Museums tell stories of region’s wicked past

Four museums are swapping objects to tell stories of the region’s wicked past – from grim and gruesome to strange and shocking!

Dorset County Museum Exhibitions Manager Lucy Johnston and Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum Exhibitions and Events Manager Harriet Still with the Maquette for the Martyrs
Dorset County Museum Exhibitions Manager Lucy Johnston and Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum Exhibitions and Events Manager Harriet Still with the Maquette for the Martyrs

‘Wicked Wessex’ is the theme of the latest objects tour by Wessex Museums – a partnership comprising Dorset County Museum, Poole Museum, The Salisbury Museum and Wiltshire Museum. Each has chosen an item from its collection which best fits the theme.

Due to the Dorset County Museum closure for redevelopment, the Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum in Dorchester has kindly agreed to provide an alternative venue to display the Wicked Wessex objects on our behalf.

The first of the objects to go on display at the Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum is the Maquette for the Martyrs on loan from the Dorset County Museum.

This is a miniature version of a memorial to the Dorset Martyrs, situated on South Walks in Dorchester. The full-size statues, which have recently been given Grade II listed status by Historic England, stand at the very place where hundreds of people died on Dorchester’s town gallows. The sculptures were created by Dame Elisabeth Frink in memory of the Catholics who were hanged in the 16th and 17th centuries because of their religion.

Jon Murden, Director of Dorset County Museum said “This is an opportunity to see this important piece of art, which led to the installation of a public sculpture in Dorchester, by Elisabeth Frink—celebrated as one of the country’s famous sculptors who lived and worked in Dorset. It would seem fitting to display the maquette in a venue which has seen over two hundred years of justice, injustice, crime and punishment and we are very grateful for Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum for their support in hosting this tour by the Wessex Museums Partnership.”

The objects are currently on display at their home museums, then after three months they will tour the other museums until October 2019.