national justice museum

National Justice Museum

For an intriguing look at British legal history and the evolution of the justice system, a visit to the National Justice Museum in Nottingham, England is a must. This museum provides a unique opportunity to step back in time and explore historic courtrooms, prison cells, and even an execution site right in the original buildings where they existed centuries ago.

History and Background of the Museum

The National Justice Museum is housed within a spectacular complex of historic buildings in Nottingham’s Lace Market area, including a Victorian courtroom, prison, and former police station. Parts of the structure date all the way back to the 1400s, providing an authentic glimpse into the past.

The Impressive Building Housing the Museum

This impressive complex of buildings has gone through many renovations and changes in purpose over the centuries, but has maintained its legal and justice associations since medieval times. The architecture mixes various styles and eras.

The Earliest Known History

The first known use of the site was by Norman sheriffs in the 11th century for collecting taxes and keeping the peace. Written records show it served as a courthouse as early as 1375 and a prison by 1449.

See also  HM Prison Featherstone

Transformations in the 18th Century

In the 1700s, the building was enlarged and rebuilt after a partial collapse. The impressive frontage facing High Pavement was constructed in the 1760s featuring a grand domed entrance and ionic columns. This facade remains today as a central architectural feature.

Victorian Restorations in the 1800s

The 19th century brought more expansion, restoration, and courtroom additions. After a fire in 1876, the front was redesigned in an Italianate Victorian style. The complex continued functioning as an active courthouse and prison during this time.

20th Century Changes

A police station was added in 1905. The last public hanging took place on site in 1868. After closing as an active courthouse and jail in the 1900s, the museum opened in 1995 as the Galleries of Justice before rebranding to the National Justice Museum in 2017.

Museum Exhibits and Features

The National Justice Museum does an excellent job of preserving the historic spaces while utilizing them to educate visitors about justice and the legal system with modern exhibits and displays.

Historic Courtrooms

Two levels of Victorian courtrooms allow visitors to sit in the jury box, stand at the witness stand, and peer down from the judge’s bench. One has original stained glass windows.

Underground Prison Cells

Descend into the basement to traverse the dank prison cells, get locked in a cell, and imagine life as a prisoner in the 1800s. Information panels tell stories of former inmates.

Execution Site

A solemn execution site memorializes the history of public hangings that occurred onsite and provides historical context on capital punishment in Britain.

See also  HM Prison Risley

Artifacts and Collections

The museum houses a vast collection of artifacts, including prison records, courtroom objects, uniforms, weapons, and the prisoner’s dock from Bow Street Magistrates’ Court.

Importance and Impact of the Museum

Beyond the intriguing exhibits, the National Justice Museum provides valuable resources for education, tourism, and preserving British heritage.

Historic Significance

The museum protects an extremely historically significant legal complex, among the oldest in England. The layers of architectural history alone tell the story of Nottingham’s justice system evolution.

Educational Role

From school group activities to adult programs, the museum plays an important role in teaching the public about the history of crime, law enforcement, punishment, prison, and courts in British society.


As a unique museum unlike any other, it attracts tourists from around the world interested in crime and justice history, boosting local tourism and the economy.

Visiting the Fascinating Museum

A trip to this one-of-a-kind history museum makes for an educational and eye-opening experience.

Hours and Admission

The National Justice Museum is open year-round except Christmas and New Year’s days. Guided tours are offered at noon each day and must be pre-booked. Admission costs £12 for adults.


The museum strives to accommodate visitors with disabilities. There is wheelchair access to all public areas.

Tips for Your Visit

Allow at least 2-3 hours to fully explore. Weekday visits are less crowded. Join a guided tour for the most in-depth experience and book online in advance. Read exhibit information carefully to get the most out of your visit.


The National Justice Museum provides a special opportunity to step back in time and glimpse into the fascinating history of crime, law, punishment, and justice in England. Wandering the historic courtrooms, descending into the prison cells, and learning about executions conducted onsite makes the past come alive. A visit to this museum is highly recommended for anyone interested in British legal history and the justice system.

See also  HM Prison Durham


What are the museum’s hours? The museum is open daily except Christmas and New Year’s from 10am-5pm.

Is photography allowed? Yes, photography without flash is permitted in most areas. Some sensitive exhibits prohibit photos.

Is there a cafe or shop? Yes, the museum cafe serves light snacks and meals. The gift shop sells books and souvenirs.

Are guided tours offered?
Yes, 30-minute guided tours are included with admission but must be pre-booked online in advance.

Is the museum wheelchair accessible? Yes, the museum strives to be accessible with ramps, lifts, and accessible bathrooms. Wheelchairs are available to borrow.

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