From serving as the cells at Colchester’s former magistrates’ court to life as a restaurant and beyond here is a look at the history of The Cells.

Before the new magistrates’ court building opened at St Botolph’s Circus the court was based at the town hall.

It included two courtrooms and cells for holding defendants.

Halstead Gazette:

The building was also used for charity events to help raise money for good causes.

Halstead Gazette: Halstead Gazette:

  • Charity events at the former Colchester Magistrates' Court

In 2013 the building was leased by Colchester Council to Bob Bettis and his family and plans began to transform it into two restaurant.

The first called Memoirs opened in the Old Library and in 2015 The Cells opened in the basement with space for 70 diners.

Halstead Gazette:

  • Inside the former Memoirs 

The menu aimed to reflect the theme with dishes, or “rations” including “he battered a fish” and chips and “chilli convict carni”.

Halstead Gazette:

  • Food at the Cells 

Each one had a separate theme including a medieval cell, graffiti cell, haunted cell, mortuary cell, Victorian Cell and padded cell.

Staff wore orange boiler suits and the manager dressed as a prison warden.

Halstead Gazette:

  • The painted rooms at the Cells 

But both restaurants later closed.

Earlier this year it was revealed the restaurant had been used to film a pornographic movie.

It came after the leaseholders had innocently allowed the filmmakers access to the restaurant - without knowing the nature of the filming.

READ MORE: Porn movie filmed in Cells under Colchester Town Hall

Halstead Gazette:

  • More of the rooms at the Cells

It is understood an actress was caught filming a scene over a gas cooker.

At the time a council spokesman said: “We were shocked to discover what was taking place in the property, and as soon as we became aware took immediate legal action to stop it as quickly as possible.

“The property is leased by us to a tenant who appeared to have allowed a third party to use it.

“Not only is sub-letting the premises against the lease agreement, the activity for which it was used is obviously something we definitely would not condone and we have, therefore, taken steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”

READ MORE: Council leader speaks out after porn film incident

Since then, the story has been picked up by the national and international media outlets including the BBC and Daily Mirror and Italian news outlets TgCom24, Leggo and Il Giornale.