Ancestry UK

Portland Borstal, Portland, Dorset

In 1921, the former Portland Prison at The Grove, Easton, Portland, was converted for use as a Borstal Institution, to house young offenders between the ages of 16 to 21. Much of the conversion work was carried out by the establishment's new inmates.

Portland Borstal from the south-west, 1920s. © Peter Higginbotham

Portland Borstal from the south, 1920s. © Peter Higginbotham

The Borstal regime included physical exercise, school lessons, work training, strict discipline and follow-up supervision after inmates were discharged. New inmates first wore a brown uniform. If they maintained good conduct, the after around nine months, they switched to blue clothing and gained extra privileges.

The daily routine began with early morning exercise, followed by work in the workshops, on the farm or jobs inside the institution. Classroom lessons, gymnasium activities, or recreation time took place during the evening. Sport played an important part in life at Portland and a house system was introduced in the mid-1920s to encourage team spirit and healthy competition. In the 1930s, an old pit in the former prison quarries was transformed by the inmates into a stadium where sports events were held.

Portland Borstal entrance. © Peter Higginbotham

Portland Borstal Inmates rug-making, 1920s. © Peter Higginbotham

Amongst the occupations given to the inmates was cultivating the institution's gardens.

Inmates gardening at Portland Borstal, 1945.

The regime also featured a 'silent hour', when inmates were intended to read books, or read and write letters.

Silent hour at Portland Borstal, 1945.

Following the 1982 Criminal Justice Act, the Borstal became a Youth Custody Centre in 1983, then a Young Offenders Institution in 1988. From 2011, it jointly operated as a Young Offenders Institution and an adult prison.


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