Greater Manchester Police Museum

Natalie Bradbury
Creative Tourist

Visit the Greater Manchester Police Museum for makeshift weapons, wooden pillows and a chance to stand in the dock, without being charged.

Tucked away in Manchester’s Northern Quarter is a place that’s as far removed from the bustle and liveliness, fun and frivolity of the area’s trendy bars and cafes as can be imagined. Greater Manchester Police Museum delves into the darker side of the city’s history, bringing the former Newton Street police headquarters to life in all its severity; its heavy riot gates once kept out braying mobs. Today, a small museum and archive is housed in the building, which closed in the 1970s yet still retains the décor and aura of a Victorian-era prison.

The museum contains a number of collections relating to local policing through the ages – from helmets, uniforms and truncheons, to police transport. Among the most interesting are items relating to the notorious, 25-day Strangeways riot of 1990, which took place just a mile down the road. They include a rather battered-looking door that was pulled from its hinges by prisoners and a gruesome cabinet of improvised weapons used in the riot, now mounted safely (and high up) on the wall. A jolly attendant in an old-fashioned warden’s uniform explains cheerfully that one was adapted from a toilet chain, and that another involved a soap inside a sock.

Crimes ranged from street robbery to “stealing a duck from a shop”

Wannabe crime-solvers will enjoy testing their skills of deduction in a section dedicated to the ingenuity of those on both sides of the bars. Here, the stories of some of the region’s more gruesome murders are told alongside displays of the actual murder weapons used, as well as police kit like the “murder bag” that was taken to the scene of the crime. There’s also information about techniques such as facial reconstruction, which were used to identify victims. Another highlight is a mocked up forger’s workshop, complete with inscribed slabs, brushes and piles of notes. It’s inspired by the “King of forgers” Herbert Winstanley, who flooded dog tracks with forged currency during the Second World War.

A magistrate’s court upstairs, transferred from a former courtroom at Denton, Tameside, puts the visitor in the dock with its stained glass, polished wood and law books. However, it’s the walk-through cells and the 1879 charge room with its imposing wooden desk – accessed through a cobbled courtyard at the back of the building that once housed its own morgue – that are the most compelling. The cells are painted in the institutional brown and cream colour scheme, with a cold concrete floors, hard beds, itchy blankets (although this luxury was not extended to drunks, who received nothing) and inbuilt wooden pillows that give a new meaning to the word lumpy.

Each cell held up to twelve people, who were put to work on prison labour and kept in order with a birch rod. Crimes ranged from street robbery to “stealing a duck from a shop”. One cell contains a rogue’s gallery of mug shots staring back from the wall. While some look like the tough faces of hardened criminals, others appear poor, simple or just desperate – and a few were clearly children. These cells, and the stories contained within them, are enough to strike a chill even in the most law-abiding citizen. We left on our best behaviour.

57a Newton StreetManchesterM1 1ET View map
Telephone: 0161 856 3287 Visit Now

Admission Charges

Free entry

Opening Hours

  • Tuesday10:30am - 3:30pm

Always double check opening hours with the venue before making a special visit.

What's on near Greater Manchester Police Museum

Killer Comedy Club

Killer Comedy Club showcases “the UK’s best upcoming and coming comedians” for a night of roof-raising laughs, with pop-up nights all across the North West.

from £12
Creatures of the Night Comedy Club

An insanely committed seven-nights-a-week, Creatures of the Night Comedy Club opens its doors (20.30-22.30 typically, though please check) for evening after evening of side-splitting comedy.

from £5.00
Angélica Garcia at The Castle

LA-based experimental pop artist Angélica Garcia is playing at The Castle this summer, in support of her latest cumbia-inspired music.

from £10.00

Where to go near Greater Manchester Police Museum


notjust is one of the newest barbers to hit the Northern Quarter, and it’s fair to say it’s a cut above the average

Café or Coffee Shop
Ezra & Gil

One of our favourite spots for caffeine in Manchester. A spacious, stripped back location serving up great coffee a delicious menu of fresh cooked food. The counter is always full with a tempting selection of cakes and sweets, resistance is futile. By the way, Ezra means ‘Helper’ and Gil means ‘Happiness’.

Yoga Soul

Yoga Soul is a people-driven hub of good vibes, which you can find on Newton Street in the Northern Quarter.

Hatters Hostel Newton Street

A hostel in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. Ideally located just minutes away from Piccadilly train station, the hostel offers guest free breakfast and Wi-Fi. Beneath the hostel sit Hold Fast Bar, a Jules Verne inspired bar which stays open late.

the peer hat manchester
Music venue
The Peer Hat

Hailed as something of a cry back ‘to the way the Northern Quarter used to be’, The Peer Hat is a great pub and music venue.


New to Stevenson’s Square, Public is the Northern Quarter’s new local, from the team behind Evelyn’s.

The Feel Good Club exterior
Event venue
Feel Good Club

Our flagship Feel Good Club in Manchester, open 7 days a week, providing a beautiful friendly environment for coffee, brunch, lunch, cocktails and beers with an amazing selection of non alcoholic beverages too.

Slice Pizzeria in Stevenson Square Manchester.

When was the last time you stumbled out of a bar and into a takeaway that served up food as fresh as Mama made? If your answer is “never”, we’re guessing you haven’t yet found new Manchester pizza parlour, Slice.

Culture Guides

Theatre in Manchester and the North
Theatre in Manchester and the North

Affecting contemporary performances and fresh, relevant takes on enduring classics, we pick out shows that help us scrutinise the world we live in.

Festival-goers at Green Island
Music in Manchester and the North

Gazing longingly towards the good times that will accompany the surely imminent sun, we take a look at the best music festivals coming up in Manchester and Salford.