Going to court isn't everyone's idea of a great day out but if it's drama, history and a bit of good old fashioned shock value that you're looking for, then a visit to this attraction is a must.
I have visited this venue both in the light of day and also on a ghost hunt throughout the night and on every occasion, it has offered up something we hadn't noticed before and I'm not just talking about the resident ghosts!
The ghoulish guides were good fun for us adults but I have to say were a bit too much for one of our young visitors who disappointingly couldn't be persuaded to continue our visit which meant one of the adults missing out also. Not that this is a criticism of the characters - as I say, they were good fun - just be aware that the enjoyment of this attraction depends on the individual child and may not suit everybody. My daughter who was about the same age (10) lapped it up and laughed along with the rest of us.
The history of the building is fascinating and unspoiled by typical tourism gimmicks. You can imagine what the Galleries of Justice must have been like for the prisoners.
The court room is a highlight of the trip and on two occasions when I have visited, there has been a chance to take part in a bit of court room drama which is enjoyable and enlightening at the same time.
The Galleries of Justice is right in the centre of Nottingham and while it helps to know a bit about your way around the city, there are parking spaces available and the location is ideal for a shopping trip into the bargain - unless it's the middle of the night of course. In which case prepare to be scared!
Until recently, I hadn't really done much in Nottingham apart from going to pubs or eating out. I figured that considering it is my last year at university here, I should probably get some things done as I might not ever come back. One thing on my list was the Galleries of Justice, which I had heard was very popular. The Galleries of Justice is situated in the Lace Market area of Nottingham city center which is easily accessible by bus, car or tram. There is parking quite close so if you are driving it will only be a short walk away from your car.
Before visiting an attraction like this, I always want to find out the prices. You can go to http://www.galleriesofjustice.org.uk/ to find out everything you need to know about the Galleries of Justice along with ticket prices but below is a list of the most up to date prices (as of October 2012):
Facts & Felons Audio Tour
Mondays and Tuesdays (excluding school and bank holidays)
Family ticket: £25.50 (2 adults, 2 concessions, or 1 adult, 3 concessions)
Performance Tours & HM Prison Service Collection:
Wednesday - Sunday (During the school holidays, performance led tours are every day)
Family: £25.50 (2 adults, 2 concessions, or 1 adult, 3 concessions)
What is so good about the opening times is that this attraction is open 7 days a week. Being someone that works strange hours and days and also has classes to go to, this was perfect for me as it meant I could go whenever I wanted. Generally, the Galleries of Justice is open 9-5:30 Monday to Friday while Saturday and Sundays are 10-5. Tours begin a little later than the opening time and the last tour begins an hour before closing. If you combine your ticket to go to the caves you will also be able to save 25%.
The actual site of the Galleries of Justice has been around since the 14th century where it was used as a court and then a prison. Up until the 1980s, some of the court rooms had still been used so it was only in the 1990s that this was turned into a tourist attraction.
The tours take you most of the way around the attraction although some of it is self-guided. Guides will talk you through the different areas of the building which includes the Victorian Courtroom (where the different sections are also explained) and the cells. Upon entry to the Galleries of Justice and after paying to get in, you are given a prisoner number. This is the part where the tour gets interactive. From the beginning of the tour, you are asked to assume that prisoner's identity at particular points. You don't have to take part though if you don't feel comfortable with it, especially for younger visitors this might not be as appropriate. There are plenty of actors along the tour who act out different roles such as a guard or a prisoner. These people really make the tour more real and they make it possible to image people really working there back in the day.
What I found most interesting about the tour was getting to see the cells. Getting to actually stand in one and to be locked in really made me realise what conditions were like for prisoners. However, this doesn't mean I had any sympathy for them. They were criminals after all and deserved everything they got. This part of the tour really makes you realise how far things have come since the 14th century where conditions were absolutely terrible. It was also interesting that there was a separate area for women prisoners so for this part of the tour, new identities are given out to members of the public as women's crimes were a little bit different. The guide explains here how different women's punishments could be in comparison to those for men with examples given like being burned at the stake.
