When in Nottingham, go to prison

It’s not enough I got shouted at by a Victorian prison warden. Apparently I was slouching and looked like I was mooching round the shops rather than marching round an exercise yard.  Um, he must have spotted the giveaway sign: my coveted Lakeland bag bulging with essential items – lavender extract, rose extract, vanilla extract (3 for the price of 2, it would have been criminal not to take advantage) and a bean slicer.

It was an odd experience. Sproglet (9 yrs) and I were in Nottingham, specifically the Galleries of Justice ( a joint ticket offer also allowing a visit under the Broadmarsh centre to experience the caves. Did that last week).  I’m a bit of a museum freak I must admit and this one was pretty good. Bringing history to life, whether with actors, hands-on exhibits or hands-on actors makes it real and encourages all  senses to engage.

The actors were entertaining, cheeky and fun. A variety of displays explaining life in this rather macabre prison appealed to adults and children and often prompted some interesting questions : “Mum, what does illegitimate mean?”. There is no doubt conditions in an 18th and 19th century prison were appalling and reflected the sad and still relevant fact justice is more likely to be on your side if you have money.

Marching around a parade ground watched by a man dressed up as a warden and in front of a simple gallows looped with a noose isn’t what I usually get up to on a Tuesday. Names scratched around the prison walls – with handwriting from childlike to copperplate – were a reminder of who had gone before me. I clutched my child and Lakeland bag closer and left guiltily through the door marked ‘Escape Route’.

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