Students from Year 7 donned costumes for a mock trial and heard vivid accounts of the hard lives of prisoners during a citizenship trip to Nottingham. The group visited the Galleries of Justice which have been used as a courtroom and prison since the 11th century.
They toured the courts, cells and dungeons, hearing accounts of historic cases and details of the hangings that took place, with many of the poorest inmates buried under the exercise yard. Students also learned about the transportation of convicts to Australia and saw the original dock from Bow Street magistrates court where defendants as diverse as Emmeline Pankhurst and the Kray twins have stood awaiting sentence.
The trip was organised by Ms Martin who said: ‘The students have been looking at how the criminal justice system has changed over the years. We have studied modern policing and looked at Jack the Ripper who would probably have been caught if he had struck today. The students were impeccably behaved and enjoyed the trip. I was very impressed with the mature way they conducted the trial. The Galleries of Justice is a living history museum which made the students think how our legal system evolved.’
The building has been a prison since the 11th century and a courtroom up until the last case was heard in 1986. The museum highlighted some of the cases that had been heard in its long history, with some jailed for stealing livestock and others for murder.
Prisoners were not allowed to talk unless spoken to by a warder. Men were allowed an hour’s exercise a day, while the women were given laundry duties for 12 hours and only allowed only five minutes exercise daily. The students saw an oubliette, a hole into which prisoners were flung and then forgotten about: Ms Martin said: ‘There is no light and no breath of air down there. Often the prisoners weren’t fed. Once the warders dropped someone down an oubliette they never got them back up so if you were dropped down there could be rats, water and potentially bodies down there as well.’