Poundbury – Poundbury, England - Atlas Obscura


Poundbury, England

Before 1993, this historic-looking village—King Charles III's pet project—didn’t exist at all. 


Looking at first glance like an idyllic centuries-old village, this somewhat eccentric development bursts with an eclectic assortment of architectural oddities intended to counter the monotonous architectural trends of the late 20th century.

In the 1980s, then-Prince Charles, a committed commentator on matters of modern architecture, expressed concern about the ho-hum and aesthetically lackluster buildings erected in Britain in the previous three decades.

With a determination to prove that a more sympathetic approach to town planning was not only possible, but would eventually prove popular, an entirely new village was commissioned on land belonging to the Duchy of Cornwall Estate, just outside the historic town of Dorchester. Construction of the village of Poundbury began in 1993, with leisure, commercial, and residential buildings built in close proximity to reduce the future community’s reliance on the car. 

Built in a somewhat bewildering array of traditional architectural styles, the often-criticized structures of Poundbury boast a veritable pageant of functionally redundant features, from buttresses, spires, and superfluous turrets to Neoclassical columns and imposing clock towers. Visitors to this warren-like vernacular village are confronted by an apartment block that looks like a palace; a mock-Georgian supermarket; a Neoclassical fire station; a community center masquerading as a medieval moot-hall; and a faux Victorian factory, which currently employs over 100 people to make breakfast cereals.

Poundbury is eventually expected to be home to around 5,000 people. Despite the somewhat twee settlement being regularly derided in architectural circles, it seems that the heir to the throne is not alone in pining for a more picturesque past. Since Poundbury properties first went on sale, an adequate number of eager house buyers have been happy to make this architecturally anachronistic village their home and contribute to its undeniable success.

Know Before You Go

Poundbury is just over a mile to the east of Dorchester's West and South Train Stations, which can be reached by train from London in around three hours. Worth visiting nearby is the U.K.'s largest Iron Age hill fort, Maiden Castle, which has a ruined Roman temple, and somewhat overshadows the new settlement of Poundbury, 2,600 years its junior. The coordinates given are for the large public space, Queen Mother Square, named after Prince Charles's Grandmother, Elizabeth.

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