Since the doors to Radnorshire’s Shire Hall re-opened in 1997, the Judge’s Lodging in Presteigne has been a unique, award winning attraction within Powys, run by a charitable organisation.
The building, currently owned by Powys County Council, is Grade II* listed and consists of the original period courthouse and cells, together with accommodation for the visiting High Court judge who would have stayed during the local Assizes.
The Judge’s Lodging houses a wonderful collection of objects that represents the history of the judiciary in the 19th century. Unlike some museums, there is a genuine hands-on approach to the collection which is regularly described as ‘immersive’.
Following a review of capital and revenue investment in 2015 by Powys County Council, the museum began the process of transition to full independence. Although this will bring many challenges, the Judge’s Lodging Trustees are committed to creating a sustainable future for the attraction and to creating the best opportunities to conserve the building and its collection.
The trust made a successful application to the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Resilient Heritage grant programme for £86,800, the first grant award made in Wales under this programme.
The grant will allow a more strategic approach through development of staff and volunteers, understanding the audience through visitor research and building a business plan that allows the trust to confidently manage the museum and sustainably undertake the required capital investment, with partners, to conserve the building.
Ashley Charlwood, chair of trustees, said;
“The trust is so grateful for the support from HLF, which allows us to consider the best opportunities for the continued development of The Judge’s Lodging into a fully independent museum.”
Powys County Council is now looking to transfer the Shire Hall to the trust through a community asset transfer.
“HLF supporting the strategic development of the charity and revenue for the museum is only part of the picture,” added Mr Charlwood. “We need to be confident that we can, with partners, meet the expected £200,000 costs to carry out much needed maintenance on the fabric of the building. Without HLF funding, the outlook for the building and museum would be very different.”
Gaby Rivers, the development manager, said:
“In 2015, we were reducing the hours for paid staff and, after 19 years as museum curator, I was made redundant from Powys County Council. Now, thanks to HLF, the trust can establish two new posts, a museum assistant and a volunteer co-ordinator, to help support our wonderful volunteers.”
The trust receives over 1,000 hours of volunteer time every year and could not continue without this input.
“This year is quite special for us all, as it is 20 years since actor Robert Hardy opened our doors to the public!” added Ms Rivers. “We are so grateful for the support from HLF and it allows us to continue confidently conserving this wonderful building and start much needed fundraising.”
Richard Bellamy, Head of the HLF in Wales, said:
“We know that there is an appetite from heritage organisations to adapt and grow in order to build a firm financial footing.
“Resilient Heritage brings together all that we have learnt from over 21 years of grant-making, providing a tailored package of support that responds to the individual needs of heritage organisations so they can not only survive in these challenging financial times, but thrive.”
The museum opens for the season on St David’s Day, March 1 and further details of the opening times can be found at www.judgeslodging.org.uk