Shire Hall is a rare architectural gem and one of the best-preserved buildings
of its kind, remaining almost unchanged since it first opened in 1796/7.
A centre of law, order and government for over 200 years - Shire
Hall was a place where all sectors of society interacted. The trial of the
Tolpuddle Martyrs took place here in
1834 and changed the course of history and helped to shape the society in which
we live today. Later, the writer Thomas Hardy served as a magistrate at the
court, an experience which inspired some of his writing.
A project grant has been secured from the Heritage Lottery
fund of £1.5 million that West Dorset District Council has match-funded. The
aim of the project is to renovate and re-use the Shire Hall building and its
Old Crown Court and cells as a heritage attraction and centre for learning that
will encompass many aspects of law, politics, citizenship and history. In
addition to creating a visitor attraction within the historic parts of the
building, the refurbishment project will provide a new gallery for temporary
exhibitions, a learning room, a shop and a café.
strategy and plan will place Shire Hall - Justice in the Balance Visitor
Centre at the heart of Dorset’s tourist offer by building a coherent and
cohesive offer that works with partner organisations, attractions potential
partners and linkages (e.g. for trails).
The strap line ‘Justice in the
Balance’will play a key role in differentiating the Centre within the
overall tourist offer and in all marketing communications.