Monday, September 10, 2012

Ripon Prison & Police Museum 2012

We finally made it back to the Ripon Prison & Police Museum recently. Before, we only were able to walk around the front court yard and enjoy the various shackles on the wall. Oh, and the Police Call Box that's really the Tardis inside. On this trip, we discovered that the Tardis interior was gone!

No Doctor Who reference?

When I asked inside about it, the lady at the ticket counter said it was being redone. They had a bunch of old computer keyboards and random other "bits and bobs" that they will put in to make it more fun for visiting children.

The museum is quite interactive for children, which was a delightful surprise for us. After the first few cells, we discovered some fun things to play along with.

Stocks, chair straps, and straight jackets were some classic restraints on display

This is what a 14th century "Shire Reeve" or sheriff would look like. Presumably the prisoner is period as well.

Gaoler and Prisoner, maybe a good name for a pub?

This door is circa 1700. The goaler used the cylindrical serving hatch to give food to prisoners without needing to unlock and open the door. The sign states that conditions were so bad in the gaol that a staff member would bring a dog to defend himself against the vermin, but the dog was killed in the attempt!

Gaol door (p.s. "gaol" is "jail" in American)

Finally we hit some interactive paydirt. Jacob loved the handcuffs, though not as much as Lucy loved the magnifying glass. I had to carry the glass back to its proper room when she forgot to put it down.

Jacob's Houdini face

Investigative team (yes, they chose those colors themselves)

We also saw a mock-up of a prison chapel. Typical chapels were pretty uncheery affairs. The panel of St. George is quite nice, though.

Jacob is appropriately chastised by the sermon

The next room was full of badges, pins, and other insignia from the past several centuries. The room after that had a transportation display, including a police motorcycle that we all tried out.

Officer Prior guns the engine

Lucy races without the helmet...whoops!

Jacob is a one-handed rider

I also had trouble with the helmet

Sarah was ready to enforce the law

On the stairs up I saw a rather great sign for the West Riding Constabulary. The emblem was used by police stations from the Victorian era up until 1984 when they were amalgamated with other law enforcement agencies.

West Riding of Yorkshire Constabulary sign

At the top of the stairs was a trip into the past. In the Victorian cell (circa 1860), the conditions are pretty minimal. The thing at the back is a crank that would keep the prisoner occupied. It didn't really do anything other than wear out the prisoner. The bed is just a plank of wood with a wooden pillow. They did have some blankets. At least they got a bible to read.

Victorian-era prison cell

Other methods for keeping prisoners occupied were having them carry heavy metal balls around or climb a rotating staircase. Again, there was no reason other than to make work for the prisoners.

Jacob on the stairmaster-like prison rotating staircase

Man traps were used in the 19th century to catch poachers. Ironically, the man trap is a larger version of the sort of traps poachers would use. Some poachers would wear iron gaiters to avoid serious injury while conducting their crimes. In 1827 the use of man traps was banned in England.

Man trap from the 1700s/1800s

Another sinister-looking item is the caning chair, used for corporal punishment back in the day.

Caning chair

Another cell showed what outfits were like at one time for Yorkshire prisoners. The distinctive clothes would make escapees not blend in with regular society. Again, everyone tried them out.

Daddy, I want to look like that!

Lucy gets her wish

Jacob is happy in his work

Convict Crew

Somehow, Prior reminds me of Papillon

Many displays show the various tools of the trade in the police and prison business.

Billy clubs and other handheld devices

Another assortment of law enforcement items

Various hand-made tools by prisoners, including the classic toothbrush/razor knife

Outside, we tried the stocks which were too tall for the children.

Jacob is not tall enough to be punished properly

Lucy gets Prior-ity help

This museum is great to visit with kids. Not only are there lots of interactive exhibits to keep them engaged in hands-on activities; also, the museum is not very big, so the kids can't wander off or be out of earshot whilst you are reading a display. And who doesn't like riding on a motorbike? We will definitely come back to check on the updated Tardis.

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