Our travels along Dorchester's High Street have now taken us to 53 High West Street.

It's one of the most eye-catching houses in this part of the street mainly due to the brilliant white painting of the exterior with the fluting picked out in blue. The projecting porch is supported on Tuscan columns.

Long term occupiers were Lock, Read and Lock, solicitors now known as Porter Dodson, solicitors.

Next door, 54 High West Street, back in 1955 used to be occupied by a milliners, Madame Rousse. It was also occupied by the Bristol and West Building Society until July 1966 when they moved to South Street.

It was then Bridal Gowns, which closed around July 1998. It was vacant for a while then became Mann and Co, Estate Agents. They traded there for 2-3 years and Palmer Snell moved to this address about October 2011 but closed offices in December 2016. Their main office is now in Weymouth.

The premises next door, 55 High West Street, has had many different identities. Kelly’s 1895 directory shows that it was the shop of Miss E. Westbrook selling fancy goods.

In the 1920s it was A. & E. Street ladies fashion, in the 1960s Leslie Frisby, photographer and then it was Miles and Son, estate agents, which closed in 1984.

Colin Worth, Estate Agents opened in March 1984; the date of cessation is not known but it was occupied at some time by Full, James and Still, estate agents, then G.A.Property Services which closed in August 1987.

After a short vacant spell, Blanchards Solicitors traded from this building until January 2000 when they moved to 29 High East Street. It was then vacant until April 2002 when it was the Family Planning and Well Woman Clinic. This moved to 20 Trinity Street in January 2010. In December 2010 Dorset Lettings opened there, having previously been at 18 High West Street.

Numbers 56 and 57 High West Street were designed and built as a unit from 1849 and are early Victorian houses.

They are built on the site of the 17th century Trenchard Mansion, the loss of which Thomas Hardy lamented.

Number 56 in 1955 was Stickland and Rendall, hairdressers (Gents). Mr Rendall fell ill and the business ceased in April 1974. The premises were empty and workmen arrived in January 1976 after which the building was occupied by John Turner, accountants, They became Fampton, Read and Smith. The property fell vacant in the early 1990s eventually becoming a private residence but doing Bed and Breakfast. This seemed to cease recently to revert back to a private residence.

Number 57, according to the 1895 Kelly’s directory was Hewitt and Son, tailors.

In 1955, it was W. Snook, house furnishers and also Dorset Territorial Association. It seems to have been used by the Local Authority, the Women’s Voluntary Services then Road Safety Offices and the Dorset Community Council offices. It is currently used by the Smart Group Recruitment Agency.

Next door is the Shire Hall. Designed by Thomas Hardwick and built in 1797. This is where the assizes and quarter sessions were held before the new County Hall was built. It has even been used for balls and public entertainments.

It has a handsome ashlar facade of limestone and originally cost £16,000.

Inside the building is the old courtroom where in 1834 the six Tolpuddle Martyrs were tried. The adjoining old Nisi Prius court disappeared in 1889 when they were converted into offices. The court closed in 1956.

This was the home of West Dorset District Council until they moved to the new office buildings in South Walks. The building is now the Shire Hall Museum, which opened in May 2018 after substantial alterations paid for by the National Lottery and West Dorset District Council at a cost of just over £3 million.

Thanks as always to Derek Pride for the historical insight.