Heights have been something of a theme recently. The Keep is an impressive, in terms of its scale, Portland stone construction, dating from 1879 and, if you are willing to pay the admission price for the military museum that now occupies the building, you can climb the spiral stairs all the way up to the roof. Once informed by the ladies stationed at the entrance that I could go up onto the roof I thought to myself, “It would be rude not to!”
The Keep Military Museum’s own website quotes a description of the building by the well know art and architectural historian Pevsner, who describes it in less than favourable terms: “The monumental gatehouse is a knock-down affair. Two round towers to the front, the archway between. Three storeys of long slit windows. Rock faced with a vengeance. Today it is a grade 2 listed building. The designer was probably Major AC Seddon R.E, head of the War Office Design branch at this time…The barracks behind were humble by comparison“. As somebody who grew up by the seaside, The Keep reminds me of the castle shaped plastic buckets and the resulting crenelated sand castles they produced.
The Keep is topped with two flags, the Union flag and the flag of The Rifles. In 1958 the Devonshire Regiment and the Dorset Regiment amalgamated to form the Devonshire and Dorset Regiment. In 2007 the Devonshire and Dorset Regiment was amalgamated with a number of other regiments to form The Rifles, which still has a Reserve Company [the Territorial Army as was] based Dorchester.
The spiral staircases in the towers give access to the museums galleries on three floors and then you are invited carry on and step out onto the roof. It was a rather windy day and the situation was unique in my experience, in that the area of the roof is very large, but the battlements around it are very short. The two gentlemen working on the maintenance of the tower didn’t seem to mind climbing up even higher and out onto the scaffolding you can see on my photographs, but one of them did remark to me that, “It was a bit windy”.
The Keep is tall enough for you to get a unique perspective on a number of tree tops and the comings and goings of the Bridport Road. The military museum itself is very interesting and, if you like heights, I would recommend a walk on the roof.