Dorchester's Shire Hall to have heritage attraction revamp

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By Dorch_People | Tuesday, February 28, 2012, 20:34

Last week saw a promising move towards The Shire Hall, Old Crown Court and Cells into an important heritage attraction.

Currently the Courtroom is owned and maintained by West Dorset Council and is open to the public, but lacks good information and is rather shabby around the edges. The building has great local significance and is in desperate need of redevelopment to make this historical place an educational and successful attraction for Dorchester.  

Located on the county town's High West Street, the building contains the courtroom in which the Tolpuddle Martyrs were tried in 1834 and is an important monument to labour history. In later years Thomas Hardy also sat as a magistrate in the court and his experiences there are thought to have inspired some of his writing.

 It is expected that the project will require significant external funding and the district council has started to prepare an application to be submitted to the Heritage Lottery Fund.

  Leader of West Dorset District Council Robert Gould said: " The district council has invited groups with knowledge of the building and an interest in the project to come and share their views on how the Shire Hall can be developed as a visitor attraction. We have gone to lengths to ensure we have key stakeholders in the project on board.

 "The Shire Hall is to remain in public ownership for the time being and so it is right that members of the general public also have a say in its future.  Later this year there will be the opportunity for local people to give their views as the proposals go out to formal consultation."

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