There was a Roman settlement at Wareham and the modern town has grown up over this. It is believed that the transport of that time took advantage of the various rivers in the area and the closeness to the natural harbour at Poole. Wareham lies between the Rivers Frome and Piddle, at the gateway to the Isle of Purbeck, a peninsula jutting out into the English Channel. Until the Middle Ages, it was an important port. Eventually, the harbour began to silt up and Poole became the main port in this area.
This ancient town and former royal borough still boasts massive earth ramparts built by Alfred the Great. The charming walled market town still contains many fascinating buildings from another age. The quaint back lanes contain old houses and cottages, with the mediaeval church of St Mary watching over the town. Unfortunately many of the older structures in the town were destroyed by fire in 1762, but were replaced by some impressive Georgian buildings.
Wareham has a good selection of shops and galleries, catering for every taste. There are also plenty of cafés, bars and restaurants. The Rex Cinema is a small establishment in the style of the 1930s, run by volunteers. It is still possible to take boat trips from the bustling quay. The town holds an annual carnival at the end of July, involving a series of events to raise money for local charities.
Wareham Town Museum, in the lovely Victorian town hall building by the market cross, is free to visitors. It evolved from the Wareham Pictorial Museum, a private collection which was acquired by the Town Council. The museum displays objects which range throughout the thousands of years of human occupation of the Wareham area. This includes a collection of pottery from the Roman period.
Another section of the museum is devoted to a famous local resident. T.E.Lawrence is probably better known as Lawrence of Arabia. Towards the end of his life, he lived at Clouds Hill, near Bovington and not far from Wareham. He was known to have visited the town regularly during these latter years. There are a number of interesting documents and exhibits in this section. Lawrence’s cottage, at Clouds Hill, is now owned by the National Trust and is open to visitors.
Wareham is still on the railway and is easily accessible by road from places such as Dorchester, Poole and Swanage. Other attractions not far from the town and in the Isle of Purbeck area include the historic Corfe Castle, Lulworth Castle, Putlake Adventure Farm and the highly acclaimed Monkey World.