dorset parish of Broadwindsor, who gives a characteristic sketch of White in the Worthies of England.

“A grave man, yet without moroseness, as he would willingly contribute his shot of facetiousness on any just occasion. A constant preacher, so that in the course of his ministry he expounded the Scripture all over, and half over again, having an excellent faculty in the clear solid interpreting thereof. A good governor, by whose wisdom the town of Dorchester was much enriched; knowledge causing piety, piety breeding industry, industry procuring plenty unto it. He absolutely commanded his own passions and the purses of his parishioners, whom he could wind up to what height he pleased on all important occasions.”

Rev. John White Memorial Brass

Memorial brass erected in the Porch of St. Peter’s Church, Dorchester, Dorset, to the Rev. John White, the inscription written and designed by the late Mr. Henry Moule © DCM

Verily he had “a strong sway in the town” as is recorded of him in the porch of St. Peter’s Church.

There is not much more to be said of Master White and his connection with the Puritan emigration. Our Dorchester declared for the Parliament party at the commencement of the Civil War, with which the Puritan Patriarch would have agreed most heartily. In 1642 a troop of Prince Rupert’s Horse attacked the town, broke into Parson White’s house, carrying off or destroying his books. Taking refuge in London he was given  duty as Minister of the Savoy, and Rector of Lambeth, being appointed also one of the Westminster “Assembly of Divines.” He was able, however,, to return to his old home and Rectory, where he died 21st July, 1648, and was buried in the Porch of the Church of St. Peter.

Another Memorial to the “Patriarch of Dorchester ” may be seen in Holy Trinity Church, Dorchester.

An oak panel at the West end of the Church gives a list of Rectors dating from the year 1302 A.D. (The two parishes of Holy Trinity and S. Peter having been united down to 1824 A.D.). It is recorded that this panel, erected in 1902, is ” In Memory of the Rev. John White, 45 years Rector of Holy Trinity and St. Peter’s, Dorchester, by Members of Holy Trinity Church and those who revere his memory in Dorchester, Massachusetts.”

Names of Ships trading from England to America, 1620, onwards.

Speedwell
James – from Bristol
Mayflower
Elizabeth
Mary and John
Hercules
Abigail
John and Dorothy
Arbella
The Rose
Lyon’s Whelp
Defence
Sparrowhawk – wrecked
James

Books consulted in preparing this paper.

  • Founding of Charlestown, by H. H. Sprague, Boston, U.S.A., 1910.
  • Proceedings at  the  250th  Aniversary of First Church  and  Parish, Dorchester, Mass., Boston, U.S.A., 1880.
  • Towns of New England and Old England, State Street Trust Company, Boston, 1920.
  • History of Dorchester, Antiquarian and Historical Soc., Boston, 1859.
  • Narrative History of Good Old Dorchester, Orcutt.

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Christmas at the Dorset County Museum Shop

Dorset County Museum ShopIf you are looking for inspiration for your Christmas shopping, why not try somewhere a bit different?

Dorset County Museum has a lovely gift shop full of novel ideas for people of all ages.  From toys and games for the children, to jewellery, scarves, mugs and plenty of books – there’s sure to be something for everyone.  And while you are hunting for your stocking fillers be sure to call into the Museum’s popular Tea Room for a welcome drink and slice of home-made cake.

Entry to the shop and tea room is free – opening times are 10.00am to 4.00pm Monday to Saturday, and until 1st February visitors can also have a look around the current exhibition The Heart that Fed, which features the work of two local artists – paintings by Nell Race and sculptures by Angelika Seik.  Most of the pieces are for sales – one of them could be perfect for that special Christmas present!

For further information please see www.dorsetcountymuseum.org or telephone 01305 262735.

 

The Poets’ Christmas Eve by Dr Alan Chedzoy

Rev. William Barnes © DCM

Revd William Barnes © DCM

On Wednesday 4th December Dr. Alan Chedzoy is giving a literary lecture at Dorset County Museum entitled The Poets‘ Christmas Eve: Mythology into Verse.

