Destination UK

Visiting Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum in Dorchester with kids

Posted on
March 10, 2020

Taking the kids to an old courthouse, probably isn’t the first day out that springs to mind when looking for things to do, however, it is well worth considering if you are visiting Dorset.

The Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum in Dorchester is an interactive museum that uses real-life stories and iPad guides for children, to let you walk in the footsteps of the people who were on held and sentenced in the courthouse, including the infamous Tolpuddle Martyrs.

Shire Hall Dorset

Shire Hall was Dorset’s courthouse from 1797 until 1955 and the first thing that strikes you is the beauty of the building, which is Grade I listed.

Shire Hall Dorset

You enter the building through a gift shop and reception area, filled with fabulous local goodies to buy. The entrance to the museum itself is at the rear of the shop, where you collect your iPads or audio guides.


The real selling point of the visit, is just how much it engages the children.

Sebby iPad

Initially, it was just Sebby and Eliza who wanted the iPads, however, at the age of 6, Sebby struggled to do some of the challenges, so Isaac stepped in and they worked together on solving the clues.

Shire Hall Dorset

You start by learning about some of the families that live and work in Dorset, finding out what jobs they would have and how much money they would earn and the difficulties they face.

Shire Hall Dorset

Next door, there is a small area to watch a film, before heading in to see the holding cells and completing more quizzes and challenges.

Shire Hall Dorset

The kids loved hunting for the memory boxes and finding out the answers to the questions.

Shire Hall Sebby

Plus there was also places to dress up like some of the men, women and children that would have been held in the cells, awaiting trial.

Shire Hall Dorset

The kids were shocked to learn that children as young as them could have been put on trial for misdemeanors as minor as stealing trousers from a washing line.

Shire Hall Dorset

There was a whole section dedicated to the Tolpuddle Martyrs, who’s crime was to have formed the first ever trade union to protest about their meagre pay of six shillings a week.

Shire Hall Dorset

The real “WOW” moment of the visit, has to be the court room and what really made it special was that the kids could dress up.

Shire Hall Dorset

They all enjoyed getting into various characters as they posed for pictures around the court room.

Shire Hall Dorset

It was here the iPads really got interesting as they became reporters on a trial and had to work out who they thought was guilty or not guilty of the crime of stealing trousers. They even got their article printed at the end of our visit.

Shire Hall Dorset

If you are looking for something to entertain the kids over Easter, they are hosting their Easter Holiday fun event from 6th-22nd April where you can hop on down to Shire Hall to Count Your Chickens in their trail and let the kids creativity spring into action by decorating Easter egg biscuits.

Shire Hall Dorset

A family ticket to Shire Hall costs £20 and includes an annual pass giving you free entry for a whole year!

Disclaimer: We were guest of Shire Hall for the purpose of a review. All thoughts and opinions are our own

  1. Reply

    Yeah Lifestyle

    March 10, 2020

    This sounds like an interesting place to visit both for adults and kids. I personally love Listed Buildings and would enjoy visiting and learning about its history and seeing that it is so interactive, my children will not be bored at all.

  2. Reply

    Kristine Nicole Alessandra

    March 11, 2020

    It is good to make kids see and learn about things like this. Visiting a court house and learning about how different the laws were back then. It must have been so much fun for them to act out different characters inside a real courthouse.

  3. Reply


    March 11, 2020

    I love interactive museums and days out. It is far more likely to capture the children’s interest and make it a more fun and enjoyable day out for all x x

  4. Reply


    March 11, 2020

    This looks like such an educational but fun day out. I love how they all get into character in the courtroom. I’ll keep it in mind for when we’re next down that way.

  5. Reply

    Sarupa Shah

    March 11, 2020

    Looks like a great day out and how brilliant the kids get to dress up in robes – we have some budding legal kids in the family – so this would be a great experience for them!

  6. Reply


    March 11, 2020

    What a fun museum to visit! The interactive side is a huge plus so there are no bored kiddies 🙂

  7. Reply

    Sarah Howe

    March 11, 2020

    Love your photos! The kids look like they had a great time; so clever using the iPads to suck them in a little. Bet was very interesting!

  8. Reply

    Emma Raphael

    March 11, 2020

    What a great museum, love how it really really gets them involved, and possibly interested in future legal careers!! 😀

  9. Reply

    Rhian Westbury

    March 12, 2020

    That’s so good that they’ve embraced the tech to keep kids entertained and drawn in, sounds like a great day out x

  10. Reply

    Kacie Morgan

    March 12, 2020

    Shire Hall looks like it offers a great day-out for the whole family. It’s always fun for kids to have the chance to dress up.

  11. Reply

    Hollie Burgess

    March 12, 2020

    That actually looks so good! I never would have thought about going here until now!

  12. Reply

    Sarah | Boo Roo and Tigger Too

    March 12, 2020

    So many ways for the children to interact with the museum and discover how life once was

  13. Reply


    March 12, 2020

    Shire Hall looks like a wonderfully interactive day out for all the family. Love the photos of the kids in the courtroom.

  14. Reply

    Bella and Dawn at Dear Mummy Blog

    March 12, 2020

    It makes history come alive visiting places like this and I bet it was great for the kids too! I love the piccys and I bet they had loads to tell their friends afterwards!

  15. Reply

    Natasha Mairs

    March 13, 2020

    I would love to visit here one day with the kids. And £20 for a family ticket isn’t a bad price at all.

  16. Reply

    Rebecca Smith

    March 13, 2020

    We love an interactive museum so this sounds right up our street – a real fun day out for the whole family.

  17. Reply

    Mellissa Williams

    March 13, 2020

    This looks like a fantastic museum. I love places like this that really make it a fun and interactive experience for their guests.

  18. Reply


    March 13, 2020

    This looks great! Absolutely love visiting museums and my son is interested in history too. I have never been to Dorset but hear it is lovely

  19. Reply

    Laura Schwormstedt

    March 19, 2020

    This looks like such a fun day out – my boys would love it here, they love anything interactive like this and with the chance to dress up as well

    Laura x

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Are we nearly there yet? is a new online blog run by me, Kara Guppy, and is named as such thanks to my daughter Eliza who always asks that very question when we are less than 5 minutes up the road heading off on our adventures. You may know me from my other family blog