Judge's Lodging in Presteigne scoops 'hidden gem' award

Gaby Rivers, curator of The Judge’s Lodging, receives the award from Loyd Grossman Gaby Rivers, curator of the Judge’s Lodging, receives the award from Loyd Grossman

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A small museum marking a town's historic links with the legal profession has won an award celebrating top UK heritage attractions.

The Judge's Lodging in Presteigne was named best hidden gem in the Hudson's Heritage Awards.

Other award winners included Derbyshire's Chatsworth House and Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire.

Presteigne was the legal seat of the old county of Radnorshire for more than 400 years.

Established in 2011, the annual awards are independently judged and open to historic houses, gardens, museums and heritage sites.

THE HISTORY OF JUDGE'S LODGING

The murder in Rhayader of one judge in the 1530s was to change the life of the tiny border town of Presteigne forever.

Rhayader, chosen as the venue for the Court of King's Great Sessions, was obviously not a safe enough place for eminent men to stay and in 1542 Presteigne was chosen as an alternative.

Its life as the legal seat of Radnorshire was set for more than 400 years and with it the development of Presteigne into Radnorshire's county town.

By the early 1800s, Presteigne was thriving in its legal and administrative role for the county.

There was a shire hall for the trials and hearings, a lodging house for the judges and a jail.

One of the more amusing court cases centred on two Rhayader labourers who were arguing over the ownership of a pair of underpants which were apparently identified "due to their distinguishing marks".

Source: Judge's Lodging

Judge's Lodging curator Gaby Rivers picked up the award at a reception in London from television celebrity Loyd Grossman.

The award citation read: "The hidden gem award is for a heritage attraction that just hasn't been noticed, like a small rural museum with big ideas.

"This Victorian courthouse in a tiny Welsh border town recalls its grander past as the county town of Radnorshire.

"Despite the austere courtroom and cells, visitors to this place are immediately immersed into the life of the 19th Century judges and the household who lived here. Everything is touchable and the house is entirely lit by gas and oil lamps.

The citation went on:"What most impressed the judges is that this small charitable enterprise is independently attracting visitors into the area and the town, boosting the local economy and bringing its past back to life."

Judges said the attraction was one of their favourite places in Britain.

"Staff at the museum are so proud of their building and what it has achieved so far this year, especially as this award follows so soon after the Prince of Wales' visit at the end of January," said Ms Rivers.

Following his visit, Prince Charles wrote thanking the museum, describing it as a "truly inspirational place".

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