Dr. Alan Chedzoy is Chairman of the William Barnes Society and is well known in Dorset and beyond for his performances and recordings of the writings of the Revd William Barnes and Thomas Hardy.

All are welcome to the talk which starts at 7.30pm. Doors open at 7.00pm. The talk is FREE of charge but a donation of £3.00 is encouraged to cover costs.

For further information please see www.dorsetcountymuseum.org or telephone 01305 262735.

The Swash Channel Wreck by Dave Parham

Carving raised from the Swash Channel Wreck

Carving raised from the Swash Channel Wreck Photo: Michael Spender Poole Museum ©2013

Lying just off the Dorset Coast is a famous 17th century shipwreck known as the Swash Channel wreck.  A Bournemouth University marine archaeology team has been studying the wreck since 2006 but are now so concerned at the rate of deterioration that they have decided to raise and preserve part of the hull.

The 40 metre long 400 year old vessel lies in approximately 7 metres of water next to the Swash Channel in the approaches to Poole Harbour. The wreck includes ornately carved timbers, the earliest still in existence in Britain, but as the sands shift and expose the timbers to the air, they are literally being eaten away by bacteria and tunnelling shipworms. Dave Parham, a Senior Lecturer in Marine Archaeology at Bournemouth University, is leading a team to save as much of the wreck as possible.

The plan is to remove some of the timbers and preserve them, whilst reburying the rest.  It is not possible to cover up the entire wreck as it would create a shipping hazard in a busy channel.  Once preserved, the remains will go on display in Poole Museum.

Dave Parham’s talk will discuss the history of the Swash Channel Wreck project and bring the audience up to date with news on the most recent excavations and research.

This archaeological lecture is on Friday 6th December 2013. The talk is FREE of charge but a donation of £3 is encouraged to cover costs.  Doors open at 7.00pm and the talk will commence at 7.30pm.

For further information please see www.dorsetcountymuseum.org or telephone 01305 262735.

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A Century Ago

Poole High Street Project

It was November 1913, a year before the outbreak of a devastating war. The East Dorset Herald was reporting the ‘Death of Dr. Russel Wallace – The Grand Old Man of Science’ at his residence, Old Orchard, Broadstone. From an unpromising childhood with poor schooling and no scientific training to speak of, he rose to become ‘a stimulating and original thinker, a finely trained observer, a naturalist of world-wide reputation, a vigorous conversationalist, a notable explorer and great traveller’. ‘His supreme achievement was his discovery of the process of Natural Selection simultaneously with Darwin’. During his adventurous career he travelled in the Amazon (being shipwrecked on the return voyage) and later journeyed around the Malay Archipelago, observing and collecting specimens of the flora and fauna. It was here, while suffering from a bout of fever, that he conceived the theory of natural selection. Back in England, he wrote a…

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New Appeal Launched at Dorset County Museum

Dorset County Museum AppealLast week saw the launch of a brand new fundraising appeal at Dorset County Museum.

The new Development Appeal has been set up to raise money for a purpose-built facility in the centre of Dorchester to store the Museum’s extensive collections and provide working areas for volunteers and visiting researchers.  In addition, the project will include a bespoke education and lecture room for use by both schools and the local community.

Individuals wishing to support the scheme have the opportunity to buy a personalised plaque which will be placed in prime position on the Museum’s dramatic staircase.  They will also receive free entry to the Museum for a year and their name will be added to the development appeal donation register.  The cost of a plaque is £100.

Jon Murden (centre), Peter Down (second from front), Paul Atterbury (front) and Museum volunteers launch the fundraising project at Dorset County Museum

Jon Murden (centre), Peter Down (second from front), Paul Atterbury (front) and Museum volunteers launch the fundraising project at Dorset County Museum

The first plaque was bought by Museum advocate Paul Atterbury from the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow.  Paul has recently become a trustee at the Museum and wanted to show his support for the project.  His plaque has been named in memory of his great uncle Lewis who died during the Battle of the Somme.

