Bronze Age Logboat

Bronze Age Logboat

Condemned Cell - Derby Gaol

Condemned Cell - Derby Gaol


The Derby Museum can trace its start to the formation of the Derby Town and County Museum and Natural History Society on 10 February 1836. The society was housed by Full Street Public Baths but it was a private society funded by its members' subscriptions. Its collections were created by donations initially from Dr Forrester who had been a President of Derby Philosophical Society. The patron of the Museum Society was William Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire, and the President was Sir George Crewe who was a keen naturalist. Col. George Gawler contributed a collection of minerals and exotic stuffed birds which included an albatross from his time as governor in South Australia. There is a large display of Royal Crown Derby and other porcelain from Derby and the surrounding area. Further displays include archaeology, natural history, geology and military collections. From the Battle of Waterloo to the Gulf War, Derby’s soldiers have had an important part to play war and peace keeping missions. The Soldier’s Story tells the stories of soldiers from three regiments; the 9th/12th Royal Lancers, the Sherwood Foresters (now part of the Mercian Regiment) and the Derbyshire Yeomanary.


The Bonnie Prince Charlie Room is a replica of the room in Derby where Bonnie Prince Charlie held his council of war in 1745, while on his way south to seize the British crown. The paneling is from the original Exeter House, which was demolished in 1854. At the time of demolition, the panels were bought to the museum, which then received related objects as donations. Queen Victoria provided an original letter of Bonnie Prince Charlie from her own collection. A fragment of a cross shaft from Repton includes on one face a carved image of a mounted man which, it has been suggested, may be a memorial to Æthelbald of Mercia. The figure is of a man wearing mail armour and brandishing a sword and shield, with a diadem bound around his head. In 757, Æthelbald was killed at Seckington, Warwickshire, near the royal seat of Tamworth and buried at Repton, Derbyshire. If this is Æthelbald, it would make it the earliest large-scale pictorial representation of an English monarch.


The museum is fully wheelchair accessible. There is a hearing loop and a lowered section in the shop reception area. A magnifying glass and pad and paper are available from staff on request. Two unisex public toilets are located on the top floor, which are accessible by a lift from all floors. An accessible toilet is available on the first floor which is accessible by a lift from all floors. Assistance dogs are welcome.


Location : Museum and Art Gallery, The Strand, Derby, DE1 1BS

Transport: Derby (National Rail) then bus. Bus Routes : 5, 6, SWI, V1 and V2 stop close by.

Opening Times : Tuesday to Saturday 10:00 - 17:00; Sunday: 12:00 - 16:00

Tickets : Free

Tel: 01332 641901

List of Hangings

List of Hangings

The term Derby Gaol historically refers to the five gaols in Derby, England. Today, the term usually refers to one of two tourist attractions, the gaol which stood on Friar Gate from 1756 to 1846 and the cells of which still exist and are open to the public as a museum, and the 1843 to 1929 Vernon Street Prison whose impressive frontage can still be seen today. In 1652 the Cornmarket Gaol (no longer extant) was the site of the imprisonment of George Fox on charges of blasphemy. Fox became the founder of the Christian denomination the Religious Society of Friends, perhaps better known as the Quakers. It has been alleged that Judge Bennett of Derby first used the term Quaker to describe the movement, as they bid him to 'quake for fear of the Lord', but the phrase had already been used in the context of other religious groups so the etymology is dubious. The last person to be hanged at Derby Gaol was William Slack on 16 July 1907 for the murder of Lucy Wilson.


The order to build a Jail or Gaol in Derby was not immediately followed up following the Assize of Clarendon of 1166. Indeed, Derbyshire’s criminals were taken to Nottingham Castle which was the prison for the Counties of both Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. There, the fate of the prisoners was decided and so, it was deemed unnecessary to lay out the required expenditure to construct a jail in Derby. However, following an Act of Parliament passed in 23 Henry VIII, “…Be it further enacted by authority aforesaid that like provision in every behalf be had for a newe Gayle be made within the Countie of Darbye, in like form as is afore provided for other Shires aforesaid.” The “newe Gayle” was erected across the width of the Cornmarket and alongside the Markeaton Brook. The gaoler’s accommodation was at street level but the cells were below that and level with the Brook. Needless to say, the Brook also served as the Town’s main sewer and it was not long before it became a “foul stinking place”. Nevertheless, it survived for almost 200 years when, following numerous complaints (and, no doubt, deaths from disease), it was decided to build a more substantial structure away from the town centre.


Between 1730 and 1832 there were in excess of 260 crimes which carried the death penalty. This was known as the “Bloody Code” and offences ranged from being seen in the street with a sooty face, stealing anything valued in excess of 4s 6d (twenty two and a half pence), damaging fishponds, writing a threatening letter etc; right through to Murder, Treason, Piracy and Arson in His Majesty’s Ship’s Dockyard. Needless to say, everyday life for most people was hard and unrelenting. Employment was difficult to obtain and the pay very meagre. Therefore, to subsidise their existence, resorting to theft was the last, desperate option open to many to provide food for themselves and their families. Of course there were hard and fast villains who resorted to crime as a way of making a living and murder was an all too common occurrence. The law was enforced rigidly and, when deemed necessary, the Justices would be seen to make “an example” of certain individuals as was the case with the men from Pentrich, Jeremiah Brandreth, Isaac Ludlam and William Turner. Accused of High Treason, these men were sentenced to be Hanged, Drawn and Quartered.


Currently the Gaol has two cells: The Condemned Cell and the Debtor's Cell. Each one features the original doors which have been rehung, complete with the prisoners' original 'graffiti'... names, dates, and day markers, etched into the wood, marking down how many days the prisoner had until execution. The museum is wheelchair accessible and assistance dogs are welcome. There are no diabled toilets at the museum.


Location : Derby Gaol, 50-51 Friar Gate, Derby DE1 1DF

Transport: Derby (National Rail) then bus. Bus Routes : 5, 8, 9, and SWI stop outside.

Opening Times : Saturdays and for private tours of 10 or more.

Tickets : Guided tours £3.00 per person

Tel: 0800 027 7928