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Historic Dorchester building gets lottery cash for heritage centre plan
A HISTORIC building in Dorchester will be transformed into an internationally-important heritage centre after winning lottery support.
The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has awarded the Shire Hall a £69,000 grant to help get the ball rolling.
The HLF has given its initial support towards a project which should see the Grade I listed Shire Hall transformed into a visitor centre with high quality exhibitions and educational resources.
West Dorset District Council launched the funding bid last year to help safeguard the county town's unique history and attract more visitors as part of a planned 'heritage quarter'.
Part of HLF's initial support includes development funding to develop design plans and get the project to the planning application stage. After this work is completed a second round funding application will be made to the HLF to apply for the full amount needed.
Leader of West Dorset District Council Robert Gould said: “I am thrilled that we have succeeded in winning this money. This is on top of the £1million that the district council has pledged to make this exciting project a reality.”
“The Shire Hall is a fascinating building with a unique and special history.
“Visitors will be able to tread in the footsteps of the Tolpuddle Martyrs and see the very same sights that would have greeted them.
“Thanks to this money and the hard work of everyone involved we should be able to make history come alive.”
Under the plans, the new heritage centre could be run by the Dorset County Museum. Consultations are ongoing with interested groups including the Trade Union Congress. The project could also see Dorchester's award winning Tourist Information Centre move to Shire Hall.
Head of Heritage Lottery Fund South West Richard Bellamy said: “Shire Hall is one of Dorchester's most important historic buildings and this project has the potential to open it fully to the public and explain its fascinating history in an exciting and vibrant way.”