Governor's Community Garden

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Opening area of Governor's Community Garden.
Governor's Community Garden.

Governor's Community Garden is a public garden, located on the Isle of Portland, Dorset, England. It is found within The Grove village, opposite the site of the Young Offenders Institution HM Prison Portland.


Following the opening of the prison in 1848, which held adult convicts until 1921, after which it was converted to a Borstal and then a YOI in 1988, the gardens were laid out in 1851, in the style of a French Palace Garden. They were attached to the prison governor's residence.[1] The publication "Good Words" in 1873 described "a pretty flower garden" with the Governor's house.

A newspaper report on the conversion of the prison to a Borstal in 1921, stated "The disappearance of the familiar convict badge of a broad arrow [is] of some regret to many Portland summer visitors. How many thousands in the last 30 or 40 years have taken their teas in little refreshment rooms in Grove Road for the privileged of seeing the gangs of convicts at work in the stone quarries, the best-behaved tending the flower beds and lawns in the Governor's gardens." During the 20th century, the gardens fell into disrepair until in 2010, when the gardens were turned into a new community space, leased by the Portland Community Partnership for use of the public.[2][3]

Within the garden lies one of three Victorian ventilator shafts, once used as a ventilator to a sewer system.[4] The remaining other two shafts are found closer to the cliff edge, close to the garden.[5][6] All three became Grade II Listed monuments in September 1978. These were built of Portland ashlar, circa 1870, with a height of approximately 7.5 metres, with octagon to pedestal sides.[4] Located on the outskirt of the Governor's Community Garden, is a War Department/Admiralty boundary marker. Dating from 1870, it is one of many markers of its kind to be found on Portland, and this particular example has been Grade II Listed since May 1993.[7]

In 1968, the prison's Rodney House was rebuilt after bomb damage in the Second World War, and some of the stones saved was used to build the Bowls Pavilion adjoining the Governor's Garden.[8]

2010 Community project[edit]

In August 2010, the community project was funded by the Big Lottery 'Changing Spaces' administered by Groundwork UK. The Portland Community Partnership and Portland Gas Trust was awarded £46,254 to allow development of the new play area and botanic garden together with publicity and promotion resources. Additional local funding was also received from Portland Community Partnership, Portland Gas Trust, Court Leet and local schools. Both staff and young offenders at the Young Offenders Institute, Dorset Probation Trust's Community Payback Team, conservation volunteers with Wild About Weymouth and Portland and school children at Grove Infants and Royal Manor all performed work to transform the dilapidated land into a community space and return it to its natural setting.[9]

During the project, as well as the Young Offenders Institute Allotments, new parts of the gardens were created, which included a children's play area, an 800 square metre allotment and orchard site for schoolchildren, a memorial area, and around a pond, a display of Portland's wild plants, raised from seed collected on the island. The old tennis courts of the garden have become a wildflower meadow with beehives, and alongside this area, some parts of the garden are in use to grow fresh produce for the Young Offenders Institute. The gardens also link up to a Bowling Green.

In a Dorset Echo article of 20 August 2010, Portland Gas trustee Rachel Barton had been quoted "This renovated garden will provide a wonderful community asset. People from the age of five upwards, volunteers, parents and carers will be able to see, study and relax amongst Portland’s unique flora and fauna. Thanks to the grant and the Young Offender Institution, an important part of Portland will be able to be returned to its natural setting. It's great to see the effective working collaboration of the Portland Community Partner-ship, the prison authorities, the Countryside Project and the local school partnership. Without them this grant would not have been achieved." A project spokesman had added "Islanders and visitors, young and old will benefit from the transformation. The Portland Gas Trust is committed to local initiatives that support education, geology and the environment. The garden's unique history and wildlife value will be explained through a series of regular on-site classes and interpretation boards. Under the restorative work, a large greenhouse will also be restored to specifically teach schoolchildren and volunteers how best to nurture Portland plant-life. Community involvement is a very large part of this project. Local schools working with the Chesil Partnership and volunteers from various sources including the probation service and the Young Offender Institution resettlement team will help manage and develop various parts of the garden."[9]

In 2011, the restoration of the garden was awarded a special commendation Weymouth Civic Society Award. The society chairman had stated "During consideration of candidates for the 2011 Annual Awards, we have inspected a number of projects throughout Weymouth and Portland area which were brought to our attention. We are very pleased to award this commendation for the restoration from a neglected state of these extensive gardens, formerly attached to the prisoner governor’s residence. As well as providing an attractive and peaceful amenity, botanical value, and a recreational and educational venue for schools and other groups, they are a useful source of horticultural produce and offer valuable work experience for those discharging community service orders."[1]

In regards to the future of the gardens, it is hoped that the garden, with the support of the YOI and PCP, will remain an active community space for leisure and educational purposes, as well as for the production of fresh produce.[2][3]

In 2014, the Grove Prison Museum was opened in the former deputy governor's house across from the original gatehouse of the prison. The entrance is located through the gardens.


  1. ^ a b "Awards 2011". Retrieved 2013-04-25. 
  2. ^ a b!governors-garden/c23ic
  3. ^ a b Information board on site at Governor's Community Garden, Portland, Dorset
  4. ^ a b "1206239 - The National Heritage List for England | English Heritage". Retrieved 2014-04-28. 
  5. ^ "1280315 - The National Heritage List for England | English Heritage". 1978-09-21. Retrieved 2014-04-28. 
  6. ^ "1203121 - The National Heritage List for England | English Heritage". Retrieved 2014-04-28. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ Legg, D. R. G. (2000). Portland Prison Illustrated. Sprint Signs and Graphics, Weymouth. p. 47. 
  9. ^ a b "Portland's historic Governor's Garden to get £46,000 makeover (From Dorset Echo)". 2010-08-20. Retrieved 2013-04-25. 

Coordinates: 50°32′55″N 2°25′15″W / 50.5485°N 2.4209°W / 50.5485; -2.4209