History of 1885 The Old Dorchester Gaol

History of 1885 The Old Dorchester Gaol, Dorchester Development


The Old Dorchester Gaol sits on the site of a former Norman Castle. The Domesday Survey recorded that around 90 homes were destroyed in the town to make way for the castle. The site was chosen due to its defensible elevated position and location next to the river. The castle fell into disrepair and was consequently abandoned in 1272.


It was not until 1625 that the prison on High East Street was substantially rebuilt.


As part of the 1774 Goals Act, architect William Blackburn was commissioned to design a new prison in Dorchester. This also coincided with a number of civic improvements throughout Dorchester including the erection of the new Shire Hall. Construction of the new prison was completed in 1795.


In 1885 the prison was entirely rebuilt with the exception of the gateway façade and sections of the original wall which still remain today.


Throughout the 20th Century the prison continued to operate until it was decommissioned by the government in December 2013.