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.