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Dorchester's Shire Hall gets thumbs up from residents to undergo multi-million-pound development
A ‘RESOUNDING’ number of people want to see one of Dorchester’s most iconic buildings undergo a multi-million-pound development.
West Dorset District Council revealed plans to revamp the Shire Hall in High West Street earlier this year.
It launched a consultation to find out if residents want the building to be restored, the results of which have now been published.
Several who took part commented that it was a ‘very important building’ and 83 per cent ‘strongly’ agreed that it should be restored.
But there were objections – one respondent wrote the revamp would be a ‘waste of money when some people can’t afford to eat’.
The whole project is expected to cost £2.5m and West Dorset District Council has invested £100,000 so far.
This money, along with £69,000 awarded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), is being used to develop a ‘detailed design plan’ to get the project to planning and listed building application stage.
A second-round funding application for £1.1m will be made to the HLF next summer.
If the money is provided, West Dorset District Council has pledged to match it.
Another £300,000 will need to be found through sponsorship or donations.
West Dorset district councillor Alistair Chisholm said he was ‘delighted but not at all surprised’ people want the Shire Hall to be developed.
He added: “The Tolpuddle Martyrs is a tale that is Dorset through and through.
“As a county, we should be making more of the heroic role played by the Tolpuddle Martyrs.
“I am delighted that the time has now come and we can make more of this story.”
He added that the council could have been making money from the court for the 34 years it’s owned it, but he hoped the attraction would lead to many more visitors to Dorchester and a boost for traders.
He said: “Add it to all the other attractions in the town.
“If it’s presented as well as it possibly can be which I’m sure it will, it will mean lots of people have another reason to visit.
“It’s going to be very good for Dorchester.”
A total of 175 people took part in the consultation following a number of Shire Hall open days.
The team is now looking to hear from people who have memories of Shire Hall, either when it was used as a court until 1955 or when it was in use by the council for an oral history project.
More details of this are expected to be announced soon.
Crown court and cells
THE Grade I listed building contains the Old Crown Court and Cells in High West Street, Dorchester.
The court was the scene of the trial of the Tolpuddle Martyrs in 1834.
The hall and adjoining buildings were subject of a failed Lottery bid to develop it as an attraction in the late 1990s.
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