Dorchester Castle was a motte and bailey castle in the market town of Dorchester, Dorset, southern England (grid reference SY692909).

A 1771 map of Dorchester, showing the green where the castle once stood at the north of the town.



The date that the castle was built is unclear.[1] Between 1154 and 1175 it was in possession of the Earl of Cornwall and it had become a royal possession by 1185. Both Henry III and John spent money on the castle.[2] It appears to have been disused from about 1290 and there are references to its stonework being reused by the Chidlock family to build Dorchester Greyfriars in 1309.[2][3][4][5] Certainly it was abandoned by 1422.[6]

Dorchester Prison occupies its site – originally to the north of the town, with a Franciscan Priory further east, but nothing of the castle or the priory remain.[7] However, in 1720, two underground passages were discovered while building a chapel: these once connected the castle to the town proper.[8] In the 1800s, a bastion-like rampart still existed, and a small rampart and ditch were visible on the north and east sides.[8] The gatehouse was built in 1790 and has been designated as a Grade II listed building.[9]

Great Western Railway Castle-class locomotive No. 4090 was named after the castle.[10]



There are some records of people associated with the castle:


  1. ^ Draper, Jo (1 January 1982). Dorchester Excavations: Excavations at Wadham House 1968, Dorchester Prison 1970, 1975, and 1978, and Glyde Path Road 1966. Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society. p. 91. ISBN 9780900341106.
  2. ^ a b Fry, Plantagenet (15 October 2005). Castles: England + Scotland + Ireland + Wales. David & Charles. ISBN 0715322125.
  3. ^ Timbs, John (1 January 1872). Abbeys, castles and ancient balls of England and Wales, their legendary lore, and popular history. Re-ed. by A. Gunn. p. 440.
  4. ^ "Dorchester Castle". Gatehouse Gazetteer. Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  5. ^ Hutchins, John (1868). The History and Antiquities of the County of Dorset (3rd ed.). pp. 362–4.
  6. ^ Schofield, John; Leech, Roger, eds. (1987). Urban Archaeology in Britain. ISBN 0906780594. Retrieved 3 August 2016. {{cite book}}: |website= ignored (help)
  7. ^ "British History Online". Her Majesty's Stationery Office. 1970. Retrieved 3 August 2016.
  8. ^ a b c d Mackenzie, James Dixon (1896). The castles of England, their story and structure. p. 246. ISBN 9781153325301.
  9. ^ Historic England. "The stone gateway forming the north elevation of the gatehouse of the former Her Majesty's Prison Dorchester (1119045)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 26 August 2016.
  10. ^ "GWR oil - fired locomotives". The Great Western Archive. Retrieved 23 September 2018.


  • Fry, Plantagenet Somerset, The David & Charles Book of Castles, David & Charles, 1980. ISBN 0-7153-7976-3.

50°43′01″N 2°26′13″W / 50.717°N 2.437°W / 50.717; -2.437