Monday, January 7, 2013

Courthouse Museum, Ripon

Across the street from Ripon Cathedral is a small park with an unassuming building facing the church. This building was the courthouse built in 1830 and served as such until 1998. A year later it was turned into the Courthouse Museum. A few years later it was restored to its original 1830 interior decorations. The exhibit is friendly, informative, and fun for all ages.

Courthouse Museum, Ripon

The museum has three rooms. The first room is the Jury Room, where juries could retire and deliberate about the case before them. The room is lined with legal books and has a fun little puzzle that J and L loved.

Jury Room

Working together on the puzzle

Happy accomplishment

The puzzle also introduces an 1830s family, whose story is told throughout the rest of the rooms.

Victorian family tussles with legal system

The court had tried most every offense from "obstructing the highway" to theft. Another court dealt with capital offenses. Children were often treated just like adults, with the same legal process and the same punishments!

Punishments were often physical. The town market place had stocks, popular for first time offenders. The market provided plenty of rotten vegetables and fresh horse manure for flinging at malefactors. For second time offenders, public whippings took place, also on market day in the town market. For repeat offenders or more serious crimes, the sentence was a visit to the House of Corrections. Convicts performed various hard labor. The greatest punishment was "transportation," which meant convicts were sent to Australia for hard labor!

The next room is the Justices' Retiring Room, where the justices could retire and deliberate about the case before them. The room is more comfortable and cheerier, with a nice fireplace and portraits of various justices over the past 200 years.

Justices' Retiring Room

The main room is the Court Room where the magistrates would hear arguments and deliver verdicts. Another puzzle let the kids put all the characters in their right places.

The layout of the Victorian Courtroom (click to enlarge)

The Justices' Retiring Room leads right onto the Bench where the magistrates sat to listen to the arguments and preside over the trials. In addition to two manikin judges, J was able to dress up as a magistrate as well.

Magistrates' Bench

The (feather) pen is mightier than the (actual) sword

L liked the jacket but not the wig.

Looks like she might pass a harsher sentence than her brother

We looked out over the courtroom from the Jury Box.

The actual courtroom

The fellow seated in the middle is the Clerk, who would record the proceedings. Prosecuting and defending lawyers would walk around in front of his table, like the standing manikin. The boxes in front of the clerk are two for defendants and one on the far end for any witnesses. Behind them is a Holding Cell, where defendants would wait their turn. Up above the emblems of the local government is the Public Gallery where anybody could watch the proceedings. At one point the Holding Cell had a roof to prevent people in the gallery from pelting the accused!

J as the constabulary witness

L in the holding cell (the stairs are painted on but the accused would be brought up from below

View from the defendant's box

J as defendant

Following the Victorian family story, the young boy John was accused of stealing three hams worth ten shillings (equivalent to £25 or $39 in 2012 money). He was found guilty and sentenced to seven Australia! Someone named John Baker really was sentenced to seven years transportation according the court records from 1833. Glad we live today!

North Yorkshire, Liberty of Ripon, and West Riding emblems

It was quite interesting to peer into the legal history of the area. The museum gets extra marks for the kid-friendly experience (even if they did send kids around the planet back in the day).

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