Municipal Buildings – Corn Exchange, Dorchester

Working with the Town Council and Dorchester Arts to renovate a Heritage Building

The Grade II* Listed Municipal Offices, more commonly known as ‘The Corn Exchange’, are situated in the centre of Dorchester in the historic core of the town centre’s Conservation Area. The building was constructed to the designs of renowned architect Benjamin Ferrey in 1847/8 – with the landmark corner clock tower added in 1864 – and replaced an earlier Town Hall dating from 1792.

We were first asked by the Town Council to improve access to the upper floor Public Chambers – working with Conservation Officers and Historic England the scheme necessitated the subtle alteration of the main stone stair to create an open well large enough to accommodate a free standing glazed lift shaft. A second phase of work involved the installation of cathodic protection to the iron bands embedded in the stone clock tower to arrest their decay and prevent ongoing damage to the stone structure.

More recently we have completely re-roofed the Council Chamber, Corn Exchange and Apse. This has included structural repairs, external stone and brick repairs and repointing, and the installation of solar panels to the two lower roof slopes of the Corn Exchange. During these works a covered scaffold was erected over the whole building – an engineering feat in itself which created quite a spectacle during its construction.

We have also assisted the Town Council in achieving their aim of providing the building with a renewable energy and sustainable heating solution to the whole complex. An extension has been constructed to the rear of the building to house a new bio-mass boiler with associated fuel store and water tanks at ground floor level. Two new meeting rooms were created at first floor level, together with other internal alterations and remodelling to provide improved community use and additional office space.

In addition to general redecoration and refurbishment, retractable rake seating has been installed in the main hall to enhance visitors’ experience of arts performances.

Works continue on-site and are scheduled to be completed in Autumn 2022.