There are other areas to the Galleries of Justice which are self-guided like a range of exhibitions about prisons and transportation of prisoners. There is also an exhibition for the HM Prison Service which explains about the changes to the prison service over the past couple of hundred years. There is also a gift shop near the beginning of the tour although this is a little tricky to get back to as there are plenty of tunnels to walk through and I couldn't quite remember how to get back. Because of this, I cannot comment on what is being sold in the gift shop but I really wish that I could have had a look as I imagine there are all kinds of interesting items.
As this place does sound (and is!) quite freaky, the Galleries of Justice do tours aimed at younger children which aren't quite as scary. I also learned that they do ghost and terror tours as well as murder mystery evenings which I think would be a really fun thing to do!
Ok, so I am going to be reviewing the Galleries of Justice from a slightly different angle; namely because I visited it in the middle of the night. In the name of things that you do to keep your partner happy, I agreed to spend the night in the Galleries of Justice doing a Most Haunted style vigil. Before the lights were turned off, we were allowed to see around the building and learn a bit about its history. The Galleries of Justice was opened as a museum in 1995, but its historical origin has been dated back to about 1300AD. The site and building has an extensive history as a site of trial, imprisonment and execution, and the museum is structured in a way that gives you an excellent insight into the how life in the building would have been. The crimes and punishments surrounding this building were genuinely fascinating.
Apparently the tickets if you choose to visit in the daytime are about £9 for adults and £7 for children, and I think that if you are nearby and looking for something to do for the day then the galleries would definitely be worth a visit. The galleries do aim to be entertaining for children by using actors and allowing the tours to be interactive, and I'm sure it is far less scary when there is light outside! The building is quite small though, and I can't imagine that even taking your time and engaging in all of the activities could make a visit to this place last more than about 4 hours.
If you are interested in the more ghostly side of the Galleries of Justice then I would say this place is definitely worth an overnight visit. Although I am slightly more sceptical now that time is passing after the event, I intend to be brave and go back to investigate at some point... because at the time I was absolutely convinced that things were going bump in the night....
The Galleries of Justice is now a museum that is situated in Nottinghams Lace market and you can't miss it even if your just driving through.
I (22) went earlier this with my partner(24), younger brother (17) and sister (20) and I really thought that it's well worth going to for a visit so if you're ever in the area pop in for a look round.
At first site you can definately tell that it's an old court because its so well maintained from the outside. We walked up the stone steps through the big wooden doors to a large foyer where you purchase tickets.
We brought tickets and for all for of us it cost around £38. The Galleries of Justice also work alongside the Caves of Nottingham so when you buy your tickets for the Galleries of Justice you get the option to also buy tickets for the other attraction and overall get 20% how off.
Our receipts for the Galleries of Justice where like tickets that had numbers on the back, we all had individual number.
Tours are every half an hour so if you come half way through the day the chances are you can still buy tickets and go on a tour with in the next half an hour.
There is a small cafe at the back so if you are having to wait a while for your tour you can sit and have a drink.
Its in the cafe where the tour starts and you are rounded up by a member of staff who is very appropriatley dressed in a costume. The person that collected us for the guided tour was dressed as judge with old style clothing just to give that historic feel. When he was talking to us he was also talking as people would have done when the court was actually.
The guide led us into the old court room and singled a couple of us out. he then questionned us, as he was the judge. It felt quite intimidating because we were literally in the old court room and although I knew I wasn't in reality really on trial but it felt really authentic.
Later we got sentenced and got sent to prision little did I know the numbers on the back of tickets, which we were given earlier, were actually our prison numbers. On the way down to the prison there were lots of cells and photos and information about some of the prisoners that had once been there, our ticket numbers matched up to some of the prisoners that were on the photos.
We were guided around the cells and shown what prisoners used to do when they were being punished. The guides also informed us hows prisoners would escape and go to he slumbs because officers were to frightened to look in the slumbs.
Overall the experience was really good and educational. I am not particularly interested in history but this really grabbed my attention and kept my interest all the way through. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the history and would definatly recommend it.
The Galleries of Justice in the Lace Market area of Nottingham is an award winning museum. It won the 'Museum of the year 2007' award. The building was in use as courts and prisons from the 1780s to the 1980s.
