Digging duo unearth Dorchester's forgotten tunnels

Dorset Echo: Cllr David Taylor with manager Denise Peplow in the tunnel under Accessorize in Antelope Walk Cllr David Taylor with manager Denise Peplow in the tunnel under Accessorize in Antelope Walk

A PAIR of underground investigators have been discovering more of Dorchester’s history beneath our feet.

Town councillor David Taylor and Antelope Walk caretaker Terry McGrath recently rediscovered an old underground passage that was believed to have been used by the renowned Judge Jeffreys.

They have also tracked down the entrance to what they believe to be a tunnel leading to Dorchester Prison from the banks of the River Frome.

Since their first finding Cllr Taylor says they have been inundated with reports of other fascinating places beneath the ground level of the county town.

The duo have recently been looking at two further areas in Antelope Walk.

Underneath the Oak Tea Rooms they have been checking out what they believe to be another section of the Judge Jeffreys passage, with a staircase leading up to the tea rooms that was once the court where the blood thirsty judge sat.

Cllr Taylor said: “We believe the prisoners were taken through to the Oak Tea Rooms, which used to be the court, through the passage way and up the original staircase, which is behind the staircase of today. They would then have been presented in a cage room and would have stood there and received their sentence.”

The investigative pair have also been down to look at a giant cellar beneath Accessorize at the bottom of Antelope Walk.

The cellar stretches 100 feet underneath South Street and an archaeologist from Dorset County Museum has been to look at it and identified medieval bricks that date back to around the 14th century.

Cllr Taylor said: “The striking thing is the sheer size of the space and the part of it is medieval stone.”

The cellar is beneath what used to be the Antelope Hotel.

Cllr Taylor said the latest findings were further evidence of the amazing amount of history underneath street level in Dorchester, with a whole network of passage ways and cellars almost creating a whole other town underground.

He said: “It just goes to show the amazing history and heritage of Dorchester in areas like High East and High West Street, Antelope Walk and some of South Street.

“When you are walking along the street you can look up and see they are graced with a plethora of history and heritage.

“There is so much underneath as well.”

Comments (4)

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8:34am Thu 17 Jul 14

K9 says...

Hope the banks have checked if any pass under them. :-)
Hope the banks have checked if any pass under them. :-) K9
  • Score: 1

2:20pm Thu 17 Jul 14

Bailey25 says...

I used to go to a dance studio that was underneath antelope walk somewhere. One floor was level with the shops and there was another studio underground. Wonder what it is now.
I used to go to a dance studio that was underneath antelope walk somewhere. One floor was level with the shops and there was another studio underground. Wonder what it is now. Bailey25
  • Score: 0

3:30pm Thu 17 Jul 14

FerryFan says...

Speaking from Poole, Eddie Mitchell might want those tunnels to hide in if he gets to build his version of Dubai's palm shaped island in Sandbanks. Poole has beautiful natural islands, not man made horrors like his idea.
Speaking from Poole, Eddie Mitchell might want those tunnels to hide in if he gets to build his version of Dubai's palm shaped island in Sandbanks. Poole has beautiful natural islands, not man made horrors like his idea. FerryFan
  • Score: -2

3:37pm Thu 17 Jul 14

FerryFan says...

Seriously though, sorry can't edit above post, I am following the stories about these tunnels as grew up around Dorchester/Weymouth. Very intriguing learning about it. Love reading about long forgotten places like this, so very interesting!
Seriously though, sorry can't edit above post, I am following the stories about these tunnels as grew up around Dorchester/Weymouth. Very intriguing learning about it. Love reading about long forgotten places like this, so very interesting! FerryFan
  • Score: -1
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