Beaminster is an old settlement, dating back to around the 7th century, when it was known as Bebingmynster, meaning the church of Bebbe. The present church is dedicated to St Mary and dates from the 13th to the 15th centuries.
In the late 13th century, a charter was granted for a Thursday market and an annual fair. At this time, Beaminster must have been quite a bustling town. It continued to thrive due to successful a woollen cloth manufacturing business and other textile industries. At this time there were a number of fine buildings, later destroyed by fire during the English Civil War, when the town supported the Parliament.
Most of present day Beaminster dates from the 18th and 19th centuries, although a few earlier buildings have survived on the edges of the town. The town centre, with its stepped market cross is now a preservation area and includes more than 200 listed buildings. The population began to decline when the railway totally bypassed the area and people began to leave the agricultural industries for employment in the larger, more industrial, towns.
Not far from Beaminster is the Elizabethan manor house of Mapperton, with its attractive valley garden. The house has been the home of the Earls of Sandwich since the Restoration of King Charles II. Concerts and various other events are held here. There are several other local gardens which are open to the public at certain times throughout the summer.
At Midsummer each year, the Beaminster Festival of Music and the Visual Arts is held in the town. The festival lasts for ten days and includes a wide range of festivities and events. The town has its own local history museum museum featuring Beaminster and neighbouring villages. The varied special exhibitions change throughout the season. This is an ideal centre from which to explore other Dorset attractions and there are many lovely walks around the area. The town itself offers a range of small shops and cafés.
The former Broadwindsor Farm is now a craft and design complex of shops and workshops with its own award winning restaurant. through the beautiful West Dorset countryside The Llama experience offers a guided walk through the Dorset countryside with llamas and alpacas – not the sort of experience one might expect in a West Country town.
The harbour of the pretty village of West Bay is the starting point for the eleven mile walk along the valley of the River Brit. This scenic route ends to the north of Beaminster at Winyards Gap.