The Grove, Portland

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Grove is located in Dorset
 Grove shown within Dorset
OS grid reference SY690721
District Weymouth and Portland
Shire county Dorset
Region South West
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town PORTLAND
Postcode district DT5 1
Dialling code 01305
Police Dorset
Fire Dorset
Ambulance South Western
EU Parliament South West England
UK Parliament South Dorset
List of places

Coordinates: 50°33′07″N 2°25′34″W / 50.551998°N 2.425982°W / 50.551998; -2.425982

Grove Road with the Young Offenders Institution in the background.

The Grove is a small village located at Tophill on the Isle of Portland in Dorset. The village is found close to the larger village Easton, and is most notable for containing the Youth Offender's Institute HM Prison Portland, including its museum Grove Prison Museum.

As with the rest of Portland's villages and settlements, The Grove has been designated as a conservation area, as it is a place of special architectural and historic interest, given protection to ensure that people can continue to enjoy their character for years to come. The village was designated in 1981.[1][2]


The village was born out of the establishment of Portland's first prison on the eastern side of the island. As such much of the housing and commercial properties developed within the area were directly for those working at the prison. With the government green-lighting the construction of the breakwaters of Portland Harbour and various defences, namely the Verne Citadel, two of the biggest government projects at the time, it was realised that more labour would be needed to work on them. In January 1847 the government made the announcement that Portland would be the host of a prison establishment. After choosing the sites for the prison (East Cliff), and the citadel (Verne Hill), the government purchased the land from the Crown Estate, and this also included common land around the Grove. The local civilians reacted with outcry, however construction of the temporary prison commenced by November 1847. Nearby barracks were also built to house the guarding soldiers. With the construction of the prison many ancient artifacts were discovered, but restrictions meant they were not studied, but destroyed. One notable discover was the remaining stone circles of a 'Druids' Temple'. The surrounding area of the Grove had long been attached to the folklore that human sacrifices were made there.[3]

The first convicts, totaling 64, arrived aboard the HM Steamer Driver on 24 November 1848. One of the first tasks for the convicts was building Grove Road, to link the prison to Easton village. The main role for convicts was to quarry stone for the government projects, and as such various quarries, known as the Independent and Admiralty quarries, were opened up within the Grove area for them to work in. As a result of this many lime kilns would be built to produce quicklime through the calcination of limestone. By 1851, 825 convicts were working in the quarries and on the breakwater.[4][5] East Cliff's landmark Nicodemus Knob is a 30-feet pillar, and a quarrying relic which shows the original land height before the land was quarried. In 1851 convicts working in a quarry north of the village found 200 Roman burials with crouched human remains in each stone burial.[3]

From the moment of the prison's inception, the convicts became a tourist attraction.[6] The events surrounding the prison's inception had gained widespread interest, and as such tourists began visiting Portland to see the prison and the convicts at work. The newly established Grove Road dwellings overlooked part of the quarries, and so these homeowners soon opened cafes on the top floors of their houses.[7] In addition a number of pubs were established along the same road. At the same time many popular postcards were created featuring the convicts.[8]

In 1868 the government announced that the punishment of transportation was to be terminated, and with this locals on the island began living in hope that the temporary prison would soon close. However the following year saw the announcement that the Portland prison was to become a permanent feature. A strong petition failed to alter the decision, and the prison was re-built in stone.[9] In 1921 the government announced that the Portland convict establishment was to be converted into a Borstal. This followed Borstals at Rochester in 1902, and Feltham in 1911, with Portland receiving the troublesome cases from these establishments. In 1988 the prison was re-rolled as a Young Offenders Institution (YOI, Portland), and has held young males aged 18 to 21 ever since.

The massive expansion within its population, directly due to the government projects, meant many villages on the island substantially changed in the late 19th century. Many new houses were built, but due to constant demand, Grove Corner was chosen as the location for a corrugated iron "Tin Town". It was built by Messrs Hill & Co, and housed the families of the government workers. After the end of the First World War in 1918 housing had again become a major issue, and the local council were faced with this dilemma. However the council had never built any houses of their own, and they were not landowners either. After years of planning the council eventually commissioned Jetsy and Baker to build the first set of council houses in 1932, at Victoria Road within the Grove. The same year saw a number of private developments too, including Augusta Road, built by W. F. Davies. The island did not gain mains electricity until 1930, as the local council continued to believe that the local gas works would finally become financially worthwhile. By 1930 an agreement had to be made, to bring across an electric supply generated from Weymouth. However the £25,000 scheme did not reach the Grove until after 1932.[10]

With the important naval base, Portland was a natural target for German aircraft during the war, and the Grove had various cases of raids and bombings. During a raid on 15 August 1940, the Borstal was hit by three bombs within the block known as Rodney House. The attack left four boys dead, and other severe injuries. During Easter 1941 another raid saw the destruction of three houses at Augusta Road, killing an entire family except for one baby boy. The roof of St. Peter's Church was also torn off, and the Borstal gymnasium, once the prison chapel, was burnt down. On 1 July 1942, Crown Farm at Grove Corner was damaged beyond repair, which in turn ended the centuries-old demesne farm.[11]

Like all villages on Portland, the Grove has seen further housing over the second half of the 20th century. One estate was Rufus Way, which was built over a filled-in quarry. Reportedly, soon after being built, two houses subsided so badly that they had to be rebuilt. By 1984, after long demands and planning from 40 years before, work commenced on transforming an ex-quarried area into a recreational ground. In recent years, this Grove play park area has had major renovation.

