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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Comments

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  1. Den says:

    I was there a few times early 2000’s, and these photos bring back memories. I would like to go if it is still possible and see if some old graffiti is still there and to just remember how far I have come.

    1. The Urban Explorer says:

      There’s actually a few tours coming up. A company that does tours at Gloucester prison has started at Dorchester; https://www.gloucester-prison.co.uk/ourshop/cat_1742373-Dorchester-Prison.html

      1. Ed Wilson says:

        Hi. Thought you might like an update on the Dorchester Prison tours situation.
        If your readers go to: http://www.dorchester-prison.co.uk and follow the links, dates are up for the next two months. This will also link through to the tickets page.

        Thanks

  2. Mikey slater says:

    We went here and couldn’t get in how do we do it?

    1. George says:

      Any luck since?

  3. Derrick Lawson says:

    I have been in Dorch many times and actually won 2 cups for the Chess and Draughts comp – Sad to see it shut but it’s kept me out of trouble closing! Isn’t that Right Mr Churchill 😳

  4. jamie bennett says:

    Was in Dorchester 2009 to 2010, it was a good nick, the food was shit though, and it was freezing in there I spent my time sitting on the hot pipe, shame they closed it. It only held around 250 prisoners, met up with some nice people in there.

  5. Rudolf Fletcher says:

    I spent 4 months, and Christmas there, from October ’62 to January ’63. I was a first timer and they called a first timer a star. I worked with about 8 other stars on an outside farm for the first 2 months. Around Christmas it snowed very heavily and we got snowed in. The last 2 months I spent cleaning up and polishing the bright work on the front gate, as well as making tea for the officer on duty there. Dorchester was known as a ‘cushy nick’ and I look back at that time with fond memories.

  6. Aaron says:

    This was a great prison (sounds strange I know) but it was. I’ve had a few small sentences here on all wings except D wing obviously. Sad that it shut down.

  7. Nikki Palmer says:

    Just as an update, the developers appear to have pulled out from converting the prison into flats.
    There is now a company (Haunted Cells) that has access to it and I went on one of their ‘ghost hunts’ there this Saturday night just gone.
    It was interesting to see inside the empty building as I live locally. For obvious reasons it was very dark a lot of the time which was very creepy and it’s not a history tour so don’t be disappointed if the hosts can’t answer any questions!

    Sadly, I didn’t see the area outside that was mentioned previously with the gravestones of buried prisoners and wonder if these have already been removed?

    Just for info there are more ‘Ghost Hunts’ planned for the immediate future

    1. The Urban Explorer says:

      It’s an interest fact that ghosts only come out at night. Haha! A load of old codswallop, but a good way to see inside an important historic building in the town.

      1. Rudolf Fletcher says:

        Ghosts only come out at night is because that is the time when people’s imagination is at it’s peak.

      2. Jimmy boy says:

        Really like to visit if they have tours would be great. Any info be much appreciated.

    2. Aaron says:

      I was never told or saw any gravestones there but I only had access to one exercise yard.

  8. Harry says:

    I played Airsoft there the other day and it was awesome. You can pretty much go everywhere and do anything. The best part was hiding in the boiler room which was pitch black.

    1. The Urban Explorer says:

      Are the organisers requiring the use of biodegradable BB’s?

  9. Robbie McCauley says:

    I was in Dorchester on quite a few occasions back in the 1960s and early 70s. Moved to Bournemouth from Liverpool in ’65. Caused mayhem at the prison when I threw talcum powder over the screws who had gathered on the centre waiting to go off duty. Did you know that at that time there was a small grassy area next to exercise yard which was where they buried hanged people… It actually had the grave stone for a donkey there too.

    They put me in the mailbag shop after I attempted to escape. Any one remember Mr Honey the governor? Or Mr Smallbone?

    1. Dionne Fryer says:

      I would love to talk to you about your time in there if possible would be a huge thing for me.
      Thank you in advance.

    2. Tracey says:

      Hi Robbie, do you remember officer Ken Heath?

  10. Jim Hand says:

    I once worked in the Portland Borstal as it was called back then and one of the boys asked me where I came from and I told him Dorchester and he said “Oh, I know Dorchester they got a nice little nick up there.”

  11. Martin says:

    First was in there when they had a YOI wing which later was for the nonces. Been on a wing for remand & B wing for convicted prisoners & drug free landing was my second home. True story

    1. Nicola Taylor says:

      When were you in there, on B wing?

