A RARE old building will be taking on a new lease of life chosen by villagers aiming to create a valuable asset for Charminster.

Trustees of Wolfeton Riding House are asking for ideas for the future use of their Elizabethan building one of only three in the country.

Chairman of the trustees Simon Pomeroy said: "We've had a major survey carried out involving surveyors and structural engineers and bird and bat experts.

"I'm expecting their report any time and then we'll know what would be involved for any work that needs to be done.

"The important thing is to ask people in Charminster what they would like to see it used for.

"It needs to be used for the benefit of Charminster and it's up to people to decide before we start trying to get funding."

Mr Pomeroy said the building had the scope for a range of uses but would be limited by its access which winds in through Charminster's narrow East Hill.

Trustees have been in discussions with West Dorset District Council planners to explore ways forward on the project.

Mr Pomeroy said the simplest and cheapest use for the building would be as a quiet room for villagers to sit in to reflect or read.

"It's been said that it would be a good place to hold an exhibition. It's up to the people of Charminster. The trustees' job is to satisfy that. I hope at the end of the day we will see smiling faces."

He said trustees had to find a use that would benefit villagers and be suitable for a Grade II listed building.

"I'd love to see that building restored. It's not in good condition at the moment.."

He said the riding house was believed to have been built in 1600 by Sir Thomas Trenchard who owned nearby Wolfeton House in response to the fashion for high school riding, similar to the advanced dressage practised by the Spanish Riding School of Vienna.

Only two others at Wisbech and Bolsover still exist in this country.

Suggestions for a restored riding house can be sent to the trustees care of Edwards and Keeping Chartered Accountants at Unity Chambers, 34 High East Street, Dorchester.