Portland United Football Club play their games at Grove Corner, and have done so since establishment in 1921.[12] Located at the entrance to the Grove village from Easton area, the club's original football ground was moved slightly further into The Grove to provide quarrying access to building stone. In 1995, an unexploded World War 2 bomb was discovered near to the centre spot of the pitch, and this sparked the evacuation of 4000 people from their homes for the 31-hour operation by the Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Team. The 1,000 lb device was thought to have been dropped in 1942 by a Heinkel bomber. The Portland F.C. club house was one of a very large number of buildings that have been a victim of fire on Portland.[13]


To the north of St Peter's Church is a large sports stadium/field, Grove Sports Stadium, which was made in an abandoned and disused quarry. The sports field is owned by the Young Offenders Institution but has been available for use in the past by local schools. Close to this field are the Young Offenders Institution farm buildings. Further north of the field remains the large Grove Lime Kiln, which is not open to the public but found on Prison Service property and remains fenced off due to instability.[14]

In 2010, funding of a community project to restore the Governor's Community Garden allowed it to be opened to the public - a garden belonging to the Young Offenders Institution. To the south of Grove Road is one of Portland's most extensive cave systems.[15] Broadcroft Quarry lies close to the village and features a working quarry and also a nature reserve mainly for butterflies.

A Royal Observer Corps observation post was built at Grove Point, built during the 1920s or 1930s. The Corps original role, before the Cold War's possibility of a nuclear attack threat, was to confirm and report hostile aircraft. The post was built as part of an extensive network of posts designed for this purpose across Great Britain. The post no longer exists at Grove Point, but was located on the clifftop edge, on the outskirt of the boundary wall of HM Prison Portland.[16]

The old Coastguard Lookout at Grove Point is now used by QinetiQ, as MOD Grove Point.[17] The Grove Point building is used in conjunction with a sea range. This is located in a nominal water depth of 22 metres, and is used for underway ranging of surface vessels. The standard configuration is 3 hydrophones, 2x beam aspects and 1x fine/shallow keel aspect. It is connected, and similar, to the Loch Goil and Loch Fyne sea ranges, which are situated in the Firth of Clyde area in the west of Scotland.[18]

In the field between Shepherds Croft housing estate and Yeolands Quarry, a World War II searchlight emplacement was once situated within the centre of it. It was probably constructed between 1939-1945 but has since been destroyed. It formed part of the Isle of Portland Defences and Dorset Coastal Defences, and was situated near to the other coastal defences near to Grove Point.[19] At the cliff-end of the same field a World War II Coastal Defence/Chain Home Low (CD/CHL) radar station was built overlooking East Cliff. The station, named site M73, was constructed by the British Army to monitor shipping and aircraft during the war. The equipment, technically known as the AMES Type 2, was originally developed for the British Army as a system to detect ships, as well as the early detection of low-level targets, and as a system for tracking individual aircraft over land. CD/CHL sites opened from 1941 and comprised a brick or concrete operations block with an aerial gantry mounted on the roof and a separate standby set house for the reserve power. The site was operated by the RAF. Staff were billeted where possible, but some stations had a small layout of domestic hutting situated within one mile of the site. The station was closed by the end of 1942.

To date the main operations block and a second building are still on site.[20] The surrounding land is now home to farm animals. The South West Coast Path runs directly past the remaining building. A similar station was situated at West Cliff, named M73, however this site was demolished by the late 1960s, leaving only a few reminders of the station such as brick rubble and mast bases.[21] In addition to this, the RAF Portland ROTOR Radar Station was initially a Chain Home Extra Low (CHEL) radar station too.[22]

Aside from St. Peter's Church, one other church; a catholic church, Church of Our Lady and St. Andrew, is found in the area, which closed in 2007 with its future undecided.

Commercial business[edit]

The Clifton Hotel in 2009.

Unlike the majority of Portland's villages, The Grove features very little commercial business and largely consists of housing and the prison. The Grove General Store and Post Office were closed by 2003. The only remaining commercial property now located on Grove Road is The Clifton Hotel,[23] which was a particularly popular pub when the nearby Royal Naval Base was functioning, as scientists and engineers of the Admiralty Underwater Weapons Establishment and HMS Osprey would visit for lunch. In 2007, the pub achieved national fame by reusing unwanted umbrella hats to keep smoking customers dry on days of poor weather.[24] A Victorian communal water pump is found outside of the pub, whilst above is a Flintstones cartoon sign which was a Carnival entry from the early 21st century.[15]

Grade listed features[edit]

St. Peter's Church

The Grove has a wide array of architecture and buildings, a number of which are Grade Listed.

