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The Dorset Martyrs Memorial

A Grade II Listed Building in Dorchester, Dorset

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Latitude: 50.7128 / 50°42'46"N

Longitude: -2.4316 / 2°25'53"W

OS Eastings: 369624

OS Northings: 90443

OS Grid: SY696904

Mapcode National: GBR PY.RPFH

Mapcode Global: FRA 57S6.BHM

Entry Name: The Dorset Martyrs Memorial

Listing Date: 13 March 2017

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1439805

Location: Dorchester, West Dorset, Dorset, DT1

County: Dorset

District: West Dorset

Civil Parish: Dorchester

Traditional County: Dorset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Dorset

Church of England Parish: Dorchester and West Stafford

Church of England Diocese: Salisbury

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A public sculpture by Elisabeth Frink commemorating those who in the C16 and C17 had been executed for their religious beliefs at Gallows Hill in Dorchester, designed in 1983 and installed on the site of the former gallows in 1986.


A public sculpture by Elisabeth Frink commemorating those who in the C16 and C17 had been executed for their religious beliefs at Gallows Hill in Dorchester, designed in 1983 and installed on the site of the former gallows in 1986.

The installation comprises three larger than life bronze cast figures each with a flat rectangular shaped base, placed in triangular formation, looking inward. They are placed on stone setts laid in a circle, with at the centre a circular bronze plaque, with, in raised lettering, the words 'FOR / CHRIST / AND / CONSCIENCE / SAKE'.


In the early 1980s, following funding received from the Art Council's 'Art for Public Places Scheme', the Council of Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society, and the Catholic Community in Dorset, commissioned Elisabeth Frink to make a public sculpture for the site of Dorchester's former gallows on Gallows Hill. The brief was for a memorial to those who had been executed there for their beliefs. Having been brought up a Catholic, Frink was familiar with the Roman Catholic Church's history in England during the C16 and C17, and in particular the executions of Catholic recusants in Dorset at that time. She was also impressed by the Roman Catholics' political intervention of priests and nuns in the later C20, in particular in Central America (Somerville, 2000). In 1983 maquettes for the sculpture, named the Dorset Martyrs, were exhibited at the Dorset County Museum, and in 1986 the final installation of three standing bronze figures on Gallows Hill was completed.

Dame Elisabeth Frink (1930-1993) was a world renowned C20 artist and a number of her public sculptures are listed. She was born in Suffolk, and attended the Guildford School of Art and subsequently the Chelsea School of Art in London, where she lived during the 1960s. In 1956 she had her first exhibition in the United States. Between 1967 and 1973 she lived and worked in France, and in 1976, after her return to England she moved to Dorset where she lived and worked until her death in 1993. She confirmed that she was greatly inspired by the Dorset landscape and its history. A collection of her work, including personal artifacts and archival documents, are now held by the Frink Estate in Dorset.

Reasons for Listing

The public sculpture of the Martyrs by Dame Elisabeth Frink, commissioned and funded in the early 1980s, designed in 1983 and installed on the site of the old gallows in Dorchester in 1986, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Artistic interest: as a public sculpture of high artistic and aesthetic quality, cast in bronze from plaster, subtly detailed and well-composed;

* Historic interest: as a commemorative piece of public art commissioned in the early 1980s by institutions and individuals of different denominations and the Arts Council of Great Britain through South West Arts from the internationally renowned artist Dame Elisabeth Frink, representative of her later work which was inspired by the history, culture and landscape of Dorset where she lived;

* Group value: it forms an important group with the underground remains of the Roman Walls in Dorchester (scheduled), which incorporates the site of the former gallows, and with the subsequent C18 Town Walks (registered Grade II), to which the sculpture is an important focal point.

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