Justice & Police Museum
In the atmospheric backstreets of The Rocks, one of Sydney’s most tourist-jammed precincts, the Justice & Police Museum is something of an antidote to suburb’s gentrified romance and glamour. Not your typical neighbourhood history museum, this fringe attraction appeals to a certain morbid sense of curiosity, exposing the sordid, criminal underbelly of Sydney’s rough and tumble colonial past.
The museum is housed in a handsome sandstone building that served as an actual police station and magistrate’s court between 1856 and 1888. Once you step inside however, the museum’s interior design reflects a far more foreboding atmosphere. Complete with spiked gates and grim, ghostly corridors of cells, this house of former-horrors draws you into a world of crime, corruption and punishment, sly grog, underworld figures and razor gangs.
When the original police station was established, The Rocks was a thriving port city but also a place with an unsavoury reputation for drunken debauchery and violence, brothels, gambling dens, rampant corruption and organised crime.
Among the museum’s exhibits is an impressive collection of confiscated weapons from the 1800s and early 1900s. Above the pistols, ropes, sawn-off shotguns and prison shanks in glass display cases is a gallery of sinister mug shots.
For those who want to delve even deeper into the macabre details of some of Sydney’s most gruesome crimes, there are details on infamous cases such as the so-called Shark Arm Murder and the Pyjama Girl Mystery. There are also exhibits containing items said to belong to notorious bushrangers like Ben Hall and Captain Moonlight.
As one of Sydney’s 12 designated “Living Museums”, the Justice and Police Museum regularly runs special exhibitions, events and talks, including family-friendly activities and storytelling sessions.
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