Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum
Executed for arson. Transported for asking for fair pay. Given six months hard labour for stealing clothes. 200 years of justice, injustice, crime and punishment are brought to life at Dorchester's Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum.
Recently refurbished with a £1.5m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, match-funded by West Dorset District Council, the museum is run by the Shire Hall Trust, a charity set up as part of the redevelopment. The new immersive museum enables visitors of all ages to explore the history of law and order, as well as past and present efforts to achieve justice for all people.
Walk in the footsteps of everyday people who were tried and sentenced in the court. Use the interactive multi-media guides to find out what happened to them. Discover the depths of the cold, dark cells, and stand in the dock of the famous courtroom, where famous novelist and poet Thomas Hardy was a magistrate. Dress up in wigs, gowns and hats to play the part and uncover the remarkable stories of those who passed through the building. Learn what it means when we say "crime", what we want when we demand punishment for those crimes and how we can all make the present-day world that little bit fairer.
See where the Tolpuddle Martyrs were held before being brought to trial, thereby sparking the Trade Union movement. Learn how it felt for them to be separated from their families and sentenced to transportation to Australia.
Plus, all visitors can enjoy refreshments and delicious food at the new Shire Hall Café, run by Kingston Maurward College.
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