Dorset Day (Saint White’s Day) Date in the current year: June 1, 2024

Dorset Day (Saint White’s Day) Many historic counties of England have a holiday that celebrates their cultural heritage. Some of these county days are the feast days of patron saints of particular counties. For example, Dorset Day coincides with the observance of the feast day of Saint Wite, which occurs on June 1.

Dorset (Dorsetshire) is a historic and ceremonial county in South West England. It is bordered by Devon, Hampshire, Somerset, and Wiltshire. The name “Dorset” derives from the county town of Dorchester. The settlement was established by Romans in the 1st century, who named it Durnovaria. The Saxons named the settlement Dornwaraceaster, and the county’s archaic name, Dorseteschyre (Dorsetshire), was first recorded in the 10th century.

Dorset became a shire (a county) in the 7th century, after it had fallen under Saxon control. In 1348, the port of Melcombe Regis in Dorset became one of the first points of entry of the Black Death into England. The disease was carried by a ship from Gascony carrying a sick seaman.

During the late Middle Ages and the early modern period, the county of Dorset repeatedly became the center of various revolts and uprisings for example, an uprising of clubmen in Shaftesbury during the English Civil War that was quelled by Oliver Cromwell; the Monmouth Rebellion (an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow James II); and mass protests against the exile of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, which were instrumental in the development of the trade union and labor movements.

Present-day Dorset is a largely rural county with a low population density because its economy used to be heavily reliant on agriculture. In recent years, tourism has become increasingly important to Dorset’s economy.

The patron saint of Dorset is Saint Wite (Whyte, White, Witta), also known as Saint Gwen, Saint Candida, or Saint Blanche. Although it may seem that she has many names, all of them have the same meaning — “white” or “light” — in different languages (English, Welsh, Latin, and French).

There is little to nothing known about the life of Saint Wite, although she is one of the most beloved saints in England and has been venerated for many centuries. The shrine and relics of Saint Wite are among the few to have survived Reformation and the Dissolution of the Monasteries, alongside Edward the Confessor’s tomb in Westminster Abbey and Saint Eanswith’s relics in Folkestone. He relics are housed in the Church of St Candida and Holy Cross in Whitchurch Canonicorum.

According to the most popular account, Saint Wite was an anchoress who spent her days praying and maintained fires on the cliffs to serve as beacons for sailors. She is believed to have been martyred during a Viking raid on English monasteries. Some theories identify her with the Breton saint Gewn Teirbron or other saints with similar names.

The flag of Dorset, designed by Stephen Coombs and David White and adopted in 2008, is dedicated to Saint Wite. It has a white cross outlined in red (Saint Wite’s Cross or the Dorset Cross) on a golden background. The feast day of Saint Wite, observed on June 1, is considered the unofficial Dorset Day, although it is not marked by any significant events.

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Dorset Day, Saint White’s Day in Dorset, county days in England, holidays in England, religious observances