HM Prison Dorchester, Dorset

The Daily Mail would have you believe that the country’s prisoners are sat in five-star accommodation with flat-screen TV’s and a Playstation in every room. There’s not much evidence of that in Dorchester prison. It is grim. Pure Victorian detention in all it’s glory – and it’s wonderful!

Dorchester prison
The Grade II listed main entrance of HM Prison Dorchester.

It’s hard to believe that such a bleak, harsh building could be turned in to 189 homes. But that’s exactly what developers City & Country plan to do. The blueprints look promising & the inclusion of a museum is a nice touch. The site is of important historical & archaeological significance and was also the location of the last public hanging in Dorset. City & Country’s track record with this type of building is thankfully a good one.

Walking up to the main entrance, it’s tall & imposing, and as you go up the stairs there’s quite a condescending motto aimed at anyone about to spend time at her majesty’s pleasure… “Holding the key to a brighter future” – I suspect raised eyebrows from many inmates!

HM Prison Dorchester has two main wings and with room for less than 300 prisoners, at the time of closure in 2013 half were convicted prisoners, and half remanded inmates. Before the doors closed for the final time in 2013, Dorchester prison had a bit of a rollercoaster last few years. 2008 saw the prison labelled “the most improved prison” after suffering with serious drug problems & over-crowding.

The tiny cells are a real eye-opener. And my description of grim is all too true. Damp & blackspot litter the cold, stone block walls, the only heating source is a pipe running down one side of the cell. The metal framed bunk-beds have an air of torture about their features, and in the corner, a stainless steel toilet with nothing but a curtain to divide you from your cellmate. A brief, comical moment of panic sets in as we shut the cell door behind us only to find the all the handles removed, an all too real-to-life experience! The whole wing feels very claustrophobic, with cages all around you and just enough room for one person on the walkways.

A lot of the prison is locked down (unsurprisingly) and difficult to explore fully but as we moved to the outside we noticed a stained glass cross on a higher level. Heading back in we found the chapel, modern in contrast to the interior of other rooms in the prison.

After taking one last walk around the wings to make sure we hadn’t missed anything, we made our way out. A walk that inmates of Dorchester prison would have enjoyed, I’m sure!

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23 responses to “HM Prison Dorchester, Dorset”

  1. John Rupa says:

    I remember being shown the hanging cell/room when I was having a short “break” there. The beam was still in place although everything else was gone the marks on the wall of the old platform/stairs etc. were visible. Didn’t know the old place was coming down would have loved to see it again for old times sake. Strangely enough I have some decent memories from there!

  2. Olivia Johnson-scott says:

    How do I go about contacting someone to visit? Myself and my friend would love to be able to film our college documentary here.


  3. RAFAL says:

    I’d like to do music video over there. What I need to do?

  4. Sue Galise says:

    Is it possible to book a tour for a local group (about 15 people)? Is there a charge?

  5. taranvir toor says:

    Is this place scary because I am very scared after reading this.

  6. sandy mould says:

    I would love to go and visit think they should open for people to have a look before it goes for development.

  7. design says:

    I am a designer that will be working on this project. I love my job, it allows me to see such places.

  8. Jack says:

    Is this safe? Anyone here? Any drugs or weapons?

  9. Thurman Remkus says:

    Said to have a figure in motorcycling gear that would appear by the fireplace thought to be Laurence of Arabia who used to frequent the pub.

  10. Heather says:

    Hi there,

    Thanks for this great article.

    Do you know how to contact the owners, as I’m interested in making a student documentary there?

  11. Ian says:

    Great insights and photos that evoke my memories of SW prisons… Decency and dignity delivered by staff in challenging conditions. Inside is by no means an easy option.

  12. Zoe says:

    I had the pleasure of visiting at the official closing ceremony. We had a tour and was shown all the supposedly haunted spots. Fascinating place. We were lucky as there were no areas off limits and after the official tour, we got to explore at our leisure. Spooky place… not sure I would want to live there!

  13. Hi my husband spent a lot of years at the prison when the only toilet was a bucket. Shame to close down x

  14. tazns125 says:

    Is there a way in looks like a great place to go but is there any cameras or someone watching the place.

    • The Urban Explorer says:

      It’s completely off-limits to the public & well secured. There’s full time security & an on-site caretaker. I was given special access to the prison along with members of the museum.

  15. Sarah says:

    Hi, can anyone now visit Dorchester prison?
    Is it open to visitors?
    My partner is his younger days spent a lot of time in there, and would like to have a look around. Thanks x

    • The Urban Explorer says:

      Hi Sarah,

      Sadly not. I was given permission to explore the prison along with members of the museum etc. before it’s redeveloped.

      • Kelsey says:

        Is there a way to book a tour online, I’m looking to go with a friend pretty soon and I don’t want to show up unannounced only to be turned away because I didn’t book a tour in advance. Also is there a fee for the tour?

        • The Urban Explorer says:

          Not that I’m aware of I’m afraid. You can try to contact City & Country, but their focus is on planning & developing the site not public tours. I would keep an eye/ear out for the public consultations in the local paper. I’m unaware of any future ones as there have already been two (one quite recently). If I hear of anything I’ll update this page with the information.

  16. David Crooks says:

    Great new feed mate, love the account of history too, you’ve got some great piccies here.

  17. Sara Harpley says:

    As usual… interesting commentary and beautiful photography. Thank you!

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