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North of Grove Road

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In the top left part of the map lies the Independent and Admiralty quarries. Much of the stone from here went to build the Verne Citadel and the Portland Breakwater in Victorian times.

This area includes the site of a dog’s gravestone until it was broken and removed [1].

A large derelict limekiln lies within the property of the YOI [3].

There is a huge sunken sports stadium created in an abandoned quarry. This was used by Borstal Boys [4].

In a field [5] are two poignant poems inscribed on stone panels by one of Portland’s much loved poets - Skylark Durston. Nearby are the abandoned Engine Sheds which were associated with the Victorian inclined railway.

The prisoners’ farm [8] gives off a rich smell of pigs when the weather is hot and a listed Grade 2 Victorian sentry box survives [9].

The Youth Offenders Institute occupies a large area of the Grove Road area [11].

St Peter’s Church [10] has much interest as it was built for, and partly by, the prisoners at The Grove Prison - now the Youth Offenders Institute. However, it is now a private home.

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UNCLE BROKER’S GRAVESTONE [1]

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A VICTORIAN DRAIN COVER [2]

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LIMEKILN [3]

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SUNKEN SPORTS STADIUM [4]

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 OLD ENGINE SHEDS [5]

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SKYLARK DURSTON’S POEMS [6]

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RESERVOIR [7]

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PRISON FARM [8]

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SENTRY BOX [9]

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St PETER’S CHURCH [10]

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GROVE PRISON/BORTAL/YOI [11]

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ANOTHER OF MY HOBBIES

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UNCLE BROKER’S GRAVESTONE [1]

Beside a track in this area, near the point marked [1] on the map, once lay a poignant memorial to a pet dog. In the Spring the stone would be surrounded by flowers.

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I took the above photograph in 1989.

I made an appeal for information about this memorial in the Free Portland News in the late 1980s. Within a couple of weeks the dog's owner had read the appeal in the Falkland Islands and responded.

He explained how his much-loved dog ‘Uncle Broker’ was killed by a quarry lorry at the point of this memorial and the stone plaque was erected in his memory.

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By 2011 the stone had been broken, either by vandals or by frost damage, and soon the remnants of this poignant memorial were removed without trace.

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A VICTORIAN DRAIN COVER [2]

OK! I know I am a nerdy geek (or is it a geeky nerd?) but I really do get excited by finds like this when I am out exploring Portland!

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It’s a drain cover dated 1848!

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Very close to the drain cover and the sunken stadium used to run one of the many tramway tracks that criss-crossed the area like spiders’ webs. After a deluge and storm in 1989 I found this exposed section of wooden sleepers. Within a few days they had gone; smashed and splintered by heavily loaded stone lorries.

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A LIMEKILN [3]

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This limekiln was built around 1900 and is a listed building. However, its condition is deteriorating and it is in need of stabilizing. I took the above picture about a decade ago.

There is a detailed description and history of this building on Ashley Smith’s excellent Portland History website which can be read here.

The following pictures have kindly been supplied by Ashley Smith. There are many more pictures on his website.

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Copyright Ashley Smith

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Copyright Ashley Smith

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Copyright Ashley Smith

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THE SUNKEN SPORTS STADIUM [4]

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Unless you were to climb up the surrounding wall and peer over you might not know that a huge sunken sports stadium exists just north of the Youth Offenders Institute.

This was created out of an abandoned quarry by and for the use of the Borstal boys.

A detailed history of this stadium written by Ashley Smith can be read here.

The following pictures taken between the two World Wars show the stadium in use.

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Can anyone work out what the Borstal Boys are supposed to be representing in this pattern?

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The stadium is still used occasionally for community functions and sports events.

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The pictures above and below show paintball games in progress in the summer of 2015.

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 ENGINE SHEDS

Buildings at the top of Incline Road and near the reservoir were once the sheds in which engines were stored that worked the quarry tramways.

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There were plans to renovate these buildings and set up a museum in them. However, those plans collapsed when the sponsor withdrew.

Just to the north of the Engine Sheds is a magnificent view across Weymouth Bay and along the coast to St Aldelm’s Head.

Until 206 it was possible to drive to this point but a gate had now been erected as shown below.

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A locomotive of the type used in Victorian Portland quarries.

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In the 1990s this area near the Engine Sheds was used by Portland Dog Training Club. The caravan and building have long gone with only the foundations of the building are now visible in the brambles. Be very careful if you go exploring this area as it ends in an unguarded and deadly drop over a cliff!

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SKYLARK DURSTON’S POEMS [6]

The field adjacent to the engine sheds has a beautifully built dry stone wall which was produced by local people as a community project.

