The 2019 Summer Outing for members of The Shaftesbury & District Historical Society took them to two Dorchester Museums, one presently closed for a massive redevelopment and the other recently opened in 2018. The Dorset County Museum received one of the last large Heritage Lottery Fund grants of £11 million. Members were able to view the ongoing building works from the rear of the site. Clearly marked were the locations for the concrete piles which will be driven 15 feet into the ground and support a new five storey structure. Collections Manager Elizabeth Selby then kindly opened up one of the object stores and showed a handful of the Museum’s four million artefacts, including a late seventeenth century box decorated with exquisite needlework depicting Charles II and his Queen Catherine of Braganza.
The second venue was a short walk away at Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum, which had been ably described in the February lecture of the Society’s winter programme. Here members could explore the cells which had once held the Tolpuddle Martyrs and follow in the original courtroom the trials of such unfortunates as Shaftesbury petty criminal Elijah Upjohn or Elizabeth Martha Brown, whose public hanging in 1856 was witnessed by the young Thomas Hardy. The afternoon concluded with tea or coffee and cake in Shire Hall’s tea room.