The Galleries of Justice

Drinking, debauchery, and police sirens – no, it’s not an average post-night out walk through Lenton, but the award winning Galleries of Justice, Nottingham’s museum of punishment, criminals and the law. It’s a wonderful museum right in the heart of the city, positioned in the Lace Market area and easily accessible to students via the magic of the Rainbow 5 bus – there’s really no excuse not to go!

Visitors enter the infamous Nottingham County Gaol which is surprising cathedral-esque in design and grandeur, and become members of the jury as lucky participants (or not-so-lucky!) are chosen to become the judge or criminal of a mock trial. One of my friends picked to become the judge was, unfortunately, attacked by a giant cheese – and yes, you really did have to be there…

Costumed guides provide anecdotes throughout the tour of the building, and visitors experience the uncomfortable conditions of underground stone cells. If you don’t behave, you’re forced to remain there overnight – just kidding. One of the highlights of the Galleries of Justice is the interaction between guides and guests – the ticket holds your personal ‘Convict Number’ and at a certain moment of the tour you are duly accused of your crime and punished accordingly. I myself, Convict A3 563, became John Slater, charged with frame-breaking and sentenced to transportation for life. A tad harsh, perhaps – after all, I’m only a student!

A further exhibition containing the HM Prison Service Collection focuses upon the treatment of prisoners from bygone times to the present day – and the conditions of such makes you look more kindly upon your hall rooms. Similarly, the medical implements used upon ailing inmates are not very pleasant, and you are inclined to feel more generous towards the NHS! Also rather fun is the chance to dress up as convicts, but what with the varieties of costume to be seen on a night out in Nottingham, students will be no strangers to such attire.

The attractively named ‘Mugshots Café’ is open to all prisoners who manage to escape, with a gift shop tailored to your uniform-based fancy-dress needs – perfect for Oceana. The entrance cost may be considered a little pricey at £6.95 for students, but it is definite value for money. Alongside the main attractions, there is a special exhibition section which is changed regularly – our visit featured the trial of Oscar Wilde, who was accused of homosexuality. Ooh err!

If you are brave enough to confront the law and discover your own crimes, why not take the time to learn about wicked felony, rioting and the ruthless handling of convicts in the Galleries of Justice and discover the hidden history of your university city. Let’s be ‘aving you…

Eleanor Matthews


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