This is an ongoing project and first started when I took a tour of the empty HMP Dorchester site in North Square in late 2021. The prison was closed in 2013 and has stood empty since then, scheduled for demolition with planning permission to build flats on the site. I was blown away by the visual and historical impact of the place. It is a site with a very long history. Victorian archaeologists uncovered the remains of a Roman villa and later it was the site of a medieval castle. The town of Dorchester had had a prison for over 900 years until this one closed. The last two of those prisons were sited here and the main building of the present one is Victorian and dates from 1880.

I have been regularly visiting and working both on and off site to produce a body of artwork that responds to this atmospheric place and it’s layers of history and hidden narratives. I have also enjoyed researching the prison’s history and that of wider criminal and social justice issues.  The Dorset Archives have many of the documents associated with the prison and I have also become a regular visitor there. I feel strongly that it is important to record as much as I can whilst the site is still standing. I have taken hundreds of photographs and am also working with vintage objects and Victorian techniques and processes to reflect this period as much as possible in the finished work.

I was shocked to find that in many ways attitudes to and conditions in prisons today have changed very little since the prison first opened. I hope through making and exhibiting my work to also be able to highlight this and start a debate regarding the dire need for changes in the current criminal justice system.