Visit to Ripon
Members met in the March Hare Café, Ripon, for coffee and cakes before visiting buildings of historical interest within easy walking distance of each other. Our first port of call was the Workhouse Museum, the present building completed in 1855 on a site which has had previous establishments serving the same purpose since 1776.
This particular Workhouse was almost self-sufficient with its own kitchen gardens, laundry, teacher, chaplain, doctor and infirmary. The museum is housed in the Vagrants Section and receiving ward, part of the Gatehouse Building. On the ground floor there are fourteen cells in which the inmates were locked overnight. Then on the 1st floor there is a classroom and boardroom and throughout the building there are photographs of the numerous inhabitants working to earn their keep, sample meals are shown and many written articles describing how things were organised. These all combined to give an insight into the conditions the inhabitants, from all walks of life, had to endure and were treated once they became victims of poverty. The death rate was so great that coffins were ordered in bulk.
A short walk from the Workhouse we next visited the Prison and Police museum where the history of policing is brought into focus by means of various artefacts and in some cases actual records of the activities of criminals.
The museum building started off as the House of Correction for Vagrants in 1686 but from 1816 it was known as the Liberty Prison and became the Police Station from 1887 until it closed in 1956. The ground floor was dedicated to depicting policing through the ages with displays of uniforms and insignia. There were old pedal cycles and things were brought up to date by the inclusion of a modern day fully equipped motor cycle. The first floor consisted of cells which each had some form of exhibition/display covering various forms of punishment and the tools of a policeman’s trade, handcuffs, manacles, truncheons etc. One of the cells was set up so that visitors can lock themselves to experience what it must have been like to become an inmate.
The final call on this trilogy of museum visits was the Courthouse which is virtually unchanged since it was built in 1830 until it was closed in 1998. It was opened as a museum one year later and has a permanent illustrated display of the history of the courthouse. The building has just three rooms, the Jury Room containing ceremonial regalia, justices’ manuals and guides from the 18th and 19th Centuries, the Justices Retiring Room where photographs of past magistrates are displayed and finally the Courtroom. Facing the Magistrates bench are two docks for the prisoners and a witness box. Behind these a seating area for visitors, witnesses etc. and a partition where the prisoners were brought up from the cells to appear before the magistrates.
On the whole these three establishments provide a tableau of the suffering of the impoverished and the harshness of the penal system in times past.
Our final visit of the day was a visit to Ripon Cathedral, the fourth church to have stood on this site. The church became a Minster in1886 at the time of the newly created Anglican Diocese of Ripon and is now the seat of the Bishop of Leeds. On the day of our visit an exhibition of modern art was taking place, some of the items on sale which would have required one to have very deep pockets. Although entrance to the Cathedral is free there were a number of strategically placed containers asking for donations. We were also lucky enough to be visiting at the time the Cathedral choir was rehearsing, being put through their paces by a very energetic choirmaster. Of particular interest were the very ornate pulpit and stonework throughout the building. From the back of the Cathedral there was a very clear view of the imposing stained glass windows over the entrance doors.
Altogether, a very enjoyable day for the members in attendance.
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Walking Group Co-ordinator – Ginny Feeney 01422 847008 firstname.lastname@example.org