The History and Antiquities of the County of Dorset
(3rd Edition published 1868)
Transcribed by Michael Russell OPC for Dorchester - May 2010
THE TOWN AND BOROUGH OF DORCHESTER.
Origin of the name of Dorchester - Pages 335-336
" THIS ancient town," says Hutchins, " certainly existed in the British ages, as is evident from the Roman name Durnovaria, which is of British extraction. Richard of Cirencester, in his map, and in his tract De situ Britanniœ , p. 19, calls it Durinum; but, in his 16th Iter, Durnovaria, which name it has also in Antoninus. Ptolemy calls it Dunium [Δoννioν] ; but Camden observes that some copies erroneously read Durnium. Both these words differ but little from Durinum, and are perhaps only corruptions of it. Mr. Baxter will have Dunium to be Maiden castle, and Durnovaria the town. But Ptolemy expressly says, that Dunium was the town [πoλις] of the Durotriges. So that these were only different names assigned to the same place in different ages."
So far the speculations and authorities which our author has placed before the reader; but the remarks of the Rev. W. Barnes, the Dorset philologist, would lead us to the conviction that Wareham was the site of the ancient Durnium or Durinum, the capital of the Dwrin-wyr or British inhabitants of Dorset, and that Dorchester or Durnovaria (derived also from Dwrinwyr, the name of the district) was the place where the Roman government of the province was established, and which was afterwards adopted by the Saxons as the law-town or chief-town of the district, and eventually became the county town of later times.
Richard of Cirencester does not call it (i.e. our Dorchester) Durinum; he says, "Below the Hedui are placed the Durotriges, who are sometimes called Morini. Their metropolis was Durinum," without telling us on what spot it stood. In his 16th Iter he gives Durnovaria as a Roman station, but does not say it is Durinum; so Ptolemy, in a table of tribes and their towns, says,
"the Durotriges, among whom (is) a town Dounion;" and therefore we cannot learn from him that Dunion (or Dunium as would be the Roman form of the name) was Durnovaria or Dorchester. Richard of Cirencester says that the Durotriges were sometimes called Morini; and Morin in British would mean the Little sea, as Dwrin, Durinum, would mean the Little water.
The reason why we should take Richard of Cirencester's Durinum (um is only the Latin ending) rather than the Dunium of Ptolemy for the name of the capital of the Durotriges, is, that it is woven into the Dorset names of other than British nations, and other writers than Richard of Cirencester. Asser gives the British name of Dorset as Durngueis (Dwrn (Gwys) Dwrnshire. The Saxons called it Dorn-saet, afterwards Dor'saet, the Dorn settlement; and in Dorchester is a street or lane called Durn-lane or Durnate street, and we find the name Dorn in that of the Dorn pennies, as it was taken into the Roman Durnovaria. Now, if Dorset, as the district of the capital Dwrin, took its British name from Dwrn or Dwrin, as we are told by Asser it did, and as we know that our name for the county, Dorset, formerly Dornsaet, was taken from it, then the Britons would most likely call the Dorset people Dwrin-wyr, the Dwrin people, and from that name the Romans would as likely form Durnovaria, for in other cases the British w became a Roman v; and the Roman o is only one among many instances of the Latin insertion of a vowel between the elements of a British compound, as in Cassibelaunus for Caswellawn, Cunobelinus for Cynvelyn.
In some Saxon charters or writings Dorchester is called Dorn-wara-ceaster, in which wara answers in form to the Roman varia, and in meaning to the British wyr, people, as in the Saxon Kent-wara, Kent folk; Wihte-wara, Wight men; burh wara, the town people. Dorchester is also called in Saxon-English writings Dornwarana-ceaster, Dorne-ceaster, leaving out the wara; and Dor'ceaster without the n.
In King Athelstan's charter to Milton Abbey, which is dated from this place, it is called Villa Regalis, because it then belonged to the crown; and to distinguish it from 'Dorchester in Oxfordshire, which was styled Villa Episcopalis, as belonging to the Bishop of that see. [Note:- So we have in Essex Hatfield Regis; and in Hertfordshire Hatfield Episcopi.]
Location of Dorchester - Page 336
This town has been found to lie in the West longitude of 2º 35'. lat. 50º. 36' according to Salmon; long. 2° 33' lat. 50° 46' according to Adams; longitude 2º 37' latitude 50° 40' according to Templeman. It is distant southwest from London 120 miles; from Oxford, 98; from Cambridge 172. It has the advantage of being connected with the metropolis by branches forming part of two of the great railway systems, namely, the Great Western, and South Western.