If you're interested in crime and punishment and old buildings then you're advised to go straight to jail.

There's a rare chance to look inside the old Dorchester Prison as part of a heritage showcase.

The Victorian jail, which closed in 2013 and has been earmarked for development, will be welcoming visitors as part of events for the county's Heritage Open Days this weekend.

As reported Dorchester's High West and High East Streets will be closed to traffic for the day, on Sunday, September 15, to allow people to enjoy the county town's finest streets without cars, fumes and noise.

On the day, Dorchester Prison will be open between 11am and 4pm for tours led by prison officers who used to work at the site.

Martha Brown was held there before she was sent to the gallows on the prison gateway. Her hanging was witnessed by the young Thomas Hardy, giving inspiration for his novel Tess of the D’Urbervilles.

Eddie Wilson, a prison officer who spent ten years working within the walls of HMP Dorchester, said: “This is a chance for people to visit a genuinely important historical landmark.

"Have you ever wondered what it’s like on the ‘inside’? Well, a unique opportunity to see for yourself has arisen.

"I am delighted to have this opportunity to share my knowledge.”

Mr Wilson’s knowledge is extensive and he is said to have a real passion about the prison. His team of expert tour guides are ready to take you back in time, and show you around the ‘big house’.

People will also be able to experience a visit to the Georgian courtroom at Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum and see the cells where the Tolpuddle Martyrs were held.

Anna Bright of Shire Hall said: “Dorchester has a rich legal history from its foundation as the county town in 1305 to the re-opening of the courtroom at Shire Hall in 2018.

"We tell the stories of famous cases such as the Tolpuddle Martyrs, who were tried here in 1834 for swearing an illegal oath as part of setting up a trade union, and Martha Brown who was convicted for murder in 1856 in a case that would probably have recognised her as a victim of domestic abuse today.”

Tours of the prison can be booked on the day and groups will be limited to 25. No booking is necessary to visit Shire Hall.

Details of all the events planned for Heritage Open Days – all of which are free – can be found at heritageopendays.org.uk

Hokey cokey and pavement art

As well as visiting Dorchester Prison, visitors to the county town can try their hand at pavement art, dance the hokey-cokey in the High Street, write a poem at Max Gate see how photography has captured the area in the past.

This year, Heritage Open Days is celebrating its 25th anniversary with hundreds of events across the country championing this year’s theme – People Power.

Join local artist Sarah Hough from 11am on Sunday and help create a banner in Dorchester’s High West Street as part of the commemorations of the 200th anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre. The pavement art will also celebrate the area's People Power heroes – the Tolpuddle Martyrs – and Tom de Witt from the Tolpuddle Martyrs Museum will be on hand to talk about these two events and how they shaped our democracy.

Also on Sunday, Steve Wallis will be talking about ‘Dorchester Through Time’ in the Corn Exchange at 1pm.

Tom Brown’s pub in High East Street invites people to join them again for the giant hokey-cokey at 2pm. One of the most fun events of 2018, they want to make it bigger and better this year.

Max Gate, which is owned by the National Trust, will be free to enter on Tuesday, September 17.