Museum director Jon Murden said, “We are hoping for a good response to this new appeal – the money raised will be used to kick-start the project and we will then be seeking financial support from major trusts and fundraising bodies like the Heritage Lottery Fund.“

Further fundraising events are planned for next year. Jon added, “We want to get local people involved because the project will include new galleries and archives which will be accessible to the public. Ultimately everyone will benefit because we will be able to display many more objects from our unique collections.“

Anyone wishing to support the campaign by buying a plaque should contact the Museum on 01305 262735 or see the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org.

Travellers Tales: India, Traces of the British Empire, Bombay to Calcutta by Roland Tarr

Traces of the British Empire in India by Roland TarrRoland Tarr will give a talk at Dorset County Museum on 28th November entitled, ‘India, Traces of the British Empire, Bombay to Calcutta’.

Just before leaving to travel across central India earlier this year, Roland Tarr was asked by a friend what still remains of Britain’s presence in India. Taking up this theme, his illustrated presentation will show some of the extraordinary architectural and engineering feats of the empire. The talk will also discuss some magnificent palaces, castles, temples and landscapes of the sub-continent.

The talk is free of charge but a donation of £3.00 is encouraged to cover costs.  The event takes place on Thursday 28th November at 7.30pm.

For further information please see www.dorsetcountymuseum.org or telephone 01305 262735.

Wallace: The Greatest Tropical Naturalist of the 19th Century by David Croman

Alfred Russel Wallace

Alfred Russel Wallace, O.M., L.L.D., D.C.L., F.R.S.

Dorset County Museum is pleased to present a talk on the subject of one of Charles Darwin’s major contemporaries.  The event forms part of the celebrations marking the centenary of the death of the great naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace.

David Croman, former Head of Department at Salisbury College, Principal Examiner and teacher, will be speaking about the adventures, triumphs and failures of Wallace as an explorer, biologist, anthropologist and geographer and will reveal why he is now thought of as the greatest tropical naturalist of the nineteenth century.

The talk is free of charge but a donation of £3.00 is encouraged to cover costs.  The event takes place on Friday 29th November. Doors open at 7.00pm and the talk will commence at 7.30pm.

For further information please see www.dorsetcountymuseum.org or telephone 01305 262735.

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Am feeling quite jolly!

Darkened not dormant

This lovely example of Alfred Russel Wallace’s beautiful handwriting and cheerful nature was written to chemist and Wallace’s good friend Raphael Meldola. He wrote it on his 90th (and sadly last) birthday. It is particular favourite of Annette Lord, who has scanned and transcribed the Museum’s collection of 300+ Wallace documents.

Today marks 100 years since Wallace’s death and provides a good opportunity to reflect on his achievements. We’ve set up a display in the Museum to mark the occasion and show some of the most impressive Wallace specimens in our collection. Wallace travelled to remote, dangerous parts of the world in search of new and fascinating species. He was a meticulous and careful collector; you can’t help but marvel at how the incredibly long antennae of these beetles survived the journey back to Britain!

Wallace is now credited by many as co-author of the theory of evolution through natural selection, so it is very exciting to…

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Monster Book Sale at the Dorset County Museum

Dorset County Museum Book Sale 2012

Last years successful book sale at the Dorset County Museum

Dorset County Museum is holding a massive second-hand book sale from Friday 22nd to Monday 25th November between 10.00am and 4.00pm.

Thousands of quality books will be sold at bargain prices – fact, fiction, hardback and softback. Hundreds of subjects will be represented including travel, history, music, art and gardening.  A wide selection of fiction will also be available including hard and soft backs. A few minutes’ careful searching could reveal untold treasures!

In addition, there will be a sale of Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society and Dorset Record Society publications at knock-down prices – available only to buyers who visit the sale in person.  The Museum’s well-stocked gift shop is also well worth a visit with Christmas lines now available, and the popular tea room awaits weary bargain hunters.

All proceeds go towards the upkeep of the Museum and its extensive collections.

Everyone is welcome and entry to the sale is free – it would help the Museum if visitors could bring their own bags as supplies of plastic bags will be limited.

Please note the Museum will not be open on Sunday 24th November.

For more information contact the Museum on 01305 262735 or visit the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org.