Boundary Walls[edit]

One of the village's most notable features is a high wall running along the village's main road, Grove Road. This boundary wall remains a significant visual element within the village, and was built in the 19th century to enclose the convict quarry workings. It has an opening to allow traffic to turn off left to the top of the incline road which once ran down to the Naval Base. Set in this wall is an old prison sentry box. Both remain Scheduled Monuments and are not able to be removed. The boundary wall has been Grade II Listed since May 1993.[25] The sentry box, along with the gate pier became Grade II Listed in September 1978. It is about 30 metres west of St. Peter's Church. Dated from around 1848, it is part of a former prison quarrying work ground.[26] The boundary wall, and gate piers, running from St Peter's Vicarage to Alma Terrace, and dating from 1875, was Grade II Listed at the same time as the sentry box.[27] The early 19th century gate piers at the junction with Grove Road, along with the boundary walls to Ivybank and the Vicarage became Grade II Listed at this same time too.[28] In May 1993, the boundary wall west of the prison became Grade II Listed, and this section dates from 1848.[29] The prison's north and east boundary walls have been Grade II Listed since May 1993 as well, dating from 1848 and later. The walls are interrupted by late 20th century structures in the south-east quadrant, as considerable damage occurred during World War II.[30]


St. Peter's Church was originally built by convicts, and was partly decorated by prisoners from Portland and Dorchester. This was for soldiers stationed at nearby military garrisons. It was completed in 1872 and built for a sum of 8000 pounds, becoming the most expensive church on the island at the time.[31] Since early 2004, the prison service decided to sell the church but there were strict rules governing its development.[14] It became Grade II* Listed in September 1978.[32] The gate piers and boundary walls to the north and west of the church, dating circa 1875, are part of a series of significant elements, helping to tie together the group of related buildings, and defining the spaces. It became Grade II Listed in September 1978.[33] At the same time the vicarage of St Peter's Church, which dates from the mid 19th-century, became Grade II Listed too.[34]

Nearby further up the road is the Church of Our Lady and St. Andrew, built in 1868 after the increasing number of Roman Catholic supporters following the establishment of the prison, the harbour breakwaters and the Verne Citadel. It was designed by the prolific architect Joseph A. Hanson, and was closed at the end of the 20th century.[35]


The village contains Grove Infant School,[36] which became part of the Isle of Portland Aldridge Community in 2012.[37] The school has been judged 'Outstanding' by Ofsted.[38] Originally the school opened in 1872. As of 2014 it is now closed, and was listed for sale at £300,000. The school, and its rear boundary wall, became Grade II* Listed in September 1978.[39] The adjoining School House, along with the rear boundary wall, became Grade II Listed at the same time. Forming an extension of the school, it was originally the house of the Assistant Governor of Portland Prison. Built around 1870, it was possibly from office of Capt. Du Cane, RE. The house is an important unit in a good group, set between St. Peter's Church and the school, and from its detailing clearly from the same design office.[40]


Alma Terrace, a terrace of houses, were built in 1854, originally as six large houses for prison wardens, and now set out as twelve occupations in two continuous parallel ranges. The terrace has been restored with great sensitivity, and was designated Grade II in September 1978.[41] The wash houses and connecting boundary wall to the rear of the terrace has also become Grade II Listed in May 1993. The five former wash houses, now stores are linked by the continuous rear boundary wall, and probably date from around 1854. They have been well restored with the houses to which they belong, and are unusually grand.[42]

The Governor's House (102 Grove Road), with its front boundary wall, has been Grade II Listed since May 1993. The detached house was formerly the Governor's House to the prison, built around 1850. It is an important part of the group of prison buildings, with a visually significant position at the junction between Grove Road and The Grove.[43] Additionally the prison itself has various Grade Listed features. Ivybank, a detached house on Grove Road, of mid 19th century origin, became Grade II Listed in May 1993, along with its boundary wall.[44]


Grove Lime Kiln lies approximately 320 metres north-west of St Peter's Church. The Grade Listed II structure was designated in January 2009.[45] Still owned by the prison service, the lime kiln remains in a derelict and uncared for state. It was built and once operated by convicts from the prison, and is an important survival and one of the last vestiges of lime production in Portland.[45] Another lime kiln is located close-by along the road passing the eastern edge of the YOI, near the cliff edge, and this remaining shell has been fenced off and hidden by the prison service for health and safety reasons.[46]

At the top of the nearby, private incline road is the abandoned Old Engine Shed that once served the cable-operated inclined railway that ran to Castletown through the Navy Dockyard that is now Portland Port. The Portland Gas Trust has made plans for a £1.5m project to transform the buildings into an interpretation centre, which were to be the highlight of the Trust's work for the next few years. Situated on the cliffs above Portland Gas' Dorset facility, the centre was planned to have an audio visual room, display areas and café, and will function as a visitor attraction and an educational resource. However as of 2014, work has yet to start.[47][48] Close to the old engine sheds is a now derelict area which was once used by the Portland Dog Training Club. The shed has been Grade II Listed since January 2001.[49]

Within the village are three Victorian ventilator shafts, once used as ventilators to a sewer system. One lies within the Governor's Community Garden, and the other two shafts are found closer to the cliff edge, within close proximity to the garden. 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.[50][51][52] 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.[53]


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