Building work that brought Shire Hall in Dorchester back to life short-listed for the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Awards

The work to bring Dorchester’s Shire Hall back to life has been recognised with a prestigious award nod.

The building conservation work on the Grade-I listed historic courthouse, which re-opened as a new tourism attraction in May last year, has been shortlisted for the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Awards.

Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum will be up for the Building Conservation Award against projects from across the South West and the winners will be crowned at a black-tie event in Bristol on May 22. The regional winners will then go forward to the national RICS awards.

The shortlisting comes just a week after the new courthouse museum won Silver for Tourism Innovation at the South West Tourism Awards and a Highly Commended award for their work on Access and Inclusivity.

One of the changes made to the building in its conversion to a museum was to make it more inclusive and accessible for all. This included installing lifts that open on three sides.

Events and exhibitions manager Harriet Still said: “We’re overjoyed. It’s wonderful to see this wonderful building restored to its former glory, and for all the hard work of the team who restored it to be recognised is just fantastic.”

The museum is a registered charity, run by the Shire Hall Trust. It was restored thanks to a £1.5m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, which was match-funding by West Dorset District Council.

Philip Hughes Associates the historic buildings conservation consultants who worked on the project, said the process of restoring the iconic building had been a ‘true collaboration.’

A spokesman for Philip Hughes Associates said: “The Shire Hall is such an important building because of its role in local history and in national and international history with the trial of the Tolpuddle Martyrs and this event’s involvement in the origins of the worldwide trade union movement. The client and all members of the design and construction team worked in a truly collaborative way to ensure that the conservation of this building was carried out sensitively so that the unique character of this building was maintained and can be enjoyed by all.”

Cllr Mary Penfold, West Dorset District Council’s Portfolio Holder for Enabling, said: “The Shire Hall had lain empty and closed to the general public for many years and this project has allowed this truly remarkable building to be opened to the public. The Shire Hall (Dorchester) Trust, who now operate the museum, are able to allow people to walk in the footsteps of those who passed through this building and to engage visitors with the history of justice and injustice in Dorset and beyond.”