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Shire Hall Could Be Opened as Tourist Attraction

Shire Hall

4:07pm 13th June 2012

Dorchester's Shire Hall could be turned into a multi-million pound heritage attraction.

A new project would see the Grade 1 listed building, which includes the Old Crown Court and Cells becoming a visitor centre, offering exhibitions and educational resources.

The court is famous for the trial of the Tolpuddle Martyrs in 1834. Author Thomas Hardy also sat there as a magistrate.

Time has stood still at the court, which appears today almost as it did in Georgian times.

The district council's Executive Committee will be discussing the proposals at their meeting on Tuesday 19 June at 2.15pm at Stratton House, High West Street in Dorchester. This is a public meeting and local people are welcome to come along watch proceedings.

Robert Gould, Leader of West Dorset District Council, said:

"Standing in the Old Crown Court you get an overwhelming sense of history. As you look around, you can see the same scene as the Tolpuddle Martyrs. It is an amazing place, because you can literally see and feel the past.

"We are working with interested groups to help decide how this remarkable place can be developed into a successful visitor attraction. We will also be asking local people for their views.

"This project is of great importance because it will not only safeguard our history but also attract more tourists to West Dorset."

The district council is preparing a bid for £1million Heritage Lottery Funding and discussing plans with interested groups including the Trade Union Congress, Dorchester Museum and the Thomas Hardy Society.

If the project goes ahead Dorchester's award winning Tourist Information Centre will move to Shire Hall.

The district council has owned Shire Hall in High West Street since 1974 and has long aspired to turn it into a high quality attraction that befits its historic significance.

If you would like to find out more about the project visit www.dorsetforyou.com/shirehallproject or contact the district council on 01305 251010.

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