Shire Hall To Become Heritage Centre
12:02am 17th March 2013
Dorchester's Shire Hall could become an internationally important heritage centre after winning lottery support.
The £69,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund could see the Grade 1 listed building transformed into a visitor centre staging exhibitions.
The Shire Hall contains the Old Crown Court Cells which were the setting for the famous Tolpuddle Martyrs trial in 1834.
Robert Gould, Leader of West Dorset District Council, said: "I am thrilled that we have succeeded in winning this money from the Heritage Lottery Fund. This is on top of the £1million that the district council has pledged to make this exciting project a reality.
"The Shire Hall is a fascinating building with a unique and special history. Visitors will be able to tread in the footsteps of the Tolpuddle Martyrs and see the very same sights that would have greeted them.
"Thanks to this money and the hard work of everyone involved we should be able to make history come alive and create something Dorchester can be proud of."
Part of HLF's initial support includes development funding totalling £69,000. This will be used to develop detailed design plans and to get the project to the planning application stage. After this work is completed a second round funding application will be made to the Heritage Lottery Fund to apply for the full amount needed for the scheme.
Richard Bellamy, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund South West, said: "We are delighted to be able to support the development of this project. Shire Hall is one of Dorchester's most important historic buildings and this project has the potential to open it fully to the public and explain its fascinating history in an exciting and vibrant way."
Under the plans, the new heritage centre could be run by the Dorset County Museum. Local people will be asked for their views. Consultations are also ongoing with other interested groups including the Trade Union Congress. The project could also see Dorchester's award winning Tourist Information Centre move to Shire Hall.