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Shire Hall Project - Justice in the Balance

Shire Hall has secured a grant from the Heritage Lottery fund of £1.5 million that West Dorset District Council has match-funded. Shire Hall is now being transformed into a major heritage attraction and centre for learning that will bring its history to life and make it relevant for today.

Dorset's Shire Hall is a rare architectural gem. It is one of the best-preserved buildings of its kind and remains almost unchanged since it first opened in 1796-7.

Shire Hall was a centre of law, order and government for over 200 years - a place where all sectors of society interacted. The trial of the Tolpuddle Martyrs that took place here in 1834 changed the course of history and helped to shape the society in which we live today. Later, the writer Thomas Hardy served as a magistrate at the court, an experience which inspired some of his writing.

A new charity, the Shire Hall Trust, has been created to run the heritage centre once it opens. We are planning activities, exhibitions and events that will engage, inform and entertain people with the fascinating history of this significant building.

Follow us on Twitter, join our Justice Cafe Facebook page or you can contact the project team.

About the project

Read more about About the project
Find out about plans to transform Shire Hall into a major visitor centre.

Get involved

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Donate, volunteer and talk to us! There are plenty of ways to get involved with the Shire Hall project.
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