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

This Dorset museum lifts the lid on injustices handed down at the historic court with interactive guides and some grisly facts

A new museum in the imposing Dorchester Shire Hall. Following a well-curated route, visitors walk though 150 years of justice (and injustice) and discover the stories of those tried here for crimes ranging from rabbit-poaching and stealing underwear to arson and murder. The most famous case was of the Tolpuddle Martyrs: 19th-century Dorset agricultural labourers turned activists, whose highly-publicised trial and conviction led to the foundation of modern-day trade unions. Kids are provided with their own tablet devices – loaded with digital interactive guides, quizzes and games – and can choose to be a tour guide for the whole family, or become a journalist for a trial. There are “memory boxes” to discover, cleverly-hidden around the museum, and magistrates’ gowns, hats and judges’ wigs to try on.

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