There is a Crime and Punishment tour where you can find out about crime and punishment over the last three centuries which includes reliving a trial in the original Victorian Courtroom. You are then sentenced and sent to the original prison cells and medieval caves and you can also see the prison exercise yard. Prisoners and gaolers are your guides for this tour.
There is now a HM Prison Service collection exhibition at the museum and artefact's from prisons across the country. You get a really good experience of what it might have been like as a prisoner some years ago.
There are some extra exhibitions throughout the year.
The admission prices for the tour are:
Adults - £8.95
Children and concessions - £6.95
Family ticket - £24.95
Joint tickets for Galleries of Justice and City of Caves are available and they also offer group tickets and birthday parties.
The tour is available at these times:
Peak (15 March to 10 September)
Tuesday to Friday: 10am - 4pm last admission
Saturday & Sunday: 10am - 4pm last admission
Off Peak (11 September to 14 March)
Tuesday to Friday: 10am - 3pm last admission
Saturday & Sunday: 11am - 4pm last admission
The museum has a cafe and a shop. The cafe sells some really nice hot drinks, cakes and sandwiches. The prices are reasonable. The shop sells lots of great souvenirs including outfits, books, stationary and post cards.
I really enjoyed my visits here, both when I was a lot younger and now.
The Galleries of Justice, in the heart of Nottingham's Lace Market is considered to be one of the town's premier visitor attractions. It is situated just a few minutes walk from the main shopping areas and is well sign-posted whether walking around town on foot, or driving into the city.
There has been a court on this site since the 14th century, and there was also a prison from 1449 to house Nottingham's rogues and vagabonds. The court rooms were actually used until the 1980s and indeed the first museum guide we met had been employed there for a long time.
Our ticket prices were £7.95 for adults and £5.95 for children. There is also an additional option of a combined ticket to include the City of Caves tour, for an extra couple of pounds. This represents great value for money, but alas we did not have time to do both. The reception staff were extremely helpful and friendly, and within a matter of minutes our party of three was whisked away to the Victorian Court Room which is the start of the tour, along with another small party of four.
We spent about ten minutes in the Victorian Courtroom, with our guide, while he talked us through the different areas of the court and who sits where, as well as giving some insight into some of the crimes of the time. The general public often flocked to the public galleries, considering the trial as some kind of live show!
From here, it is a step back in time as you make your way from the dock to the cells below, to continue the tour. As you walk through the different areas of the cells, you will meet several different guides all in costume and very much playing their role. When you pay your admission fee, you are given a prisoner number and you will assume this person's identity at different points in the tour. For example, I was a rogue and a vagabond, and also a petty criminal, although my sister was a double murderer! We were advised that this was only a bit of fun and you didn't have to participate but I actually think it would be impossible not to. My 15yr old niece did feedback afterwards that she would have preferred it if they had not acted out in a role-play as such, and I guess many people may have this preference, but it was all quite harmless fun really.
Obviously, as this was a courtroom and prison, it is possible to get a feel of how conditions might have been like, and there are many original features still remaining, for example the original baths that arriving prisoners must use, many original features in the laundry, an opportunity to wander through the exercise yard, and to see the chaplain's room.
Before prison reformation, it was other prisoners who tended to control day to day life within the prisons and our second guide played his part in our prison arrival very well as he tried to extort money from us all for basic items such as blankets for the cells. He even locked us all in a cell to give us an idea of how poor conditions were for prisoners, with only iron bars and no windows to protect from the elements, only hammocks to sleep on, several to a cell, and nowhere to use a toilet.
As well as the hands on and interactive tour, the prison walls did contain plenty of information boards about the time and how matters of the law and punishment were dealt with. There were plenty of examples of real people from the local area, detailing their crimes and their punishments, which were quite severe for the minor offences most of them were guilty of - certainly by today's standards! In particular there are much more serious punishments, for example, burning at the stake, hanging and stocks were all used and often attracted great crowds.
