In the 12th century Roger de Caen, Bishop of Salisbury and Chancellor of England, built a fortified palace. Taken by General Fairfax in 1645, the romantic ruins remain and are in the care of English Heritage. It is now known as Sherborne Old Castle.
Sir Walter Raleigh fell in love with Sherborne, tried first to modernise the Old Castle but finally built in 1594 an Elizabethan mansion in the grounds. The mansion has been the Stately Home of the Digby family since 1617. This is now called Sherborne Castle.
The Saxons named Sherborne scir burne - the place of the clear stream - and made it the capital of Wessex. Two of King Alfred's elder brothers, King Ethelbert and King Ethelbald are buried within the impressive and beautiful Abbey. The long line of Bishops began in AD 705 when the great Diocese of Winchester was divided in two, and St Aldhelm, the first Englishman of letters, was appointed as the first Bishop of the West Saxons. When the Bishop's seat was moved to Old Sarum in 1075, the church was taken over by the Benedictine monastery and when Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in 1539, Sir John Horsey acquired the Abbey and most of its lands.
Sherborne Boys School, originally King Edward's School, has been built on the remains of the abbey buildings and was founded in 1550. It is one of the great public schools of England and still uses the monastic buildings attached to the Abbey.
The town is crammed with historic interest with 17th, 18th and 19th century architecture set in unspoilt streets. Medieval buildings are abound in the town, the most important of which are The Almshouse of St John the Baptist and St John the Evangelist; The 15th Century Conduit House and The Julian, an early 16th Century house originally the hospice of St Julian of Norwich.
The town also has an excellent small museum with many local artefacts and Purse Candle Manor as well as Sandford Orcas Manor are both of interest.