Shire Hall Museum - Monlife
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Shire Hall Museum

Shire Hall built in 1724, is grade 1 listed, formerly the location of the Assize Courts and Quarter Sessions for Monmouthshire. It is most famous for the 1839/40 trial of the Chartist leader John Frost and others for high treason for their part in the Newport Rising.

Monmouth Museum’s collection tells the history of the town and includes objects relating to history of the ancient Wye Valley market town.  We care for the nationally significant Admiral Lord Nelson collection donated to the town by Lady Llangattock in 1923.  We also hold collections relating to Charles Stuart Rolls, the co-founder of Rolls-Royce and his exploits in balloons, and early motor cars.

While Shire Hall and the museum were closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, the opportunity was taken to consider their long-term future, how to improve our audience offer and ensure the best conservation of the collection. As a result, the decision was made to bring Monmouth Museum into Shire Hall to create one new, sustainable museum offer.

Shire Hall Museum, Monmouth is open11.00amto 4:00pm on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays (holiday opening hours may vary). Admission is FREE. To contact Shire Hall, Monmouth, please email, or call 01600 775257. Follow Shire Hall, Monmouth on Twitter and Facebook to keep up to date with the latest events, offers and information.

What can I see and do now?

At Shire Hall you can find out about the events associated with the Newport rising through courtroom and cell displays and audio-visual guides. Staff have been working to increase the exhibitions and activities throughout the building and visitors can now see:

Ground floor

  • Eddie Butler History of Monmouth video
  • Dig Monmouth – an exhibition about Monmouth’s archaeology
  • Children’s activities including colouring, puppet theatre and shop

First Floor

  • Short film – 15 minute heritage Monmouth
  • A model of Monmouth town 
  • Photo of a celebration street party, Wyebridge Lane, c.1904.

Courtroom 1

  • Chartist video
  • Dressing up
  • You’ll never get away with it!  Courtroom activity

Courtroom 2

  • Henry V tapestry
  • Rockfield interactive
  • Changing Temporary Exhibition”

Judge’s room

A mockup of the judge prior to sitting in court

Public gallery

Sit above the courtroom and take in the atmosphere


Witness first-hand the environment that prisoners would have experienced           

What are our plans?

Shire Hall Museum is work in progress. We are increasing the displays within the building and will be carrying out some minor building improvements, including new museum storage to support this. These works are being funded by Monmouthshire County Council and supported by grant aid from Welsh Government.

Our long-term plans are to adapt the building to allow us to better tell Monmouth’s stories and to redisplay our collections, including the Nelson collection, in an exciting, accessible and engaging way. These plans include remodelling the ground floor areas to improve the visitor welcome and provide space for community and learning activity. Options include remodelling the existing spaces and the potential for a small extension to the reception area.

We have completed a feasibility study which shows the potential changes. However, these are not the final plans, and we welcome views on the proposals.

To achieve all of these changes we will need to attract further external funding.  Shire Hall Museum is included in the Monmouth “Levelling Up’ application which the County Council has submitted to UK Government. This application includes Shire Hall, repurposing of Market Hall and public realm enhancement. The outcome of this application should be known in Autumn 2022.

We are also working on a development application to the National Lottery Heritage Fund. If successful this will allow us to carry out a full development stage, supporting community engagement and an activity programme to help develop the detailed plans for the next stages.  We hope to know the outcome of this application in early 2023.

What is happening to the Nelson collection?

Monmouth is very rightly proud of its connections with Nelson and people have been asking us what is happening with it whilst it is not on display.  We have been carrying out a programme of works on the collection, thanks to funding from Welsh Government and the Federation of Museums and Galleries of Wales, which include:

  • rehousing the manuscript collection in conservation grade packaging.
  • carrying out conservation work on the books
  • working with an academic and the National Maritime Museum to carry out a significance assessment of our collection
  • beginning a programme of work talking to groups to find out what stories they would like to see in the new displays
  • compiling inventories of the Nelson Collection and inputting that information onto our computer database
  • adding Nelson stories to our collections website

Working with Young People

Thanks to funding from the Winter of Wellbeing and the Summer of Fun we have been able to consult with young people aged between 16 and 25 to find out what they would like to see in our heritage sites.  We are specifically working with them at Shire Hall to ensure there are spaces that are relevant to them.


This post is also available in: Welsh