Dorset Chartered Builders, Greendale Construction Limited, is delighted to have been part of the highly skilled professional teams who has opened up access for all and helped transform Dorchester’s Shire Hall into the an educational, multimedia experience, which now takes visitors on an historical journey with some of Dorset’s most notorious and iconic characters and events.
Funded in part with a £1.5 million Heritage Lottery Grant match funded by West Dorset District Council, the Grade 1 listed building, which dates back to 1757, went through a very complex 73 weeks of renovations starting in October 2016.
The original court building and cells below were intact and had been moth-balled since the 1950s, however, many other sections of the building required extensive re-modelling in order to achieve the new visitor centre requirements. New oak timber work was inserted to repair the roof structure before being clad in Welsh slate and code 7 lead.
More recent concrete floors were demolished, with major excavations, underpinning and structural works in the sub-basement to create the shop, which now benefits from a polished concrete floor. A sliding, folding door leads to the café, which had its original pine flooring stripped and restored. A new lift shaft, toilets, and the entrance to the visitor experience at basement level has all been created, with all the original windows refurbished and decorated.
Shire Hall is now more equipped to welcome visitors requiring assistance thanks to the installation of a lift which serves all public access floors. Additionally, the old stairs to the dock have been carefully strengthened, and existing doors widened for wheelchair access. Stairs to the basement cell area have also been made accessible for all via the installation of a powered ‘flexistep’ lift.
The grand jury room has been completely refurbished, and the high court building has had ceiling repairs and redecoration, with the jury areas redecorated in period colours from the time of the Tolpuddle Martyrs. The cells where detainees, including the Tolpuddle Martyrs and the last woman to be hanged in Dorset, Martha Brown, would have been held, have been made accessible and benefit from new, traditional style lathe and lime plaster ceilings.
A new committee/learning room has been created, along with new staff facilities and office area. All new mechanical, electrical, plumbing, ventilation and data services were installed, having been designed by M&E consultants MTA, with Greendale also working closely with head architect for the project, Samir Khatri of Phillip Hughes Associates.
Access to the building via Glyde path Road has also been opened up, and brickwork and stone repairs to external superstructure completed. Finally, Greendale created two flats with separate dedicated access from the rear via means of a new external staircase.
Rob Hooker, director at Greendale Construction, said: “We were delighted to have won this amazing and challenging project. As main contractors, the whole Greendale team felt honoured to be working on such an iconic and historic building, and making a positive difference for its long-term future. The success of the project was down to collaborative working of all involved, and we wish Shire Hall Courthouse Museum every success so as future generations can visit and experience its rich history.”