Visiting The National Justice Museum

The National Justice Museum is situated in Nottingham and is an interesting place to visit. The historic Nottingham Shire Hall, built in 1770, houses the museum which has a long judicial history. Records show that there was a court on the site as far back as the 14th century, and a prison in 1449. It was also where the sheriff of Nottingham (Robin Hood’s enemy) was supposed to be based.

Getting There

I travelled to Nottingham on the train from Newark Castle station. I booked the assistance the day before I travelled and everything went smoothly. Staff arrived with the ramp when they needed to, and I was able to board the train and get into a wheelchair space without any problems.

East Midlands Railways operate Newark Castle station and they only require 12 hours advance notice when requesting assistance. London North Eastern Railways (who operate Newark Northgate station) in contrast need 24 hours notice, but I don’t see why they can’t also do it with 12 hours notice.

Anyway, when I arrived at Nottingham train station, we had to walk/roll 0.3 miles to get to the National Justice Museum. It was quite painless.


The National Justice Museum has limited accessibility due to the age of the building, but according to their access statement 90% of the exhibitions are accessible.

I only saw a small percentage of the museum because I wasn’t aware of where the accessible parts of the building were. In hindsight, it would have been better to book an accessible guided tour beforehand.

Steps lead up to the front entrance, so to get in, I had to go down the side of the building. Here there is a small courtyard with an old police box and a panda car sitting around. There is also a door leading to a lift.

A police panda car in the courtyard outside the museum

The lift took me up to the ground floor, where there were a couple of exhibition areas. One showed some old prison photos from bygone eras, and the other contained lots of information about crime, famous cases, forensics techniques, and interesting objects.

The dock from Bow Street magistrates court where a number of famous defendants went on trial, including Oscar Wilde, the Kray twins, and Dr Crippen.

There is a courtroom elsewhere on this floor but a lot of it I couldn’t get around because it wasn’t level access. Most of the courtroom was on wooden platforms and benches which had to go up the step to access.

The court room

At the time, I wasn’t aware that there is a lift from the courtroom down to the county gaol, so I didn’t go down there.

I did, however, speak to some people who were developing a 3D virtual reality walk-through of the museum. I saw a sample of the walk-through, and it was incredibly impressive – you could see everything in photorealistic detail. So when that is ready, it will be a great help for disabled people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to see the rest of the museum.

A phrenology head. Back in the 18th and 19th centuries, it was believed that the shape of the head could be used to indicate a person’s character traits.

The museum had a nice little café which serves hot and cold food. All the staff had learning disabilities, and it was run by a scheme that helps disabled people to get work experience which is fantastic to see.

The food was very nice, and the staff were friendly and did a good job.

There is a changing places toilet located in the Nottingham contemporary building which is nearby – only about 60 m down the road which is handy.


So is the museum worth visiting considering the limited wheelchair access? I’m going to say yes because there is an accessible tour available which I am guessing will let you see more of the building then I did on this occasion. You just need to let them know in advance that you are coming.

The museum’s access statement has lots of good accessibility information, so have a look at that before you go.

It probably won’t take you all day to see everything so it might be a good idea to take in another attraction as well. I suggest the Nottingham Contemporary, which is on the same street.

What I did see in the museum was interesting, though, and it was a pretty good day out nonetheless.

Visit the National Justice Museum website for more information


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