Little more than 10 minutes’ drive from Wareham and just under 20 minutes’ from the county town of Dorchester is Bere Regis, a large village with a thriving community. Besides a local store, post office, hairdresser, petrol station, village hall and two popular public houses, the community also supports a mobile library and myriad clubs and societies ranging from bell ringers, quilters, a gardening club and WI to walkers, a wildlife group and Beavers, Cubs and Scouts. The village also benefits from a sports club and playing field, home to junior and adult cricket and football teams. The adult men’s team, Bere Regis FC, is one of the oldest in England, established in 1885.
The history of Bere Regis dates back far further than its football team; evidence even of Palaeolithic human activity exists in the surrounding parish. Located on the banks of the Bere Stream – a tributary of the River Piddle – the village as we know it today is believed to have begun life as a Saxon settlement, growing to ‘town’ status by the 13th Century. Sadly, Bere Regis has since lost most of its historic buildings to extensive fires, the worst of which took place in 1633, 1717 and 1788 (never fear, today’s village has a fire station!). Most of the oldest remaining homes are Georgian and Victorian, though parts of the parish Church of St John the Baptist date from the 12th Century.
Also of note is Bere Regis’ connection to world-famous Dorset author Thomas Hardy. Featured in several of his novels, the village of ‘Kingsbere’ is believed to be based upon Bere Regis. Kingsbere’s most prominent appearance is in ‘Tess of the D’Urbervilles’, the title character of which also has a name inspired by former village residents, The Turbervilles.
Photo: ‘Early Morning Walk, Bere Regis’ by Peter Smith