Courts and judiciary
Devon Heritage Centre holds all types of historical archives relating to the county of Devon and the City of Exeter (excluding Plymouth.) Devon Heritage Centre in Exeter generally holds collections which relate to the whole county, including the Diocesan records, county Quarter Sessions and County Council collections. This includes estate and family collections, and solicitors’ collections which cover more than one area of Devon. Most of these records are not filmed or digitised, and are only available in their original format. The West Country Studies Library, which contains the county collection of local history material is also available at the Devon Heritage Centre. It includes published books, manuscript volumes, pamphlets, journals, maps, prints, engravings, photographs, newspapers and various files relating to local parish and family history.
With 90,000 potential users, the MoJ library caters for a wide range of professionals, including lawyers, psychologists, economists and statisticians. As well as supplying books and journals, the library keeps all documents produced by the Ministry of Justice, preserving the ‘corporate memory’ of the department. It also collates all the bills and amendments generated in the passage of an Act through Parliament, preserving the material as a complete history of the nation’s law.
Subjects range from race-related crime to youth justice, sentencing policy to rehabilitation, weaving together political, legal, statistical and sociological works.
The building that Northampton Museum and Art Gallery occupies was initially constructed in 1846 as a red brick L-shaped Victorian addition to the County Gaol. The Victorian gaol block comprised of rows of cells divided by iron bars along the walls. The cells were separated by a central corridor with galleried walkways connected by spiral stairs. On the first floor at the north of the building there were larger rooms that may have served as storerooms and gaolers’ rooms. At the north end of the basement floor were the condemned cells, where inmates were held prior to being hung. Hangings first took place at the gaol in 1819 on Angel Lane behind the Georgian Block. They moved there from Northampton Racecourse due to concerns about the size of the crowds gathering to view the hangings. The hanging area was known as the ‘New Drop’ and twenty people were hanged here over a period of almost 40 years. In 1852 the last public hanging at Northampton took place when Elizabeth Pinkard was executed for murdering her mother-in-law. In 1879 Gaol Commissioners deemed the site unfit in accordance with health and hygiene standards of the day and in 1880, the gaol closed.
A tolbooth or town house was the main municipal building of a Scottish burgh, from medieval times until the 19th century. The tolbooth usually provided a council meeting chamber, a court house and a jail.
Designed by William Adam, Sanquhar Tolbooth was built in 1735 on the site of its predecessor. A two-storey building with a tall clock tower, records suggest that stone from Sanquhar Castle was used in its construction.
Dominating the local skyline, Lancaster Castle is one of England’s best-preserved castles. The castle is owned by Her Majesty the Queen, who is the Duke of Lancaster. The castle offers a glimpse into England’s often dark past through tours and special events enjoyed by modern-day visitors of all ages. Until 2011 it was a fully functioning HM Prison and was also Europe’s longest-serving prison. The Shire Hall complex is run by Lancashire County Museum Service and due to the working nature of the building access to the complex is by guided tour only. The courtrooms have witnessed many famous and infamous trials over the centuries, including those of the Lancashire Witches who were convicted and sentenced to death in 1612. Between 1800 and 1865 only the judges at the Old Bailey in London sentenced more people to death than those who sat at Lancaster Castle. The Castle has a small collection of around 500 historic objects, fixtures and fittings which are predominantly on display in the Shire Hall complex.
The museum is located on the upper floor in the Victorian Old Town Hall building which is situated at the T-junction in the centre of Winchcombe. It can easily be recognised by the large round clock overhanging the main road. Since becoming redundant in 1883.
The museum also houses a collection of British and International police uniforms – both historic and modern.