We all assumed a new female identity for our trip down to the woman's area of the prison, where an evil matron and a friendlier fellow prisoner "greeted" us. The women were still subjected to the washing on arrival, in a very small bath with water that was cold and hardly ever changed. Down here I found myself the only member of the group to be locked up once again, for the simple fact I am left-handed and therefore I must be carrying out the work of the devil..! We also had the opportunity to visit a women's cell, which actually looked much more comfortable than the men's cells, with its coal fire, chamber pot and double bed - except the double bed was intended to sleep 8 prisoners.
The tour becomes largely self guided at this point but there is still plenty to see. I particularly enjoyed the exhibitions relating to the Transportation of prisoners to other countries, and in particular Australia with the First Fleet sailing, after Australia was determined to be the best place for criminals. In fact a staggering number were sent from these shores.
The HM Prison Service collection is also housed at the Galleries of Justice in the 1833 wing allowing further opportunity to see and experience what prison life may have been like over the last 300 years, bringing things bang up to date with the ability to peak into how cells would have looked like over the years, as well as offering insight into the changing approaches of prison attitudes from punishment to reform.
Overall we had a very enjoyable time at this attraction. The tour was interesting with the right balance of information and was enjoyable for both adults and children alike. We felt the entrance fee was fairly good value for money, but obviously it works in much better value if you can combine it with the City of Caves tour.
It would pay to research what is on at the Galleries before your trip so you do not miss anything you might want to see. For example there is an additional part of the tour called Narrow Marsh, where you get to see down a Victorian Back Street and get a feel for life in that era - however opening days and times are far more limited for this attraction - which is primarily aimed at children, but sounded very interesting to both my sister and me anyway!
We did found the initial entry layout a little confusing, we both know we saw a small gift shop somewhere at the start of the tour, but most unusually for these type of places, we could not find it at all on our return! We also found some additional display rooms/cabinets just off the main lobby completely by accident when we were trying to find the toilets..but because of where the tour finishes we would not have seen these at all had we not gone back into the lobby. For this reason, it may pay to check if there are any additional exhibits on display at the time of your arrival.
see website for opening times and current pricing.
Galleries of Justice
If you are driving into Nottingham, over Trent Bridge, you cannot fail to notice the old Shire Hall building sitting high upon the cliff that is the back of Nottingham's Lace Market. Even from this distance, there is a sense of the historical importance of this rather eiree looking building. I want to tell you about a wonderful museum that can be found in the centre of Nottingham. No!....museum is the wrong word....Experience is more like it....Come with me as I give you a small insight into Nottingham's Galleries of Justice. Firstly, I want you to close your eyes as I take you back in time to 1828.....This is not a museum then of course, it is Nottingham's gaol. You can see why this facility was built here, the cliff drop at the back of it is about 70ft down making escape extremely perilous. This area of Nottingham was the poorest part, with people making their homes in the caves that were cut out of the cliff face, this meant it was also the area that had the most crime. Over the centuries, thousands of people would have entered this building with a deep sense of dread, uncertain of their fate. Within these walls at this time you will find John Shipley aged 21......Lying on the cold floor in his cell, sentenced to death for stealing a sheep worth only ten shillings, to feed his hungry family. Next to him in another corner of this damp, cold cell we find George Dickenson, fear in his eyes as he contemplate leaving his family forever and being transported to Australia for the rest of his life. His crime? He stole a wallet, that turned out to be empty, and was only worth sixpence. Nowadays he would have got what? A fine? Community service? There is a big difference between the way crime was dealt with in those days to how it is dealt with today. In front of the prison was a building, known to this day as Shire Hall and this was the courthouse for Nottingham. There is a funny story that tells how in
