Dorchester Depot Barracks Postcard

Tonight we have a postcard depicting the main ‘keep’ of the Dorchester Depot Barracks:SKMBT_C36416062413190_0001The centre of the picture is dominated by the large stone built gatehouse in the shape of a castle’s keep:SKMBT_C36416062413190_0001 - Copy (3)The Keep is now the only part of the barracks remaining, and is the museum of the Dorchester regiment. the-keep-museumThe following description of the building comes form their website:

Completed in 1879, it was designed to resemble a Norman Castle, and is built of Portland stone which gives it a white appearance. In ‘British Barracks 1600-1914’, James Douet explains that:

‘The ‘keep’ or armoury at Dorchester was an unusually realistic interpretation of a mediaeval castle, by the army’s standards, which must have been in response to local sensibilities over the historic character of the town.’

The design did not find favour with everyone. Pevsner, in ‘The Buildings of England” describes it thus:

‘The monumental gatehouse is a knock-down affair. Two round towers to the front, the archway between. Three storeys of long slit windows. Rock faced with a vengeance. Today it is a grade 2 listed building. The designer was probably Major AC Seddon R.E, head of the War Office Design branch at this time…The barracks behind were humble by comparison.’

A contemporary report in the Dorset County Chronicle and Somerset Gazette, 27 Mar 1879 was more complimentary:

‘…a gateway of random rockwork in Ridgeway stone, with round and massive towers and battlemented surrounding…The Keep is to rise to a height of 65 feet…At the basement of the ponderous and formidable structure are guardhouse and prisoners cells, with all the necessary accessories. A range is provided for the supply of hot water to warm the three cells. At the rear of the cells is a yard for the exercise of prisoners.’

The keep functioned as the gatehouse to the barracks that were built from 1877-1881, the barracks originally holding the 39th (Dorsetshire) Regiment of Foot and the 75th (Stirlingshire) Regiment of Foot. In 1881 the depot housed the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the Dorset Regiment. This was a function it was to retain until 1958 when the regiment merged with the Devonshire Regiment and moved to Exeter. The barracks were redeveloped, but the keep remained and is now the regimental museum.

A member of the Dorsetshire regiment can be seen on the postcard stood in front of the keep with a civilian:SKMBT_C36416062413190_0001 - Copy (4)I believe the photograph to date from the 1930s as the soldier is wearing Service Dress, but a motor truck can be seen in the yard of the barracks to the right of the keep:SKMBT_C36416062413190_0001 - Copy (2)

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