An archaeological dig is to be carried out on the market car park site in Dorchester to assess the site’s potential for a new retail park.

The work is designed to see if plans to build on the site or viable, or would risk damaging historical remains under the surface.

The retail proposals are part of a masterplan to redevelop the town centre, though critics say the council is continuing to focus on shopping and ignoring its historical heritage.

It’s also claimed that a new retail park would kill off the town’s last few independent traders.

The  excavation work on the Fairfield Car park site will further explore any archaeological interest that may exist there.  The excavations, carried out by archaeological firm ‘Context One’ will involve carrying out excavations to sample the site.


The trenches will be located at four sites in the car park. These sites have been chosen with the advice of the County Archaeologist to compliment the previous seven sites dug in 2009. We have arranged the dig in order to minimise the impact on parking and the Dorchester market.

A mechanical excavator will dig below the surface, and any layer of archaeology underneath will then be hand dug. Any archaeological interest will then be recorded and potentially taken for review. The results of this will inform future work on the site.

Three-week dig

Barriers will be in place from Monday 20 November at the sites, across Fairfield long stay car park. The excavation works will be starting on Tuesday 21 November. We expect the work – including re-surfacing the trenches – to take up to 3 working days per site, over the course of about 3 weeks.

A spokesman for West Dorset District Council said: “Each element of the masterplan is being carefully considered and appraised. We value and respect Dorchester’s history and heritage. While looking to the future, we would also seek to protect Dorchester’s history.”

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