ONE of Stafford’s most iconic buildings will start a new chapter this summer – as a town centre base for the University of Wolverhampton.
Shire Hall, once a seat of justice as the town’s crown court, will become a seat of learning for university students. The building’s Grand Hall will host a range of courses, as well as an advice and information centre for prospective students.
Fears for the future of Shire Hall came to the fore last year when Staffordshire County Council announced facilities could be relocated as part of cost-cutting measures.
A campaign to save Shire Hall’s library and gallery was launched and a petition containing almost 3,000 signatures was presented to the county council by Councillor Maureen Compton.
But the gallery space will stay and be used for student and community exhibitions as well as planned touring exhibitions, the county council said. The historic court rooms and multi-sensory room – a valuable resource for children with special needs – will remain open to the public.
Deputy council leader Ian Parry said: “Shire Hall is an important and well-loved building and while there were never any plans to close it, we did want to maximise the potential for the site, and think we have found the perfect fit with the university.
“This is fantastic news for both Stafford and the university and I am particularly delighted that there will be a students' art gallery and that court rooms will provide the setting for future lawyers to hone their legal skills.
“We very much wanted Shire Hall to remain at the heart of Stafford and are looking forward to the fresh energy an influx of new students promises to bring to the town.”
The University of Wolverhampton will work in partnership with the county council. It plans to open the doors to its new hub in the summer.
Professor Geoff Layer, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Wolverhampton, said: “We are really proud to be in Stafford. Shire Hall is a beautiful and historic building, right in the heart of the town centre.
“We have been looking for some time at expanding the work we do, particularly for people who want part-time and adult learning, in some of our key neighbouring towns and counties. As a university it is vital we seek to provide opportunities to a wide audience and help shape and drive economic growth in the region.”