Based at Nottingham’s old Court House and jail is ‘The Galleries of Justice’ and after residing in Nottingham for 2 years I am ashamed to say I have only recently been to visit this historical museum, but I’m glad I did. Before entering I was apprehensive as I was aware of the museums reputation for being ‘the most haunted building in the UK’ but my curiosity got the better of me and I had to discover for myself why it had got this reputation. On entering I was surprised to be given a numbered card and told I would soon find out what this number meant. It wasn’t long before the Crime and Punishment Tour began and I was to hear the sinister tales that will make anyone more than thankful for the law system in place today.
The Sheriff of Nottingham, recognisable by his medieval attire, greeted us all and even at this moment I was somewhat sceptical about a bunch of people pretending to be figures from the past but I was soon proved wrong. I was gripped by the Sheriffs words as he led us down to the courtroom and spoke of the trials leading to an outlaw’s incarceration or in the majority of cases death. It was at this moment we discovered what our numbers meant and as we were taken to the cells, we each wondered what crime we had committed. I had stolen from a shop and was lucky enough to escape the death penalty but others were not so fortunate and were hung publicly outside the courthouse for all to see.
It is only at this moment I realised just how dark this decade was, as another figure continued guiding us around the jail speaking of the appalling conditions outlaws had to endure whilst incarcerated. Even being locked in a cell briefly, in pitch darkness, was an experience I, and likely many others found disturbing so I dread to think how the outlaws felt, who unlike us were unable to escape. Between these interactions we were left to our own devices to explore the artefacts and take a closer look at the educational writings on the walls. As we continued further on into the decade, things gradually began to change until we returned to the justice system as it is today.
The Galleries of Justice is a place I would recommended for people of all ages to visit. I found it to be very educational whilst at the same time, entertaining. The costumed actors were definitely the stars of the show making the history come to life as they got into character. My personal favourite was the gentleman we met at the jail who entertained us all with his whimsical wit. This fair balance between informative and interactive content is in my opinion what makes The Galleries of Justice a top attraction for all ages but in addition, there’s numerous ways to explore the museum. From the audio to the ghost tour, to even hosting birthday parties and other events there’s no reason not to experience this history yourself.
Article by Amber Benson / 7th December 2012
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