Heritage Plans Move Forward
4:07pm 19th June 2012
Councillors at West Dorset District Council today (19/6) decided to apply for Heritage Lottery Funding to transform Dorchester’s historic Shire Hall into an internationally important heritage centre.
The scheme would see the Grade 1 listed building being transformed into a major visitor centre with high quality exhibitions and educational resources.
The Shire Hall, which includes the Old Crown Court and Cells, 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.
Robert Gould, Leader of West Dorset District Council, said: “This is an exciting project and we are very keen to see it go-ahead. I am delighted that we have been able to pledge money to help make it a reality.
“Standing in the Old Crown Court you see the same sight that would have greeted the Tolpuddle martyrs. It is an amazing place, because you can literally see and feel history.
"This project is of great importance because it will not only safeguard our history but also attract more tourists to West Dorset.”
Councillors also backed plans which could see Dorset County Museum running the new heritage centre. Local people will be asked for their views. Other interested groups including the Trade Union Congress have also been consulted. 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.