THE first anniversary of Dorchester’s Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum has been celebrated with a royal visit. The Duke of Gloucester unveiled a plaque to mark the opening of the museum, which includes the courtroom where the Tolpuddle Martyrs were tried and sentenced to seven years transportation to Australia.
The Duke toured the museum to see the extensive renovation works that had transformed the courthouse into a modern museum focused on social justice. He toured the museum with the trustees’ chairman David Clarke and museum director Anna Bright, and saw the cell under the courtroom where the Tolpuddle Martyrs were kept for three days before their trial, and went up the stairs to see the dock where prisoners from all walks of life heard their fate.
Anna Bright said it had been ‘an honour’ to show the Duke round the museum and discuss its rich history, both architecturally and socially. She said: “The project to restore Shire Hall to its former glory has been years in the making and we couldn’t have done it without our partners, supporters, contractors, staff and volunteers. So, we are delighted to have been able to celebrate its successful first year with a royal visit.”
Thanks to funding from Dorchester Town Council, the museum has recently launched accessible interpretation for visitors with visual impairments. There is a braille guide with tactile images, a large print guide and a new audio guide.
Leah Cross, Dorset Blind Association’s community support worker, said: “It is great when people go above and beyond to make an experience as accessible as possible for all disabilities.”
Pictured: The Duke of Gloucester and museum director Anna Bright in one of the cells below the old courtroom.