1724 a great crowd of people crushed themselves into the courthouse for the monthly sitting. It seems the weight of these people, and the fact that the building was in a state of disrepair led to the floor giving way and some of the people, including the judge, falling into the cellars below. Don't fret though, apparently no-one died, just a few bruises and one broken leg. Apparently for a while, everyone thought that this was an assassination attempt and cries of 'plot...plot' went up around the community. Unsurprisingly it took them nearly fifty years to build Nottingham a new court, but it is this building that you will be visiting if you get the opportunity to come to Nottingham and visit this museum. It was in-fact a court until as recently as 1987. When it was closed it was left for a few years and there was a lot of disharmony in Nottingham as people in the know tried to make up their minds what this beautiful grade 2 listed building should be used for. I think they made a good choice. Anyway on with the tour....and back to present day. FEEL THE FEAR!! ------------------------ I think the days are long gone where it is enough to put a lot of old things in a room with very little information and call it a museum. With the technology and the information available to us in this day and age there are so many more doors open to us, so many experiences we can have. The Galleries of Justice do not let anyone down in this department, although they are very careful to make this experience is as authentic as is possible. This is very much a hands on experience that is fun for all ages. Our guides for this adventure are the scary warder, who keeps his character going throughout the visit, and you very soon realise that having to deal with this man back then would have been far from a pleasant experience. You meet the judge, another nasty man and get the opportunity to stand in the dock and r
eceive sentencing for your crimes, you get a feeling of how it must have felt for those who stood there facing death , or transportation. There are the prisoners themselves who will tell you of life within the prison walls.I was moved by the 'graffiti ' that could be read on the walls of the exercise yards of the prison....'cast for death'.....'condemned for housebreaking ' and it really makes you think about the punishments of today in comparison. I have a habit of placing my hand on the walls of buildings like this, closing my eyes and trying to feel the history in the building, I didn't do this for long though, this place is really scary...spooky, so much history, so much suffering. The second part of this unique experience is the visit to the police galleries located in the building next door, and yes, this was also a working building until the court closed its doors. On entering here you will be met by a policeman in a costume befitting 1905. I was arrested, read my rights and then fingerprinted.( you can take this home!) Some of the people were then given sentences......one woman was sentenced to Laundry duty, Phew...glad it wasn't me!I hate washing at the best of times , but again it felt very real and the characters played their parts very well. The Galleries have some really interesting exhibits as well. There is the magnificent, authentic Victorian courtroom...with everything carved out of the most wonderful wood (I wouldn't like to be the one who has to keep it polished!) There is the worlds largest collection of police memorabilia and the wigs and robing that have been worn by the legal profession since the 19th century. These include the ceremonial garments of the infamous Lord Lucan-accused of murder in 1973. Among the displays is a bowl and wine glass that was used as evidence in the 1963 Great Train Robbery. Also, for those members who might prefer something a litt
le more ki nky....(and I think you know who you are!!!) You can also find here the largest collection of handcuffs and leg-irons in Britain. There is a snack shop and a great little gift shop....and again, for those of you who I know are dying to ask, Yes! they do sell handcuffs...lol. Access for wheelchairs is very good,with easy access available in 90% of the experience. The toilets are clean and tidy and more importantly....very easy to find. There are lifts to all levels and disabled toilets are easy to locate. There are baby changing facilities as well. For those of you that are really into law the museum has an extensive working library where not only can you have the opportunity to explore the history of law, but you also get the unique opportunity of using both contemporary and original documents dating from as far back as 1500. I know what you are thinking, this is too much to fit into one day, you are right, but the powers that be have thought of this.....prison or police exhibit.....vist one, comeback and visit the other at some point in the year with the same ticket. Prices ............ £6.95 Adults £5.25 Kids...(4 - 14 ) £5.95....Concessions £19.95.....for that all important Family ticket. Opening times ......................... Tuesday - Sunday and also Bank Holidays = 10.00....til....5.00 <br >( They are closed 24th/28th December and 31st/1st inclusive. How to get there ............................... Just follow the brown and white signs when you hit Nottingham, this place is very well signposted. There are many multi storey car parks nearby and the Galleries are just a 10 minute walk from the Train station. All in all I found this a great experience. Great value for money. The Galleries of Justice offers a realistic insight into the justice and injustice - the guilty
and the innocent. This great day out will take you on an atmospheric journey you may never forget. I would say this is a day out for all the family, but toddlers may get a bit bored after a while. Take a look....I think you will like it. UPDATE..........The Galleries of justice won the 2003 new museum of the year award. Also, for all of you Most Haunted fans out there....Yes this was the place they visited recently.......Spooky!!!