NEWLY discovered original plans for the Dorchester Brigade Depot will add the finishing touches to a Dorset military display.

The 140-year-old hand-drawn and coloured plans were discovered by Duke's Auctioneers and sold as part of the auction house’s Coins and Militaria, Medals and Weapons sale.

The historical documents were purchased by the Keep Military Museum in Dorchester and will go some way to completing the museum's archive of Dorset military memorabilia.

The plans date back to 1877 when the Cardwell Reforms were implemented, resulting in the British Army forming County Regiments rather than marching Regiments of Foot.

Prior to the reforms, and throughout the Napoleonic Wars, officers in the British Army bought commissions and were not recruited on merit, ultimately leading to disorganisation and malpractice in senior ranks.

The Secretary of State for War, Edward Cardwell, reorganised the army building a regimental depot and barracks in each county as the centre for administration, recruitment, training and and troops such as that in Dorchester.

Cardwell also instituted improvements, including abolishing commissions, fines for drunkenness, and a reserve of short-service soldiers.

Timothy Medhurst, militaria specialist at Duke’s, said: "This is a wonderful piece of military history, and how fantastic that it is also an important piece of local history.

"These beautifully drawn plans show how a new era of Military organisation was ushered in to Britain, and our armed forces were beginning to be shaped into the impeccably arranged system they are in today."

In the early 1960s the barracks were sold off to the Royal Mail and Dorset County Council. More recently the Tax Office, Job Centre and a car park have been built on the old parade ground.

What is now the Keep Military Museum was the only building to remain in Ministry of Defence hands.

Duke’s auctioneers are holding of valuation mornings across the south west. The next upcoming dates are Friday, March 17 at Jackson-Stops and Staff in Bridport, and Friday, March 24 in the NFU Mutual offices in Sturminster Newton.