You've seen the great Victorian gothic building on news broadcasts, but have you ever stepped inside? The Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand is one of the capital's most spectacular buildings, and among the largest courts in Europe with over 1,000 rooms. Education groups can book onto a tour of this magnificent building, and learn more about the inner workings of the British justice system.
We took a preview tour. The entrance leads right into the Main Hall, a towering central space that resembles the nave of a cathedral. To the rear, a sequence of exquisite ribbed vaults continues the ecclesiastical theme. Architect George Edmund Street purposely left one of the columns here incomplete, so that his creation would fall short of the perfection of God.
Passages and stairs lead off in all directions. As we walk along, our guide describes the daily workings of the building. Over 80 court rooms and 3.5 miles of corridor cluster around the Main Hall. Many of the courts are in use simultaneously.
Most trials are open to members of the public over 14 years old, including some of the highest-profile cases in the country, although guided tours and learning activities need to be booked in advance. As a taster, we are taken into an empty court room. Our guide explains how a trial is conducted, and where the key participants sit. When you go, you might even get to recline in the judge’s chair.
The tour also takes in the history of the judiciary. We are shown the ancient robes of top judges, still worn ceremonially. Everywhere, the great and good of the legal professions are depicted in portraiture. The Courts contain examples of modern art too, including a particularly striking sculpture made from coat hangers.
The tours last approximately one hour and are run by experts from National Justice Museum Education. Tours are particularly aimed at groups (perhaps an educational trip for young people or even an activity for a book group). They can be tailored to meet your interests — from architecture to history to careers in the legal sector.
Call 0115 9939 811 or email education@