Up to £580k could be needed to tackle historic building's dry rot

The refurbished court in the Shirehall. Defendant James Blomfield Rush in the dock, played by Michae

The courtroom in Norwich's Shirehall is in danger of dry rot. - Credit: copyright: Archant 2013

Murderers and bandits learnt their fate within its walls, but an historic Norfolk building is facing a reckoning of its own - unless a dry rot problem is tackled.

For 186 years, the courtroom in Norwich's Shirehall was where justice was served on those accused of crimes across the county.

The wood-panelled Victorian courtroom, in the Grade II listed building in Market Avenue, closed its doors in 1988.

The Shirehall, which could host a new escape rooms game Picture: Denise Bradley

The Shirehall in Norwich's Market Avenue is Grade II listed. - Credit: copyright: Archant 2013

But it got a new lease of life in 2013, when a £75,000 refurbishment saw it restored to its original condition.

It has since been used for 'living history' performances, as well as for public and private events.

However, the original Victorian fixtures and fittings are in danger of dry rot - and Norfolk County Council's Conservative-controlled cabinet has agreed to make £580,000 available to tackle the problem.

Dry rot is caused by a fungus called Serpula lacrymans, which causes decay and deterioration of timber.

It is not yet clear how much of the £580,000 will be needed to deal with the problem.

A council spokesman said: "Signs of dry rot were originally discovered in 2019.

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"Upon further investigation, it was clear that the this extensive enough to require a more detailed survey so we are working with a dry rot specialist to find out what work required.

"We anticipate it will need a partial replacement of roof timbers and the affected wooden window frame but the exact details will come from the final survey report.” 

The bulk of the cash comes from £600,000 which was, only last month, set aside to pay for potential repair work at a museum in King's Lynn.

But the council says it only needs to spend £20,000 for surveys at Lynn Museum for now, so have switched the rest of the cash to the Shirehall dry rot issue.

A spokesman said: "The funding was allocated to King’s Lynn Museum in anticipation of the site needing future repairs.

"While this is still likely to be the case, the only immediate need is to fund ongoing survey and monitoring of the building’s structure over the next two years.

"In the meantime, Shirehall is likely to need work much sooner so the reallocation of capital funding will allow this to be commissioned without unnecessary delays.”