The Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum is set to open its doors on 1 May. Behind the newly painted blue doors the old building has been released from years of neglect and its architecture allowed to shine.

Over the course of this development exciting facets of the building have been discovered. The remains of mysterious stairs, and an underground passage leading who knows where. The answer to these curiosities will be discovered. A beautiful fireplace and etched roof lights have been revealed. The old walls are juxtaposed by the new fitments and the simplicity and lightness of the original architecture has been used to great effect.

The Old Crown Court has been restored to its original grey, befitting the seriousness of the trials that took place there. Throughout the building the petrol blue of the front doors has been teamed with maroon to great effect.

100 volunteers

The project has already attracted 100 volunteers but there are still opportunities for front-of-house and customer-service volunteers to work on the entrance desk and in the shop selling merchandise and tickets to the museum – or perhaps you would like to help with visitor experience directing visitors, talking and engaging with them.

Learning manager Anne Brown is running a life-long learning programme which includes a schools initiative, reminiscence sessions for those with dementia, family activities in school holidays and sessions for babies and their adults.

The Shire Hall space will be used to benefit the whole community and Anne is always open to suggestions of what local people think would be useful. She is keen to attract young people to take part in projects. The building can also be used for meetings, film shows and other events.

Banner workshop

A banner-making workshop with a difference is planned, led by digital artist Jason Wilsher-Mills. As a wheelchair user he found traditional art difficult and has developed working on an iPad. He will be having a two-week residency at the museum, designing digital banners based on the Tolpuddle Martyrs’ descendants.

Six digital lightbox banners will be created, one for each martyr, and will be displayed in the exhibition room. Jason has designed an app that will enable visitors to the exhibition to focus on particular parts of the banner and access background information. Jason would also like to meet Tolpuddle Martyr descendants to work with on this exciting project. Could this be you? If so Anne would be delighted to hear from you.

In April a theatre company will stage a promenade performance of Stories of the Shire Hall.

If you would like to volunteer to be a part of this exciting new attraction in Dorchester or would like to take part in the banner workshop contact or call 0739 896675.


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