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The History of Kent

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History of Borstal

Borstal comes from the Old English ‘burg’ meaning a ‘place’ with ‘steall’ as ‘refuge’; therefore, a ‘place of refuge’. The Domesday Book records Borstal as Borchetelle.


Borstal parish church is dedicated to Saint Mathew, although when built by the Victorians in 1879, it fell within the boundaries of St Margaret’s, Rochester. The church runs from North to South, due to its location.  They added the chancel and vestries in 1899.


The authorities named Rochester Young Offenders Prison as ‘Borstal Prison’ when founded in 1902. Very much an experimental prison for juvenile offenders, it soon found success and imitated across the UK. As to the word ‘Borstal’, became synonymous with detention centres the authorities changed the name of the prison a Borstal.