Wicked Wessex!

Maquette for the martyrs

Object from: Dorset Museum

The maquette is a miniature version of the haunting martyrs’ memorial that still stands where Dorchester town gallows were located.

Memorial to the martyrs

Hundreds of people died on Dorchester’s town gallows in the 16-17th centuries. This maquette is a miniature version of a memorial that stands exactly where the gallows were located.

The sculptures were created by Dame Elisabeth Frink in memory of the Catholics in Dorset who were hanged because of their religion.

The commission was a joint project between Dorset County Museum and the Catholic community in Dorset, and funded by the Arts Council.

Dorset Museum's maquette

Dorset Museum chose the maquette to fit the theme of Wicked Wessex. The maquette on display is one of eight that the sculptor produced, before creating the three life-size bronze statues that were erected in 1983, on the junction of Icen Way and South Walks, Dorchester. 

The museum also holds a number of sculptures and other artworks by Elisabeth Frink. 

More murders and martyrs in Dorset

There are many other tales of martyrs and murder in Dorset:

  • A terrible murder took place at Corfe Castle in Dorset in 978. King Edward, aged 16, was stabbed to death, supposedly at the orders of his stepmother, Elfrida.
  • The white cross on the Dorset flag represents a martyr, St Wite. Mystery surrounds her, but some believe she was a holy woman murdered by Viking raiders at Charmouth.
  • For centuries, hangings were common in Wessex. Bridport was famous for making the hangman’s noose.
  • The last public hangings in Dorset were in 1862 when two men, Preedy and Fooks, were executed for murder.

Illustration of a man hanging on Dorchester Gallows.

Maquette of three figures - two martyrs with hands bound, standing in front of a soldier.
Maquette for the Martyrs by Elisabeth Frink.
Close up of the face of one of the Dorset Martyrs, created in bronze by Elisabeth Frink.
Close up of the face of one of the life-sized martyrs in the memorial. Photo Mark Simons.