HMP Dorchester homes: Permission to exhume bodies sought

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image captionIt is believed Martha Brown, the last woman to be publicly hanged in Dorset, is buried at the site

A developer has sought permission to exhume bodies buried at a former prison - despite plans for 200 homes on the site stalling over the summer.

City and Country has the go-ahead to build on the HMP Dorchester site, but admitted a "lack of resources" had led to a delay.

The Diocese of Salisbury has now been asked to deconsecrate the area - where it is thought the last woman to be hanged in the county is buried.

A consultation runs until 21 November.

The Ven Antony MacRow-Wood has applied to the Bishop of Salisbury, the Right Reverend Nicholas Holtam, for the remains in the consecrated area of the site to be removed, a spokesman for City and Country said.

He described it as a "first step" towards construction at the site of the former prison, which closed in 2013.

A spokeswoman for the Diocese of Salisbury said it had been contacted by the developer to deconsecrate the area, but had passed the matter on to the Home Office, which would deal with the exhumation of the remains.

image captionArchives show some of the Victorian prisoners incarcerated at Dorchester

No plans have yet been made for any remains which may be buried on the remaining site, City and Country said.

Oscar-winning screenwriter Julian Fellowes previously led calls for all bodies at the prison to be exhumed.

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image captionJulian Fellowes has previously led calls for all bodies at the site to be exhumed

It is believed Martha Brown, the last woman to be hanged in Dorset, is among former inmates buried at the site.

Her execution was witnessed by the author Thomas Hardy and was said to have inspired his novel Tess of the d'Urbervilles.

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