What do we do?
England’s history of Crime and Punishment is a shocking one. As are the sinister and grim stories of Nottingham’s own outlaws which are brought to life in the building where they were judged, imprisoned and executed.
To capture and explain this grim and gruesome history, we use actors, audio guides, guide sheets & boards, lighting, sounds, set dressing and exhibitions. Our aim is to educate, entertain and inform everyone who comes through our doors.
Who are we?
We are the only museum of its kind in Europe, home to the Villainous Sheriff of Nottingham and the only venue where you can discover Nottingham’s horrible history! We preserve the site of Nottinghamshire’s old Courthouse and County Gaol as well as maintaining a vast collection of spine chilling artefacts relating to Crime and Punishment over the last three centuries. We also have a free Robin Hood exhibition on site where you can learn all about Nottingham’s most famous outlaw!
We are an independent museum and a charity as part of The Egalitarian Trust which means we rely upon admission charges, fundraising and providing corporate hospitality to help keep the museum open.
Why do we do it?
We believe it is important for the public to experience this history in a creative and interactive way. There is so much you can learn here and it could change the way you view society today but we want you to have fun whilst doing so!
How long have we been here?
The Galleries of Justice Museum was founded in 1993 by the Lace Market Heritage Trust. Basically, the Old Shire Hall had lain empty and forgotten for years, until a group of right minded people decided that it was one gem that could not remain hidden, and after an extensive fundraising campaign the museum opened its doors in 1995.
However, this isn’t giving the full picture, as the Museum may have begun in the 1990s, but the site itself? Well that goes way back, further than any of us know, but we can tell you what we do know and what we intend to find out.
|The part of the Lace Market where our current Shire Hall stands was the base for Nottingham’s original Saxon settlement, known in those days as Snotta inga ham (meaning village belonging to Snotta). Known as the dark ages for a reason, paper sources don’t specify whether our site was used for justice and imprisonment. However, archaeologists are currently on the case in the sandstone caves deep within our building and they have already unearthed some major clues linking us in with punishment and imprisonment from the Saxon period onwards.|
|After the Normans came along and appointed Sheriffs as keepers of the peace (and collectors of great wads of tax), the county Sheriff’s were based on this site, they date back to 1125, however we don’t currently have evidence that they were based here from the beginning, but we do know that this site was referred to as the Sheriffs Hall, County Hall or the Kings Hall. So if you want to find the base of Robin Hoods arch enemy, look no further! In fact there were two such cruel and barbaric Sheriffs that fit the bill almost perfectly; Gerard de Atia (1208-1209) and Philip Marc (1209-1210 & 1214-1215) both of whom were notorious for using robbery, false arrest and illegal evictions to fill their coffers. They were so feared and despised that they and their kin got a mention in the original Magna Carta, stating that they were to no longer hold a position of authority anywhere in the country.|
|The first written record we have of this site being used as a court is in 1375, however this is not to say that it hadn’t been a court for centuries before this date.|
|The first written record of it being used as a prison is from 1449 but again it is quite possible it had been used as such for as long as there had been a court here.So, whilst the mists of time have made the facts somewhat vague, a picture emerges of a site which has seen many different buildings erected and demolished over the centuries, all of which, built to mete out justice and punishment.|
|There is a reasonable amount of documentation in the early 17th Century relating to the building and the need for it to be re-built. However, discussions continued for decades and no action was taken until in 1724, one of the courtroom floors collapsed and a shocked judge looked on as solicitors, jury, public and the accused all went crashing in to the cellars.|
|However, due to quibbling officials the Shire Hall was not rebuilt until 1770 and this is the building that stands here today. It boasts two court rooms, vast amounts of office space, an underground gaol and a site for executions (both in the exercise yard and on our front steps).|
|When the Victorians overhauled the prison system, our gaol was closed due to its appalling conditions and it lay empty from 1878 until 1995.|
|The Shire Hall however, continued to house Nottingham’s criminal and civil courts until 1985 when a new building was built by the canal. A Police Station was added to the site in 1847 and then a custom built one appeared in 1907 and was the hub for the cities crime fighting, this closed in 1986.And that brings us back to our present incarnation.|