      My former husband was in there, on B wing, way back in late 1988/89, anyone remember a Timothy Balcombe?

      1. Martin says:

        Hi, the early 90s onwards from Bournemouth where was your husband from? Last time I was in there they sent me to HMS Weare aka the boat didn’t get a sea view though.

  12. Fiona barrett says:

    I remember singing in the chapel in there

  13. mick says:

    Was Mad Frankie Fraser ever in Dorchester prison?

    1. Amelia Turnbull says:

      Hi can you get in or has it been knocked down? Thank you

    2. mike cord says:

      Frank was never in Dorchester.

    3. Sedgwick says:

      Yes, but he was never allowed on normal location, only down the block. Every morning the governor doing his rounds would ask him if he was ok, any complaints, that type of thing. All he got back was fuck off. Frazier wanted go on the wings but there was no way. He deffo was there.

  14. Rodney Kent says:

    Will miss that old place. 1985 onwards

    1. Avastar says:

      Hi,

      Was John Cannan in there?

  15. Pauline Matthews says:

    How do you get in? Do you need permission and is there an address? :)

  16. 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!

  17. 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.

    Thanks.

  18. RAFAL says:

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

  19. Sue Galise says:

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

    1. Robbie says:

      Is it open to public?

  20. taranvir toor says:

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

  21. 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.

    1. Hayley says:

      Is there any day time tours? Or open to the public that walk around the prison?

  22. design says:

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

    1. Thomas Steckler says:

      Dear Sir/Madam,

      My name is Thomas Steckler and I am currently at university in the process of planning a Photo-Journalism based documentary for our course. Our main idea for our documentary will be based on Abandoned Locations with the viewing platform of VR and we are hoping to be able to film in HM Prison as one of our possible locations.

      We are looking towards people to interview as part of the documentary to share more insight into the location’s past, why it was abandoned, what you found while designing it etc. Is there any possibility you’d be willing to help us with this whether it’s through a written interview or more preferably a recorded message for us or depending on location if we could film an interview with you. My email address is:

      T.Steckler.16@unimail.winchester.ac.uk

      We look forward to hearing back from you.

      Kind regards,
      Tom

  23. Nicole says:

    I like dis.

    1. The Urban Explorer says:

      Thanks!

  24. Jack says:

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

  25. 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.

  26. 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?

    1. Darren says:

      Daz
      I was in Dorchester prison in 2009 it was a right shithole full of dick heads

  27. 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.

  28. 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!

  29. Julie Middleton says:

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

    1. Thomas Steckler says:

      Dear Julie,

      My name is Thomas Steckler and I am currently at university in the process of planning a Photo-Journalism based documentary for our course. Our main idea for our documentary will be based on Abandoned Locations with the viewing platform of VR and we are hoping to be able to film in HM Prison as one of our possible locations.

      We are looking towards people to interview as part of the documentary to share more insight into the location’s past, why it was abandoned, what experiences people had there etc. Is there any possibility your husband would be willing to help us with this whether it’s through a written interview or more preferably a recorded message for us or depending on location if we could film an interview with you. My email address is:

      T.Steckler.16@unimail.winchester.ac.uk

      We look forward to hearing back from you.

      Kind regards,
      Tom

  30. tazns125 says:

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

    1. 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.

  31. 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

    1. 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.

      1. 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?

        1. 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.

    2. Thomas Steckler says:

      Dear Sarah,

      My name is Thomas Steckler and I am currently at university in the process of planning a Photo-Journalism based documentary for our course. Our main idea for our documentary will be based on Abandoned Locations with the viewing platform of VR and we are hoping to be able to film in HM Prison as one of our possible locations.

      We are looking towards people to interview as part of the documentary to share more insight into the location’s past, why it was abandoned, what experiences people had there etc. Is there any possibility your partner would be willing to help us with this whether it’s through a written interview or more preferably a recorded message for us or depending on location if we could film an interview with you. My email address is:

      T.Steckler.16@unimail.winchester.ac.uk

      We look forward to hearing back from you.

      Kind regards,
      Tom

      1. Liam says:

        I had 2 tours there 99/2001. Loved every moment it’s a part of my life I will not forget I now live in N.Ireland

  32. David Crooks says:

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

  33. Sara Harpley says:

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

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