St John the Baptist Church, Bere Regis
St John the Baptist Church, Bere Regis

This attractive village is set between Poole and Dorset and is surrounded by picturesque villages like Affpuddle and Briantspuddle. As its name suggests, Bere Regis was connected with the crown as early as AD 978, when there was a royal manor here, and the royal connection was strengthened in the early 13th century when King John visited the manor frequently for extended stays.

The parish church of St John the Baptist contains memorials to the Turberville family, used by Thomas Hardy as his model for the D'Urbervilles in Tess. Hardy used the village itself as a setting for the novel, calling it Kingsbere.

St John the Baptist Church

The main source of historic interest in Bere Regis is the parish church of St John the Baptist. St John's dates back at least 1000 years, but the current church dates primarily to the 15th century. The real attraction here is the superb medieval roof, carved with a plethora of painted figures of the Twelve Apostles.

The roof is one of the best in southern England and is traditionally said to have been the gift of Cardinal John Morton, archbishop of Canterbury (c. 1420 – 1500). Morton was born at Milborne Stileham, which was then part of Bere Regis parish.

Other buildings of note in the village include the Royal Oak pub, a 16th-century former coaching inn. The other pub in the village is the Drax Arms, named after a local landowner. Unfortunately, many historic buildings erected before 1600 were lost to a series of disastrous fires, and as a result many of the buildings in Bere Regis date to the 18th and 19th centuries.

Just outside the village is the Iron Age hillfort of Woodbury Hill. The hillfort itself fell out of use before the coming of the Romans, but the site was used for an extremely popular fair from the 12th century. The fair grew to become one of the largest in southern England and helped ensure the growth of Bere Regis into an important village.

Three miles away is Clouds Hill, home of TE Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia).