The complex of buildings in St Marygate served Ripon as the House of Correction for Vagrants (1686-1816), Liberty Prison (1816-1878) and Police Station (1887-1956). The Museum, first opened in 1984 and reopened in 2004 following a complete refurbishment.
The part now occupied by the museum was built as Ripon Liberty Prison in 1816 and continued to function as such until May, 1878 when it along with numerous other local prisons throughout the country were closed as part of a reform of prisons.
The building did not lie empty for long as in 1887 when the Ripon City Police Force was amalgamated into the West Riding Constabulary it became the Police Station for Ripon. The local force had occupied their own Police Station and Lock Up in Kirkgate prior to their demise.
The West Riding Constabulary occupied the building until moving to the present Police Station in North Street when it passed into private hands. The use of the building when it was a Prison and later a Police Station are being interpreted in new displays in the revamped museum. The museum is open every day from Feb half term until 3 Nov