Packed full of history and charm
Dorchester’s Antelope Walk, in South Street, has a history as colourful as it is long and has always played an important part in county town life
The Antelope Walk building occupies a central position in what was Roman Dorchester. It is believed that the current courtyard was once a continuation of Durngate Street. If a present day visitor looks at the Antelope Walk courtyard it is easy to see that many centuries ago, this was in fact a roadway. It is also very easy when looking at the middle section, where the Oak Room (Unit 5b) forms a bridge over the road, to visualise what this area must have looked like in those times.
The Oak Room, is the most famous part of Antelope Walk mentioned in many history books, now subject to a preservation order. It dates back to 1589, but it was nearly 100 years after that it was used by Judge Jeffreys as the courtroom of the Bloody Assize. In September 1685, 312 cases were heard, of these 292 were sentenced to death. In total 74 were executed, 175 transported, 9 fined or whipped and 54 discharged.
The Antelope was used as a coaching inn early in the 16th century and as this form of travel increased in popularity so its importance grew. In the early 1800’s it was a main stop on the London, Bath, Bristol and Exeter routes and was used by coaches with names such as The Magnet, John Bull, The Herald and The Duke of Wellington.
During the trials Judge Jefferys entered the courtroom by way of a tunnel which connected his lodgings. This tunnel is wide and high offering enough room for two or three to walk side by side and to stand comfortably upright. The ghost of Judge Jefferys is said to haunt the courtyard.