Staff, trustees and guests celebrated the refurbishment and first six months of the opening of Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum.
Dorchester’s newest museum opened its doors on May Day and since then, thousands of people have visited to learn about justice and injustice, crime and punishment. The attraction is now rated as the top attraction in Dorchester on Trip Advisor.
To celebrate the launch of the museum, and the refurbishment of the wonderful building, trustees and staff at Shire Hall hosted an evening reception. The courthouse was packed with dignitaries, supporters, representatives of West Dorset District Council, and members of the project team to hear speeches, before the guests went to explore the museum.
Former President of the Supreme Court Lord David Neuberger said he felt ‘honoured and delighted’ to be a Patron of the new museum. He said: “It represents three things that are close to my heart – Dorset, history and justice.”
Director of Shire Hall, Anna Bright, thanked everyone for coming to the celebration. She said it was ‘very rare and very special’ to be able to tell historically important stories within a place where those events took place. She said: “This is just the first step on what will be a long journey.” She said they wanted Shire Hall to be a place where people debated, challenged and engaged with the stories of others and where people were educated about social justice.
The restoration of the building was made possible thanks to a £1.5m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund which was match-funded by West Dorset District Council. The refurbishment project was led by West Dorset District Council, working in partnership with the Shire Hall Trust, a registered charity that now runs the museum.
West Dorset District Councillor Mary Penfold said that the project had seen all parties working very well together. She added that it had been a ‘very long journey’ to get to where they were today and thanked the Shire Hall team and the volunteers for all their hard work.
Head of the Shire Hall trustees, David Clarke, thanked everyone involved in the project, from the Heritage Lottery Fund and West Dorset District to the contractors Greendale Construction, architects, exhibition designers and the Shire Hall Team for all their hard work over the project.
Kirsty Wallace, Senior Grants Officer at the Heritage Lottery Fund, said it was an ‘absolute privilege’ to work on the project with the Shire Hall Team. She said: “This project demonstrates the fantastic things that can be done with this funding.”
For more information about Shire Hall and its upcoming events, visit shirehalldorset.org.