In Nottingham’s Historic Lace Market area stands the National Justice Museum, situated within the grade II* listed Shire Hall, a building we have recently worked on.
This site is historically and legally significant as records suggest it has been a site of legal justice since the 14th century. In 1375 Shire Hall may have been colloquially referred to as Sheriff’s Hall as it was used by the infamous Sheriff of Nottingham. Its use as a gaol could date back as far as 1449 when records show that gaol cells were present.
When public executions were a legal and standard practice they would be carried out on the front steps, leading into ShireHall.
After 1868 and the abolition of public executions they could possibly have been carried out in the exterior yard; where a scaffold remains standing to this day for re-enactments (although it is an example from Wandsworth Prison).
After falling into grave disrepair, the hall was rebuilt in 1769; designed by James Gandon and costing around £2,500. However, the prison closed in 1878 due to the extremely poor conditions. Some of the ancient cells date back to early Saxon settlements and are merely pits and caves dug out into the sandstone. The remaining parts of the gaol date to the Georgian period. Within the National Justice Museum there are also Victorian civil and criminal court rooms which remained in use until 1991.
The National Justice Museum is an independently run museum and is dedicated to the history of British criminal justice and the legal system; it is recognised by Arts Council England as an outstanding organisation for culture, arts, and heritage.
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