National Justice Museum

Nottingham, England

An old jail and courthouse is the home of the National Justice Museum; we couldn't think of a more perfect setting.

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- It's No Game

Discover Nottingham's National Justice Museum

The National Justice Museum, formerly known as the Galleries of Justice Museum, is situated in the Lace Market area of Nottingham in a former Victorian courtroom, prison, and police station. Dating back to the 14th century for its courtrooms and at least 1449 for its gaol, this Grade II listed building, the Shire Hall, is the perfect home to present centuries of legal proceedings and law enforcement as a museum collective.

At its core, the museum’s mission is to "tell the story of justice through time" while promoting inclusivity and collaboration within communities. Recognised for this commitment to fostering a fairer society, the museum has received national acclaim, winning the 'Museums Change Lives' award in 2021.

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Today, the museum operates across several locations including Nottingham, London, and the North West of England. Through exhibitions, workshops, and performances, the museums maintain their position as a national leader in legal education.

The History of the National Justice Museum

Early History

The National Justice Museum originated during the Norman era – around 1375 – when the site was used as a court of law and housed local sheriffs. By 1449 it had become a prison and was a site of public executions, which lasted until 1868, the last one having occurred in 1864.

18th Century

In 1724, the courtroom floor collapsed and several people were injured. This event proved that there was a need for structural improvements, leading to the rebuilding of the hall between 1769 and 1772, by architect James Gandon.

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19th Century

Further improvements occurred throughout the 19th century, including the addition of wings and renovations to courtrooms and other areas. Major renovations were undertaken in 1876, but shortly after completion, a fire broke out, damaging all the work that had just been carried out.

20th Century to Present

In 1905 a police station was constructed adjacent to the building. Nottingham's civil and criminal courts continued operating there until 1991 when Nottingham Crown Court was established elsewhere. This signified a change in the building's function and after a £3.5 million restoration effort the Galleries of Justice Museum opened in 1995. Today, the museum is managed by the National Justice Museum Trust.

Nottingham’s City of Caves

Alongside its role as a museum, the National Justice Museum Trust oversees the management of the City of Caves attraction as well, which is only a 5-minute walk from the museum. Visitors can purchase combined tickets for both experiences.

But what is the City of Caves?

Well, beneath Nottingham lies a network of over 800 caves – the largest network in the UK. At the heart of these concealed passageways, the City of Caves is an attraction offering visitors the chance to explore the caves for themselves.

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During the experience, visitors can discover why the caves were created and who by. As well as the early inhabitants of the caves and where they worked whilst exploring lots of artefacts along the way, such as a World War II air raid shelter and the only mediaeval underground tannery in the UK.

Visiting the National Justice Museum

A visit to the National Justice Museum allows for exploration through the Shire Hall, where Victorian courtrooms, Georgian gaols, and ancient cells are spread across five floors. Filled with over 40,000 items, the collection is the perfect chance to delve into the impact of legal systems on society, in the UK and beyond.

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- It's No Game

The museum is renowned for its immersive nature. Many exhibits feature encounters with costumed characters from Nottingham's history such as Robin Hood and the notorious highwayman Dick Turpin, who bring their history to life for a modern audience. This audience can also step into the shoes and gowns of judges, jurors, and defendants alike, broadening their understanding of the historical justice system and how it has evolved. From the moment visitors enter, they are transported to a world of courtroom drama, crime, and punishment.

Some of the artefacts on display at the Museum of Justice include the original dock from the Old Bailey, the infamous hanging rope used in executions, and the death mask of the legendary outlaw Ned Kelly. Each item reveals the way in which law and justice has evolved socially, politically, and culturally.

National Justice Museum
- It's No Game

Interested in finding more places like this? Try one of our Treasure Trails in Nottingham - untangle cryptic clues as a team, as you are taken on a journey to the most unique, unusual and bizarre corners of Nottingham.

National Justice Museum Questions


What you need to know

National Justice Museum
Shire Hall High Pavement, Nottingham NG1 1HN
52.950657, -1.144150
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