West Dorset

West Dorset was a local government district in Dorset, England. Its council was based in Dorchester. The district was formed on 1 April 1974, under the Local Government Act 1972, and was a merger of the boroughs of Bridport, Dorchester and Lyme Regis, along with Sherborne urban district, and the rural districts of Beaminster, Bridport, Dorchester and Sherborne. In 2006 the district was named 10th best place to live in the UK.[1]

West Dorset District
West Dorset shown within Dorset
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Constituent countryEngland
RegionSouth West England
Non-metropolitan countyDorset
Admin HQDorchester
Incorporated1 April 1974
  TypeNon-metropolitan district council
  BodyWest Dorset District Council
  LeadershipLeader & Cabinet (Conservative)
  MPsOliver Letwin
  Total417.6 sq mi (1,081.5 km2)
Area rank(of 317)
 (mid-2018 est.)
  Rank(of 317)
98.7% White
Time zoneUTC0 (GMT)
  Summer (DST)UTC+1 (BST)
ONS code19UH (ONS)
E07000052 (GSS)
OS grid referenceSY5785299047

The district and its council was abolished on 1 April 2019 and, together with the other 4 districts outside the greater Bournemouth area, formed a new Dorset unitary authority.[2]


In the Census 2001 West Dorset registered a population of 92,350, estimated to be 94,000 as of 2004. The population structure reflects the rural nature of the district. 52% of the population are female. The area was a popular retirement area which also exports young people due the low choice of career options. This was reflected in the age structure, with 12.3% of the population over 75, compared to 7.5% in England; 51.7% were between 15 and 59, compared to 59.1% in England. 34.4% of dwellings were pensioner households, compared to 23.8% in England.

The district was an example of the low ethnic minority populations in rural areas, with 96.7% white British ethnicity, compared to 87.0% in England.

The district had a high level of car ownership, at 83.1% of households compared to 73.2% in England.


West Dorset is a county constituency, currently represented in the British House of Commons by the Conservative front-bencher Oliver Letwin. Elections in this constituency are usually a two-party contest between the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties. It is almost identical in area with what was the West Dorset district, but a very small part of West Dorset District lay within the South Dorset county constituency, currently represented in the British House of Commons by the Conservative Party member Richard Drax.


The main settlements in West Dorset were Dorchester, Sherborne and Bridport. Dorchester was in the south of the district and is the county town of Dorset. It has been an important settlement since Roman times. Sherborne was in the north of the district and is an important market town which was, for a time, the capital of Wessex. Bridport was in the west of the district and is popular with tourists visiting the Jurassic Coast, as is the smaller coastal town of Lyme Regis at the county border with Devon.

Settlements with a population over 2,500 are in bold.

Places of interest

See also


  1. best and worst places to live 2006
  2. Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (25 May 2018). "The Bournemouth, Dorset and Poole (Structural Changes) Order 2018". legislation.gov.uk. Retrieved 28 May 2018.
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