Our History

History of the National Justice Museum

The head office for the National Justice Museum is based at Nottingham’s old Shire Hall and County Gaol.

There has been a court on the site since at least 1375 and a prison since at least 1449. Over the centuries, many thousands of people have entered the building with a sense of dread for their future. The very steps to the entrance were the site of many public executions.

The organisation was originally formed in 1993 as The Museum of Law Trust, which aimed to save the building from potential demolition. It was opened as a museum with the title of the Galleries of Justice Museum in April 1995. In 2004 we took over the management of Nottingham’s City of Caves, which still remains our sister heritage visitor attraction.

In 2002 the museum’s education department became the National Centre for Citizenship and the Law (NCCL). A leader in public legal education, in 2011 the NCCL was commissioned as the education provider at the Royal Courts of Justice in London and we have been delivering education in courtrooms across the North West since 2014.

In April 2017, following a £1 million Heritage Lottery Fund supported project, the museum became the National Justice Museum.

A brief timeline of our history is below:

1993:The Museum of Law Trust was established

1994: £3.5 million was raised and the restoration of the site of Nottingham’s former Shire Hall began

1995: The Galleries of Justice Museum opened to the public

1998: The Edwardian Police Station, situated next door to the Shire Hall, was opened by Princess Anne

1998: The Lord Chief Justice of England, Lord Bingham of Cornhill was appointed as the trusts first president

2002: Our education department became the National Centre for Citizenship and the Law (NCCL)

2003: We won the Gulbenkian Prize for the inspirational work of the NCCL

2004: We were commissioned to operate Nottingham’s City of Caves, which remain’s the museum’s sister heritage visitor attraction

2005: The National HM Prison Service collection was acquired and opened to the public

2006: We won a Museums and Heritage Award for Excellence for Best Educational Initiative

2006: Tim Desmond was appointed CEO

2007: We launched ‘Help a Nottinghamshire Child’ – a fundraising campaign which works with young people to help them to stay away from crime through early intervention education workshops

2011: We were commissioned as the education provider for London’s Royal Courts of Justice and the UK Supreme Court, delivering education programmes in working courtrooms

2012: The Bow Street Dock, used in the cases of Oscar Wilde, Roger Casement and the Kray’s, was loaned to the museum by the Bow Street Magistrates’ Court.

2014: We were commissioned to provide education programmes in courtrooms across the North West

2014: We won the Visit England Award for Best Visitor Attraction

2015: We were commissioned to provide education programmes at the Rolls Building commercial courts in London

2015: We were awarded £1 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund to make major improvements to the museum

2017: The National Justice Museum opens to the public on Sat 1 April 2017