Dorchester’s newest museum wins a hat-trick of awards in one night

There were cheers and smiles all round as the Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum team won three prestigious awards in one night.
Dorchester’s newest museum, on High West Street, scooped a gold award and two silvers at the Dorset Tourism Awards last night. They won gold in the new Tourism Innovation and New Business category and silver in the Access and Inclusivity and Small Attraction of the Year categories.
The Museum was also a finalist in the Best Small Museum Award category at the inaugural Museums Association ‘Museum Change Lives Awards’ in Belfast on the same night.
Director of Shire Hall, Anna Bright, said the team were overwhelmed with the support shown to them by the local community and tourists alike. She said: “These awards mean the world to the team. Our volunteers work tirelessly to bring this fascinating and important museum to life, so we would especially like to thank them, and everyone who has supported us in our first six months.
“Every one of us is so passionate about Shire Hall and its message of social justice, so these awards are a wonderful validation of all our hard work. We have so many exciting ideas to grow and develop Shire Hall and we can’t wait to share our upcoming events and exhibitions with everyone.”
Opened in May, the Museum looks at 200 years of justice, injustice, crime and punishment. But this isn’t some stuffy museum. Dubbed a ‘living museum,’ the team aim to bring the issues around social justice, both modern and historic, to life.
The stories of those whose lives were changed or even ended by their experiences in the Georgian courtroom, are told through multi-media guides. For adults there are the in-depth case studies of those on trial, including the Tolpuddle Martyrs. These six farm labourers were kept in the cells under the courtroom for three days in the dark, before being hauled into the dock to learn of their fate. Their transportation to Australia and the protests their sentence sparked, led to the modern-day Trade union movement. Whilst, children can explore fascinating stories of youngsters just like them who passed through Shire Hall, through interactive iPad activities and games.
Since its opening, the Museum has aimed to be inclusive and accessible for all, and a space that can be used for education and a host of events including theatre, music and kids’ activities.
For more information about forthcoming events, including Shire Hall’s first Victorian Christmas celebrations and Judge Santa’s sittings, visit