There may be tunnel ahead... another underground tunnel discovered in Dorchester

DISCOVERY: The tunnel which led to Dorchester prison, with Cllr David Taylor, left, and Terry McGrath

DISCOVERY: The tunnel which led to Dorchester prison, with Cllr David Taylor, left, and Terry McGrath

First published in News Dorset Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Dorchester reporter

ANOTHER tunnel linked to Dorchester’s rich and varied past has been rediscovered.

Antelope Walk caretaker and keen archaeologist and historian Terry McGrath recently discovered a tunnel underneath the county town shopping street that was believed to have been used by the renowned Judge Jeffreys.

With help from Dorchester town councillor David Taylor he has now rediscovered the entrance to a tunnel he first found 25 years ago from the River Frome to the prison.

After he first found the tunnel Mr McGrath was forced to keep quiet about its existence as the prison did not want it publicised that there was a potential escape exit from the jail.

But after the closure of the prison last year he decided it was time to see if he could find the entrance again.

Mr McGrath explained that he first read about the tunnel, which used to feed the treadmills at Dorchester prison, in an old antiquarian book.

He said when the river was low, prisoners would enter the tunnel and clean the filter beds.

Mr McGrath said the tunnel could even pre-date the prison, with the book’s author suggesting it was there before the Victorian jail was built.

He added: “I believe I found the tunnel entrance, which had a grill, but of course I couldn’t go any further at that point because you cannot explore a tunnel under a secure prison.

“Maybe somebody could take up the challenge and excavate it. I would be very happy to be involved with this.”

Cllr Taylor said the discovery of the Antelope Walk tunnel had incited a number of people to come forward with information about tunnels they believed to be below the county town.

He said: “The enthusiasm and information has come from all corners of Dorchester regarding relevant tunnels that are in and around the town.

“We are now aware that there are nearly 100 and we gradually and slowly want to find each one.”

Cllr Taylor, who is the town council’s representative on the Dorchester Association for Research into Local History and Archaeology, said the discovery at the prison served as a timely reminder with the site now up for sale.

With the site’s history dating back to Roman times, he said it was important that thorough archaeological investigations are carried out before any work commences.

Comments (6)

Please log in to enable comment sorting

9:36am Thu 10 Jul 14

FerryFan says...

I used to regularly visitvthe Roman Villa near the County Hall when a child back in the 70s, always wondered what the deep pit in the far corner was for. Maybe connected?
I used to regularly visitvthe Roman Villa near the County Hall when a child back in the 70s, always wondered what the deep pit in the far corner was for. Maybe connected? FerryFan
  • Score: 1

9:50am Thu 10 Jul 14

Fred Kite says...

Rumour has it that Gould had one built under the new council offices to escape into the night when the Charles Street fiasco goes pear shaped.
Rumour has it that Gould had one built under the new council offices to escape into the night when the Charles Street fiasco goes pear shaped. Fred Kite
  • Score: 12

11:22am Thu 10 Jul 14

MaidofDorset says...

Wasn't there a castle where the prison is now? It could have been a secret way in.
Wasn't there a castle where the prison is now? It could have been a secret way in. MaidofDorset
  • Score: 2

2:15pm Thu 10 Jul 14

FerryFan says...

Yes there was a castle where the prison is, built in the 1100s.
Yes there was a castle where the prison is, built in the 1100s. FerryFan
  • Score: 2

2:16pm Thu 10 Jul 14

leo210856 says...

In an on line history of Dorchester I found the following interesting

) Other records of conduits or ‘subways’ in Dorchester are inadequate but ought not to be ignored. Under the County Museum, High West Street (69229076), an ‘underground passage’ cut into the Chalk was seen in 1880 running S.S.W., with mortared flint walls about 2 ft. high ‘set back 6 in. on each side’ (Moule). Almost due S. at the Devon and Cornwall Bank, South Street (69239059), a similar work without remains of walls was found in 1899, evidently running S. several feet beneath the remains of the mosaic (195); in 1898 a like feature was seen, parallel with the same street and evidently close to the mosaic (194C), in building Messrs. Duke's former offices on the site now occupied by Messrs. Woolworth (69229055). In High East Street, outside the King's Arms (69329074), some 10 ft. below the road, the top of a ‘large brick arch . . . like the crown of an ancient arched drain’ (D.C.M. accessions book, Sept. 1908) was seen in 1900; it was in a cutting about 5 ft. wide thought to come from N.W. To S., B. A. Hogg is said to have noted similar cuttings in two places, running S., in Charles Street and outside South Walk, but the latter would be in the Roman town ditch. A large cavity flanked by two smaller ones, said to lead to the town from the Castle site to N. and to have been found in 1720 in building the former Unitarian Chapel in Colliton Street (69189083), was evidently a work of different character from the foregoing. (Moule, 27–9; Dorset Procs. LXXVII (1955), 129.)

An arched passage apparently leading S. below the present concrete floor of Tilley's Garage, 26 Trinity Street (69139051), is said to have been found when a vehicle broke through about the same time as the discovery of the mosaic (192) in 1925. The materials are unknown. (Information, 1950, from the employee concerned.)
In an on line history of Dorchester I found the following interesting ) Other records of conduits or ‘subways’ in Dorchester are inadequate but ought not to be ignored. Under the County Museum, High West Street (69229076), an ‘underground passage’ cut into the Chalk was seen in 1880 running S.S.W., with mortared flint walls about 2 ft. high ‘set back 6 in. on each side’ (Moule). Almost due S. at the Devon and Cornwall Bank, South Street (69239059), a similar work without remains of walls was found in 1899, evidently running S. several feet beneath the remains of the mosaic (195); in 1898 a like feature was seen, parallel with the same street and evidently close to the mosaic (194C), in building Messrs. Duke's former offices on the site now occupied by Messrs. Woolworth (69229055). In High East Street, outside the King's Arms (69329074), some 10 ft. below the road, the top of a ‘large brick arch . . . like the crown of an ancient arched drain’ (D.C.M. accessions book, Sept. 1908) was seen in 1900; it was in a cutting about 5 ft. wide thought to come from N.W. To S., B. A. Hogg is said to have noted similar cuttings in two places, running S., in Charles Street and outside South Walk, but the latter would be in the Roman town ditch. A large cavity flanked by two smaller ones, said to lead to the town from the Castle site to N. and to have been found in 1720 in building the former Unitarian Chapel in Colliton Street (69189083), was evidently a work of different character from the foregoing. (Moule, 27–9; Dorset Procs. LXXVII (1955), 129.) An arched passage apparently leading S. below the present concrete floor of Tilley's Garage, 26 Trinity Street (69139051), is said to have been found when a vehicle broke through about the same time as the discovery of the mosaic (192) in 1925. The materials are unknown. (Information, 1950, from the employee concerned.) leo210856
  • Score: 3

7:39pm Thu 10 Jul 14

terra firma says...

come on harry, your showing your are with this headline and not reporting on the local operatic, but the melodramatic!

Tunnel Vision some would say
come on harry, your showing your are with this headline and not reporting on the local operatic, but the melodramatic! Tunnel Vision some would say terra firma
  • Score: 2

Comments are closed on this article.

Send us your news, pictures and videos

Most read stories

Local Info

Enter your postcode, town or place name

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree