Our Community

Overview

Sturminster Newton welcomes and includes everyone.  It thrives on the diversity of its residents and their involvement in local organisations, groups and charities.

The history of the town has helped to shape today’s robust community. The first fair – permitted by royal charter – was held in Sturminster in 1219. In 1730 the town was decimated by fire but with the help of wealthy local wool merchants it was rebuilt. The railway arrived in 1863 and Sturminster grew in prosperity with the dairy farmers now able to supply milk to both London and Bournemouth. There was also a flourishing livestock market.

What might have been a devastating blow for Sturminster – the closure of its market in 1997 – in fact left a legacy of a town more united than ever. Through consultation and participation, a magnificent new complex was built on the old market site. Opened in 2007, it included a replacement medical centre, offices including the Town Councils and the fabulous arts centre known as The Exchange with live performances, films and a base for a huge range and variety of great community led groups.

The next generation of community champions has continued to work for the good of the town with a number of initiatives which have included taking over the leisure centre and setting up the Sturminster Newton Community Benefit Society (CBS) to promote the economic development of the area.  The society initially opened up a community charity shop to benefit the town and that has now developed into two community shops.  The Boutique, in the Market Cross area, sells pre-loved quality clothes and accessories.  The Emporium in the Market Place is a treasure trove of bric-a-brac, books, music, household goods and more.  The Emporium also houses the Dapper Chaps gentleman’s boutique.  The proceeds go into supporting the town in various ways, including putting a defibrillator onto the front of its shop in the Market Place.  The Economic Development Coordinator, Jacqui Wragg, works with the businesses and volunteers in the town to promote events and activities designed to involve residents but also to bring visitors to the town to support our shops.  Currently the CBS is investigating the possibility of using another former Bank building to provide a retail destination to bring more people into the town to use the shops and cafes by providing customer facing exhibition style space for rent six days a week.   This could work as an incubator for retailers at the start of their business career with support being given with business planning and marketing.

During the Covid pandemic the community rallied to provide great support and help for those worse affected.  In late 2020 The Vale Pantry opened to assist those in need with food and other necessities at a small fixed weekly cost, and makes healthy eating affordable and fun.   Advice is also given on budgeting and welfare benefits.