PRESTEIGNE’S popular tourist attraction, the Judge’s Lodging is paying its respects to the much loved and revered actor Robert Hardy who has died at the age of 91.

The star of stage and screen, who played Churchill eight times and joined the cast in Harry Potter films as the Minister of Magic, opened the Judge’s Lodging amid a fanfare of glory 20 years ago.

Manager, Gabrielle Rivers had hoped the actor would be returning for the museum’s 21st birthday celebrations next year. In fitting Victorian style, a black cloth has been draped over a framed picture of the actor cutting a ribbon to declare the museum open in 1997.

Visitors of all ages recognise Robert Hardy from his many film and TV appearances. He first came to fame as vet Siegfried Farnon in the popular TV series All Creatures Great and Small, and he portrayed Churchill in various stage and screen productions over four decades. He appealed to a younger generation of visitors who recognised him as Cornelius Fudge, Minister of Magic in Harry Potter films.

A friend of Dr Charles Kightly, who directed the major restoration project of Presteigne’s Victorian courthouse and lodgings, Robert Hardy retained his admiration for the 19th century building.

“He had a keen interest in history – he was really a medievalist – but he believed very strongly in historic properties being preserved for the future,” said Ms Rivers. “He really liked independently run properties like ours. He was a great friend to the Judge’s Lodging.”

She recalled the pageantry that accompanied the actor’s arrival on the steps of the newly restored Judge’s Lodging. “He was flamboyant on opening day,” she said. Mr Hardy was driven in an 1860s horse-drawn carriage, flanked by two former serving Presteigne police officers, Tony Davies and Mark Stagg in full Victorian uniform, as well as local cadets bearing halberds.

“It was a really good mixture of professionals and local people, and that is part of the success of this place,” said Ms Rivers.

In tribute to the actor, a frame with four photographs featuring him on that day has been draped in black.

“He was there at the beginning, and you can still hear his voice on the museum’s audio tape.” Robert Hardy plays the part of Chairman of the Magistrates in Presteigne, the Rev Richard Lister Venables. “He hasn’t gone away,” she added.