Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum, Dorchester: ‘The youngest prisoner tried here was seven’ – overview | Travel

In a nutshell

A brand new museum within the imposing Dorchester Shire Hall. Following a well-curated route, guests stroll although 150 years of justice (and injustice) and uncover the tales of these tried right here for crimes starting from rabbit-poaching and stealing underwear to arson and homicide. The most well-known case was of the Tolpuddle Martyrs: 19th-century Dorset agricultural labourers turned activists, whose highly-publicised trial and conviction led to the muse of modern-day commerce unions. Kids are supplied with their very own pill gadgets – loaded with digital interactive guides, quizzes and video games – and may select to be a tour information for the entire household, or turn into a journalist for a trial. There are “memory boxes” to find, cleverly-hidden across the museum, and magistrates’ robes, hats and judges’ wigs to attempt on.

Fun (if barely grim) reality

Casts of convicts’ heads have been made for phrenologists to review. They believed that persona traits may very well be decided by measuring completely different elements of the cranium. The solid on show at Shire Hall is of Edwin Alfred Preedy, who was executed on website for murdering a warder.

Tablets prescribed … youngsters get a cell system for interactive parts of the journey.

Best issues about it

We have been fascinated by the hardly detectable graffiti – etched into the partitions of the cramped cells – and had lengthy discussions about what a big barred pit would possibly have been used for. A spotlight was ascending into the brightly-lit dock from the cells beneath, simply as a whole lot of prisoners would have performed. Even and not using a choose and court docket in attendance it gave a way of how intimidating it should have been. The youngest prisoner introduced right here was Harry Parker (7) who was tried for arson.

What about lunch?

There is not any picnic space however the museum’s Shire Hall Café serves the same old choice: baked potatoes, soup and sandwiches (from £four.50), afternoon teas and children’ containers (£four.50). Cakes begin at £2.80 and coffees or teas from £2.50. The cafe adjoins an exercise space so dad and mom can get pleasure from a quiet cuppa whereas their youngsters entertain themselves.

Tolpuddle Martyrs Cell at Shire Hall Historic Courthouse museum in Dorchester, Dorset, UK.

Tolpuddle Martyrs Cell. Photograph: Sasfi

Exit by way of the reward store?

The ticket counter is throughout the reward store so the youngsters can eyeball what’s on supply earlier than they enter the museum. It does a pleasant collection of toys, books and presents, starting from vintage-style picket cup-and-ball video games and pretend handcuffs to Dartington Crystal glassware, and locally-made jewelry, gin, cider and beer.

Getting there

The museum is on the primary road within the city centre, with a number of automotive parks close by. The city has two railway stations, each of that are lower than 10 minutes’ stroll from Shire Hall.

The Shire Hall courtroom at Shire Hall Historic Courthouse museum, Dorchester, Dorset, UK. The white-painted courtroom is empty except for a group of cardboard cutouts in the gallery section.

The Shire Hall courtroom. Photograph: Sasfi

Value for cash?

We comfortably spent a few hours right here and the ticket is legitimate for a 12 months. Entry is £eight.50 for adults, £four.50 youngsters and a household ticket is £20.

Opening hours

Open every day 10am-5pm.


Perhaps not an apparent day trip however its intelligent curation and glorious interactive guides will entertain guests of all ages. eight/10


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