Galleries of Justice Museum and NCCL win the Sandford Award 2011.

Galleries of Justice

Carol King, Learning and Access Coordinator at the Galleries of Justice, talks about what the museum had to do to win the Sandford Award and how it goes about coordinating its learning programme.

NCCL & Galleries of Justice Education Service

At the NCCL Galleries of Justice, we are the only building in the country that has original Victorian courtrooms, a Georgian gaol and police station all on site available for educational groups to investigate and use.

Our unique assets are supported by a range of facilitated educational sessions for learners of all ages which include resource packs, worksheets and trails that have been developed to link with the National Curriculum and in consultation with teachers and learners.

Facilitated workshops based on historical and contemporary trials offer students the opportunity to become part of the justice system. Learners take on the roles of judge, jury, lawyers, witnesses and defendant and act out the case in our real courtrooms. The jury must make their decision based on the evidence presented and have the opportunity to overturn historical judgements.

While investigating our historic courtrooms and prison, learners meet historical characters from the buildings past. Our team of costumed interpreters involve learners in all stages of the justice system, even putting them through their paces in our prison exercise yard.

Court ushers, prison warders and prisoners bring to life the sometimes gruesome history of the building and engage learners in the realities of the Georgian and Victorian justice system and prison life.

Our crime and punishment handling collection is available to students and we are the site of the HMS Prison Service collection which educational groups get the chance to explore.

We also have a number of galleries and spaces which have been developed specifically for education purposes:

‘Narrow Marsh’, a mock up of a Victorian slum, is a dedicated education gallery developed in consultation with teachers and students. Narrow Marsh provides students with the opportunity to step back in time into a Victorian slum and experience what life was really like for the poor in the 19th century. The Narrow Marsh experience is supported by a number of resource packs examining aspects of Victorian life.


‘Convict ship’ an interactive exhibition exploring transportation to penal colonies allows learners to investigate all aspects of transportation from journey to settlement. Learners can experience what life was like on board a transportation vessel for both convicts and sailors, experience the heat of Australia on arrival; and learn the fate of convicts on arrival. ‘Convict ship’ is supported by detailed educational materials. We also have a Reform School were students can experience the harsh realities of historic juvenile justice.

The Sandford Award

The Sandford Award is an scheme run annually by the Heritage Education Trust. The award is granted to institutions in recognition of the excellence of their educational services and facilities and their outstanding contribution to Heritage Education.

The criteria that they look for are:

  • educational programmes that contribute to an excellent understanding of the local and national heritage and are relevant to the sense of place or time
  • adherence to the national curricula
  • the educational programme is developed in consultation with learners and professionals
  • attention to good management and administration concerning all aspects of the visit
  • providing educational resources and facilities that enhance the quality of the visit

To get the Sandford Award we had to submit an application detailing all the educational services we provide and how we develop and run the service. A Judge from the Heritage Education Trust, Adam Clarke, then organised to visit and assess our education service based on the above criteria.

Judges are independent Heritage Education specialists. During the Judges visit he observed a variety of our education sessions, spoke to NCCL education staff and most importantly got feedback from the learners themselves about what they thought of the sessions.

Judges only award the Sandford Award if they feel the Heritage site provides an excellent standard in all of the criteria set out above.

Our Judge Adam Clarke stated in his report on his visit: “The Galleries of Justice Museum and NCCL offer an excellent experience for learners, giving the opportunity to experience the drama of the courtroom and the heritage of the justice system. The power of this learning in improving educational and social outcomes should not be underestimated.”


We’re very proud here at NCCL Galleries of Justice to have achieved the Sandford Award and we continue to strive to achieve high standards. We offer thorough pre-visit resources to prepare students and ensure that they get the most out of their visit.

Our website,, also contains information about visiting and the activities available

Posted on 05 September 2011
Featured author: melissa.gueneau

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