Listed Building

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Portree Sheriff Court, Somerled Square, PortreeLB13923

Status: Designated


There are no additional online documents for this record.


Date Added
Last Date Amended
Local Authority
Planning Authority
NG 48179 43602
148179, 843602


Matthews and Lawrie, 1865-77; alterations 1994-96. 2 storey, 3-bay, classical court house of tooled ashlar with polished and tooled ashlar dressings. Full height channelled angle pilasters. Band course at between ground and first floor. Slightly advanced and pedimented centre bay with long and short quoins and console bracketed corniced doorpiece. The principal elevation windows have moulded architraves and plain apron panels. Frieze, cornice and blocking course with large decorative terminal urns. Plain 5-bay return to the west elevation. Piended platform slate roof.

The interior, seen in 2014, is arranged with the courtroom and public offices on ground floor and a main courtroom on the 1st floor. The courtroom has a high ceiling with simple moulded cornicing. A timber doorway with 3-pane arched fanlight and heavy moulded architrave leads to the courtroom. The timber furniture, fixtures and fittings date to the 1990s refurbishment of the interior. Open well stone staircase with decorative metal banister and timber railing. Ancillary rooms have decorative cornicing and panelled doors. Timber panelling up to dado in hallways and staircase.

Statement of Special Interest

Portree Sheriff Court dates to 1876 and was designed by the successful Highland architectural practice Matthews and Lawrie. The building is a good example of civic architecture, and unusually for its period it is constructed in the classical style more often seen in early 19th century court house designs. Built from high quality materials, it has a distinctive and prominent street elevation, forming a focal point in the streetscape of Portree's main square.

Portree Sheriff Court was designed in 1865 and was completed before 1877. The court house first appears on the

The architectural partnership of James Matthews and William Lawrie ran from 1864 until 1887, with offices in Aberdeen and Inverness. Matthews and Lawrie were commissioned to design a number of court houses in the Highland region, such as Kingussie (1864), Lochmaddy (1875) and Fort William (1876).

The development of the court house as a building type in Scotland follows the history of the Scottish legal system and wider government reforms. The majority of purpose-built court houses were constructed in the 19th century as by this time there was an increase in the separation of civic, administrative and penal functions into separate civic and institutional buildings, and the resultant surge of public building was promoted by new institutional bodies. The introduction of the Sheriff Court Houses (Scotland) Act of 1860 gave a major impetus to the increase and improvement of court accommodation and the provision of central funding was followed by the most active period of sheriff court house construction in the history of the Scottish legal system, and many new court houses were built or reworked after this date.

Court houses constructed after 1860 generally had a solely legal purpose and did not incorporate a prison, other than temporary holding cells. The courts were designed in a variety of architectural styles but often relied heavily on Scots Baronial features to reference the fortified Scottish building tradition, however the architectural style at Portree was largely influenced by the classical style which often characterises court house buildings prior to 1860. Newly constructed court buildings in the second half of the 19th century dispensed with large public spaces such as county halls and instead provided bespoke office accommodation for the sheriff, judge and clerks, and accommodated the numerous types of court and holding cells. In the case of Portree, a jail was directly adjacent. The jail has since been demolished, however it has been replaced with a modern police station.

Category changed from B to C, statutory address and listed building record revised as part of the Scottish Courts Listing Review 2014-15. Previously listed as 'Somerled Square Courthouse'.



Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland: CANMORE ID 99392.

Ordnance Survey (surveyed 1875, published 1881), Inverness-shire (Isle of Skye), Sheet XXIII. 6 inches to the mile. 1st Edition. London: Ordnance Survey.

Inverness Advertiser, 6 October 1865. Advertisement for tenders.

The Scottish Civic Trust (1983) Historic Buildings at Work. Glasgow: The Scottish Civic Trust. p.78.

Gifford, J. (1992) Buildings of Scotland: Highlands and Islands. London: Penguin Books Ltd. p.546.

Miers, M. (2008) Western Seaboard: An Illustrated Architectural Guide. Edinburgh: Rutland Press. p.217.

Historic Scotland (2014) Scottish Courts Preliminary Report at

Dictionary of Scottish Architects, Matthews & Lawrie at [accessed 14 November 2014].

Further information provided by Scottish Courts Service (2014).

About Listed Buildings

Listing is the way that a building or structure of special architectural or historic interest is recognised by law through the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997.

We list buildings of special architectural or historic interest using the criteria published in the Historic Environment Scotland Policy Statement.

The information in the listed building record gives an indication of the special architectural or historic interest of the listed building(s). It is not a definitive historical account or a complete description of the building(s). The format of the listed building record has changed over time. Earlier records may be brief and some information will not have been recorded.

The only legal part of the listing is the address/name of site. Addresses and building names may have changed since the date of listing and if a number or name is missing from a listing address it may still be listed. Listing covers both the exterior and the interior and any object or structure fixed to the building. Listing can also cover structures not physically attached but which are part of the curtilage of the building, such as boundary walls, gates, gatepiers, ancillary buildings etc. The planning authority is responsible for advising on what is covered by the listing including the curtilage of a listed building. Since 1 October 2015 we have been able to exclude items from a listing. If part of a building is not listed, it will say that it is excluded in the statutory address and in the statement of special interest in the listed building record. The statement will use the word 'excluding' and quote the relevant section of the Historic Environment Scotland Act 2014. Some earlier listed building records may use the word 'excluding', but if the Act is not quoted, the record has not been revised to reflect current legislation.

If you want to alter, extend or demolish a listed building you need to contact your planning authority to see if you need listed building consent. The planning authority advises on the need for listed building consent and they also decide what a listing covers. The planning authority is the main point of contact for all applications for listed building consent.

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Portree Sheriff Court, principal elevation, looking southwest, during daytime with blue sky
Interior of courtroom, Portree Sheriff Court.

Printed: 26/04/2019 06:44