Dorchester in Oxfordshire, is an ancient settlement of great importance. It is not to be confused with Dorchester, the capital of Dorset. It is situated only nine miles south of Oxford, where the River Thame meets the River Thames.
To the south of the village, known as the Dyke Hills, there is a double row of ramparts and a ditch constructed in the Iron Age and only discovered by aerial photographs.
In 635 AD, St. Birinus, the Pope's missionary from Milan, came to Dorchester and baptised the Saxon King of Wessex, Cynegils. He granted St. Birinus land on which a cathedral was built. After the Norman Conquest, the Normans founded in 1140, an Augustinian abbey on the cathedral site. Nothing remains of the cathedral. The Abbey is a special place in the history of Christianity in England, a holy place where Christians have worshipped for nearly fourteen hundred years. It is a glorious building, 200 feet long, containing a lead font dating from 1170 and beautiful coloured glass windows, the Birinus Roundel dating from 1225. Today, the Abbey serves as the parish church for the village, which only has about one thousand inhabitants.
The Abbey churchyard is entered by a massive lychgate, erected in 1852 by William Butterfield. In the churchyard is a 14th century gabled building which was the village school, but now serves as a museum, guest house and tea rooms.
Almost opposite the Abbey gates, is the George Hotel, which has overhanging upper storeys and a galleried yard dating from 1495. Along the length of the cobble paved street, are brick built and timber-framed houses and shops. The White Hart is a 17th century coaching inn and even earlier, the Fleu de Lys Inn was built in 1520. Malthouse Lane, off the High Street, has seven thatched cottages, dating from the 17th century.