The National Justice Museum is based at Nottingham’s old Shire Hall and County Gaol. This historic building is famous for its grim past as it has been a home to a local court since at least 1375 and a prison with the first written record dating back to 1449. Throughout the years many people passed through its doors and some stayed for longer than originally anticipated. Over the years both the court and the prison were enlarged and in 1724, because of the courtroom being overcrowded, the floor collapsed, and several people fell with it into the cellar underneath. The Hall was then rebuilt in 1772.

Public executions were also held in front of its central doorway for several decades, which was a popular form of entertainment back in the Victoria Britain. Scaffold was erected over the iconic stone steps and the building was fronted by an iron palisade to help control unruly crowds. The executions were so popular in fact, that at one time an impressive crowd turned up to watch. The crowd was so dense that it spilled into the steps, now leading up to Nottingham Contemporary, and when panic broke loose people started falling and tripping over each other and because there was no place to escape several spectators were killed on the steps of Nottingham Contemporary and injured on the way leading up to National Justice Museum (now High Pavement street).

The last public execution in front of National Justice Museum took place in 1864 with Richard Thomas Parker whose life was taken for committing a murder. The building was then used as a police station from 1905 to 1985 and the court closed in 1986.


Knowing this dark history, it’s not surprising that National Justice Museum is an epicentre for paranormal activity and one of the most haunted buildings in England. Regular paranormal investigations take place there and you can even hire it to conduct your own investigation as well (at your own risk, of course). People often report feeling drowsy and get an impression of someone watching them. There’re also several photographs circulating among the paranormal community with alleged poltergeists and their activity captured on film. If you’re a keen ghost hunter or would like to prove the existence of life beyond death, then a visit to National Justice Museum is a must.

In the run up to the most important day celebrating the ones who passed away, Halloween, National Justice Museum is running its highly popular Terror Tours. We were lucky enough to experience a tour for ourselves and we were definitely not ready for what was waiting for us when we arrived at the museum on one September Friday evening. The sky was cowered with dark and ominous clouds when we arrived at our destination – the infamous steps where the executions took place back in the day. We were welcomed by a lady in white who escorted us inside where a hallway filled with dense smoke awaited us. After a brief safety introduction, we were led to the court room where we were told the stories of the ones who were once convicted there. The atmosphere became grim and then the lights went off. . .Everything is more terrifying when you're in the dark. . .

We haven’t seen the light of day, or any light for that matter, up until the very last minute of the tour when we were let outside into the courtyard, so if you’re scared of the dark you may want to skip this one.

Along the way we were taken through the darkest and deepest prison cells and dungeons that are not normally accessible to the public. They are open exclusively for this bloodcurdling tour. We were led by the incredibly talented actors, who for this night only become the shadows of some of the most terrifying convicts who were serving their sentences at this infamous prison back in the day. Moving carefully in the dark we clenched to a thought that it’s just a tour but at the time is seemed to be very real. The overwhelming sensation of someone watching us was overpowering at times. In fact, there WAS someone there, lurking in the shadows, with a bag over his head…who was it?  You’ll find out during the tour.

It’s fair to say that this tour is not for the faint hearted. You’ll be exposed to true terror as you are plunged into darkness and creep through the winding corridors and darkest dungeons of the old gaol. Enter if you dare.

~Blog written by Kinga Kapias - Marketing Executive at Visit Nottinghamshire 


National Justice Museum
National Justice Museum | Nottingham

Meet amazing, costumed characters from Nottingham's history in our Grade II* listed, Shire Hall. Explore the Victorian Courtroom, Georgian gaol, and ancient cells - all spread over five fascinating floors.



Nobody has commented on this post yet, why not send us your thoughts and be the first?

Leave a Reply