BRADFORD people will have chance to sit on the jury of a real historic murder trial - and decide the fate of the defendant.

The 19th century trial is being re-created at the Victorian courtroom at City Hall. Called Trial by Jury, the event is organised by Bradford Police Museum. The first trial, on November 10, was booked up within 48 hours, but there are still places available on the next one, on December 21.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: The Victorian courtroom at City Hall, where the trial will take placeThe Victorian courtroom at City Hall, where the trial will take place (Image: Bradford Council)

Volunteers from the Police Museum will recreate the trial of William Barrett, charged with killing a child. At the end of the trial, the jury - sitting in the same courtroom where Barrett appeared in January 1889 - will decide whether he should be set free or sent to the gallows.

On December 29, 1888 the mutilated body of eight-year-old John Gill was found at the back of Mellor Street, Manningham. Within two hours of the discovery Bradford police had arrested William Barrett, a local milkman, and charged him with murder.

After two weeks, despite the police being certain of Barrett’s guilt and the Coroner naming him as responsible for the killing, Bradford Magistrates set him free. A case prepared for trial at Leeds Assize was withdrawn by the Prosecution on the first day. No jury was given the opportunity to hear all the evidence. Now a jury will have chance to hear this macabre, real-life murder trial from Bradford’s hidden history.

Museum director Martin Baines said: “This new event will present a 19th century murder case with the evidence available at the time, heard before a jury for the first time. It will allow members of the public to decide whether William Barrett should have been acquitted or sent to the gallows.”

Andrew Hill, museum volunteer and former Bradford solicitor, will preside over the trial. He said: “We are pleased to bring this historic murder case to life, and in the same court that William Barrett first appeared. No subsequent trial ever took place so for the first time a jury will be able to hear the evidence against Barrett and decide whether he was guilty or not guilty”.

To book Trial by Jury on Thursday, December 21 at 7pm go to

A museum spokesman said: “This event is not recommended for anyone aged under 18. Wheelchair access to the court unfortunately is not available. The event is limited to 24 people.”

Bradford Police Museum, located in City Hall, provides a fascinating insight into the history of policing, criminal justice and crime and punishment in Bradford from the early 19th century onwards. The museum, on the site of the city’s old police station, operating from 1874-1974, has a gallery exploring policing from the inception of the Bradford Borough Police force in 1848 to the present. Items on display include truncheons, uniforms, swords, crime scene exhibits and photographs covering 150 years of policing in Bradford.

There are guided tours of the Victorian cells, where TV hit Peaky Blinders was filmed, and the courtroom. Visitors can stand in the cell where Harry Houdini escaped, in an early 20th century stunt, then climb the dock steps to the beautifully preserved Victorian courtroom, used for films and TV dramas including Coronation Street and Emmerdale.

The museum is managed by local charity Under the Clock Bradford and run by volunteers, who include retired police officers. Visit