Can you spare a few pounds to help us recover from the impact of coronavirus on our museum?
You can support us to continue our award winning work with children and adults, supporting them to explore the history of our beautiful building, and discover the stories of the people whose lives were changed at Shire Hall, sometimes forever.
Who we are
Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum in Dorchester was the old Crown Court of Dorset from 1797 to 1955. Our uniquely preserved original Georgian courtroom saw judge and jury dispense justice to the people of Dorset for over 150 years. Renowned as the scene of the famously unjust trial of the six agricultural labourers, the Tolpuddle Martyrs, founding fathers of the modern Trades Union movement, our history is of international importance.
Our award winning interactive and immersive museum tells the stories of real people as you walk in their footsteps through our museum, cells and courtroom. We have a range of accessible iPad guides and story boards for individuals and families. These take visitors on a journey through the history of law and order, and crime and punishment, at Shire Hall, and challenges them to consider issue of justice and injustice, how the past has shaped the present, and how we can make a difference to the future.
We need to keep telling these real people’s stories-
Covid-19 first forced us to close our doors to visitors in March 2020. As an independent museum, we rely on the income generated from visitors, events and schools groups.
When we reopened after lockdown, we worked really hard and spent a considerable amount of money making our museum safe for visitors. As an interactive and immersive museum this meant a lot of changes, but we rose to the challenge, creating new extensive signage, meaning visitors could still walk in the footsteps of the people of the past who came through our court and building. Unfortunately, we had to remove our memory boxes full of handling objects, and the very popular dressing up hats, wigs and robes in the courtroom. However, we have added a new children’s trail, and introduced Bert our convict Conman Cat with his fabulous facts and questions for families. In the short time we were back open, we worked hard to give children a safe and fun Halloween experience in our underground cells and hosted an exhibition by textile artist Ruth Singer In-line with covid-19 Guidelines.
Sadly, after welcoming people back in August, we had to close again for the second lockdown at the beginning of November. All this disruption and extra expense, means that we really need your support to carry on the amazing work we do.
What your money will be spent on
We need to keep teaching
For our learning manager, COVID 19 meant developing a whole new way of delivering learning sessions to our school and other learning groups and organisations. We need to raise funds so that we can continue to deliver our award-winning learning sessions to children and young people by offering remote digital virtual classroom sessions and outreach.
In normal times we would deliver learning to thousands of children a year, in this new environment we want to carry telling our stories and delivering high quality and creative teaching and learning across the curriculum for children and young people.
We need to keep exhibiting
We bring national exhibitions to local audiences. Last year we were delighted to host the acclaimed British Museum exhibition ‘Desire, Love, Identity: exploring LGBTQ Histories’ to Dorset, engaging with the local LGBTQ community, young people and schools. We worked with local school children and internationally exhibited, disabled digital artist Jason Wilsher-Mills, to bring engaging augmented reality artwork based on the story of the Tolpuddle Martyrs to Dorset. We want to keep supporting artists and bringing culture to the local community.
Whatever you can afford to give, we will be very grateful.