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Prison & Police Museum

Sit in a prison cell, hear the door slam shut and imagine the harsh conditions of Victorian prison regimes. Try on prison uniforms, imagine the horror of being set in the pillory, strapped in a restraint chair or hung in chains. Turn the crank, carry out shot drill or work the treadmill.

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Open 7 days a week Full opening times →

The history of policing is traced through displays of uniforms and artefacts from the Trust's extensive collections of police and prison-related objects.

Come along and see the Secrets in the Cellar exhibition at the Prison & Police Museum, 4th March - 12th May.  Secrets in the Cellar reveals what happens behind the scenes at the museum and how we care for and preserve centuries of law and order history.

The complex of buildings in St Marygate served Ripon as the House of Correction for Vagrants (1686-1816), Liberty Prison (1816-1878) and Police Station (1887-1956). The Museum, first opened in 1984, reopened in 2004 following a complete refurbishment.

The museum is housed in a building which formed part of the former House of Correction and Liberty Gaol and which is now an integral part of the overall attraction of the museum. The building's origins go back to the late 17th Century but the part now occupied by the museum was built as Ripon Liberty Prison in 1816 and continued to function as such until May, 1878 when it, along with numerous other local prisons throughout the country, was closed as part of a government reform of prisons.

The building did not lie empty for long as in 1887 when the Ripon City Police Force was amalgamated into the West Riding Constabulary it became the Police Station for Ripon. The local force had occupied their own Police Station and Lock Up in Kirkgate prior to their demise.

The West Riding Constabulary occupied the building until moving to the present Police Station in North Street when it passed into private hands. The use of the building when it was a Prison and later a Police Station are being interpreted in new displays in the revamped museum.

In the yard are items such as a pillory, a whipping post and a Police Box.

Visitors will be greeted by a rather sombre scene with a desk manned by an old fashioned Constable dressed in a closed neck tunic. This is to highlight the stark use the building had as a prison and a police station.

On passing into the main building itself you will be left in no doubt about the functions of the building when you are greeted by unfortunate individuals incarcerated by several means.

In the next room an audio visual presentation will inform you about the museum and the various displays therein. Policing from Anglo Saxon Times to the formation of the Professional Police in 1829 is the theme here.

Next to visit is the room which used to be the Chapel when it was a prison and a parade room, mess room and report writing room when it was a police station. The theme here is Police uniforms and headgear.

Also on the ground floor are displays of Police Insignia and about 20th Century and Present Day Policing.

On the first floor you will see a prisoner in a Victorian Cell and can also experience what it is like to be in a cell - empty except for you, a hard wooden bed and a slops bucket in the corner! Other displays illustrate the punitive exercises which were used in prisons, types of punishments meted out, transportation, the establishment of H.M. Prison Service. Temporary short term exhibitions will also be mounted on this floor.

Numerous interactive displays can be tried throughout the building. To find out more about crime and punishment related collections visit http://www.capcollections.org.uk/


Adult (16+) £7.00
Concession £6.50
Child (6-15yrs) £5.50
Child (5yrs and under) FREE
Our museum tickets are all valid for 12 months. Ripon Museum Trust is a registered charity and our annual tickets and donations are eligible for Gift Aid.

Did you know?

Our building housed vagrants or tramps for 2 nights at a time; they could not return for 30 days.


We’ve had a brilliant day! Five hours of fun & learning for £8!  Huge thanks to all the patient demonstrators.

Carol-ann Howe