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Set into these dry stone walls are two stone plaques inscribed with two of Skylark’s poems.

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His poems are on the right-hand (southern) wall.

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WATER RESERVOIR [7]

A major feature of the area north of St Peter’s Church which has no design or tourist values and is not even worth photographing. It does do a great job storing water for Portlanders however.

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This is where Portland’s water now comes from - Friar Waddon Pumping Station near Upwey.

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PRISON FARM [8]

The Prison Farm was established to provide employment for the prisoners and produce for them to eat. The area is hidden behind high steel fences. The most enduring evidence over the decades for its existence has been the strong smell of pig manure which wafts over the area.

Strangely, I rather like the smell of pigs as it brings back memories of the two pigs my Grandfather kept on his allotment in Neasden, North London during World War 2.

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A SENTRY BOX [9]

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A road runs off The Grove and curves around St Peter’s Church. This road is hemmed in with high walls which are listed monuments.

This was a very busy road when the quarries were being worked. It remained busy from the 1960s until the 1990s because it was the ‘back entrance’ to the Royal Navy Dockyard. In particular, it was the commuter route between the two branches of the Admiralty Underwater Weapons Establishment at the Dockyard and at Southwell.

A consequence of this passage of scientists and engineers was that the nearby Clifton Inn was a popular meeting place to discuss work, eat lunch and sink a few pints to fuel the brain for a hard afternoon’s inventing and designing.

I know because I was one of those scientists who, for three decades, ensured that the Clifton thrived.

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The Victorian sentry box is a fortunate survivor of the days when armed guards watched over the prisoners working in the near-by quarries. Similar Victorian sentry boxes have been wantonly destroyed by quarry companies despite being Scheduled Monuments.

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St PETER’S CHURCH [10]

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St Peter's Church dominates the area north of Grove Road. Built for use of the Grove Prison, it was partly decorated by prisoners from Portland and Dorchester.

The story of this church is told on Ashley Smith’s excellent website - please click here.

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The construction and decoration of the church was done by convicts from The Grove (Portland) and Dorchester prisons. The pulpit and lectern were also made by prisoners.

The mosaic floor was made by Constance Kent who was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder and was bought over from Parkhurst Prison on the Isle of Wight to carry out this work.

The polished cross is slightly shaped and appeared to show the Crucifixion when positioned in the correct angle to lighting. Whether this was deliberate or accidental is not known.

The church was declared redundant in 1973 and became privately owned and there has been no private access since then. There was a proposal to turn the church into a casino. However, Portlanders still have a strong but diminishing leaning towards Methodism and public pressure stopped Portland becoming the Monte Carlo of Dorset.

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My picture taken in 1989 shows the pulpit and below we see the stained glass windows.

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GROVE PRISON/BORSTAL/YOI

There is much information in Stuart Morris’s “Portland - An Illustrated History” book as well as his many other books.

There is also a detailed history of Portland Prison and its conversion in the 1920s into a Borstal for wayward youths which can be seen here.

Other good sources of information are the Portland Museum near Pennsylvania Castle and the Portland Prison Museum which is near the YOI main entrance.

There are many old pictures at the Portland Museum Archive which can be seen here.

Opened in 1848 it was a very tough prison with the prisoners working long and hard in the surrounding quarries.

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My picture taken from Weston using a 200 mm lens in 1990 shows how the buildings dominate central Portland. The gloomy and austere prison creates a sombre and threatening presence.

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The Victorian entrance is still the way in and out for criminals and it now has protected status. Below we see the entrance in use a century ago.

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James Burgess who joined Portland Prison in 1850 and retired in 1871. He has been immortalised by appearing top left on a decorative plaque outside the TESCO store at Easton as seen below.

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This picture shows the small cells that the prisoners occupied. This was their world when not out working in the quarries.

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 The prison at about the time it became a Borstal.

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In 1921 the prison was converted to take Borstal Boys of whom the above is an example. More pictures of Borstal boys and their sporting activities can be seen here.

In 1988 the buildings were again changed to accommodate young criminals as the Youth Offenders Institution (YOI) which it remained until 2011 when young adults were admitted.

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ANOTHER OF MY HOBBIES

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In 2014 at the age of 75 I started a new hobby - writing books. These are available as paperbacks and free ebooks. 

Please click here for details. All have been very well received; so far gathering all ‘five star’ reviews apart from one ‘four star’ review.

I also have many other websites covering a wide range of interesting topics. These can be visited by clicking here.

 

 

Keywords Skylark Durston Prison Sports Stadium Engine Sheds Uncle Broker Portland Dorset