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- Category: A
- Group Category Details: B
- see notes
- Date Added: 05/02/1971
- Last Date Amended: 09/09/2015
- Local Authority: South Ayrshire
- Planning Authority: South Ayrshire
- Burgh: Ayr
National Grid Reference
- NGR: NS 33306 21767
- Coordinates: 233306, 621767
Robert Wallace, 1818-22; later pavilions to rear; adjoins County Buildings to rear (see separate list description). 2-storey, basement and dome, 11-bay (grouped 4-3-4) classical Courthouse to W elevation of Wellington Square. Polished ashlar; channelled at ground floor. Base course; dividing band course; 1st floor cill course; cornice; balustraded parapet. Round-arched keystoned ground floor windows; corniced, architraved 1st floor windows (no cornices to 3 central windows).
Robert Wallace, 1817-22, with slightly lower pavilions to north and south by John Murdoch, 1863 (south) and circa 1874 James Maitland Wardrop (north). 2-storey, basement and dome, 11-bay, symmetrical, Classical court house overlooking Wellington Square to east with central advanced, pedimented tetrastyle Ionic portico. Polished ashlar, channelled at ground, with base course, band course, cill course, cornice and balustraded parapet. The end bays are slightly advanced and a central lanterned dome rises above the balustrade. There are round-arched, key-stoned ground floor windows and consoled corniced windows to first floor. There is a central part-glazed 2-leaf entrance door with architraved doorpiece. There are blank niches flanking the entrance door and to end bays at ground floor.
The north and south elevations are both 2 storey, 8 bays with later advanced 3-bay sections to west. Pilasters divide ground floor bays to later sections.
Predominantly 6-over 6-pane glazing in timber sash and case windows. Grey slates. Some decorative cast iron rainwater goods.
The interior, seen in 2014, is arranged around a large, square-plan central hall with a spiral staircase rising around a massive stone newel with an elaborate bronze tripod at apex and with a coffered dome above with an ocular light. Around the stair on lower and upper levels there are a number of round-arched niches and timber panelled doors, some with decorative consuled cornices. Courtrooms 1 and 2 are entered from this central hall on the first floor. Both courts are rectangular in plan and have clerestorey lighting, some consuled cornices over the central doors and compartmented ceilings with lantern lights. Courtroom 1 has an armorial stained glass lunette panel above the bench with flanking round-arched single windows and with pilasters delineating bays. There is an Ionic column upper order to sides of the court. There are niches to east end bays. Courtroom 2 has a semi-circular fanlight over the bench and there are flanking double pilasters with an anthemion detail to cornice. There are distinctive niches to the upper level outer bays of sides with deep decorative aprons. Some rooms to ground with vaulted groin vaulted ceilings; other rooms with decorative cornicing and fire surrounds. Room with decorative coffered ceiling with large lantern light.
Low coped boundary wall to east, north and south with iron railings. Pairs of square-plan gatepiers surmounted with decorative metal vases.
Statement of Special Interest
B Group with 1-12 (inclusive, 16-27 (inclusive) Wellington Square, County Buildings, Monuments to James George Smith Neill, Earl of Eglinton and Wintoun, Sir James Fergusson of Kilkerran, War Memorial, and Gates, Gatepiers and Boundary Walls, Wellington Square.
Ayr Sheriff Court dates to 1818 and is an outstanding example of an early 19th century classical courts in the country. The classical decoration to the exterior and interior of the building is of a very high quality, and is particularly distinguished by its large, prominent portico and exceptional entrance hall with spiral staircase and coffered dome, which is unique amongst courts in Scotland. The building terminates the west view through Wellington Square and is one of the most prominent and significant buildings in Ayr.
Ayr Sheriff Court was designed by the London based architect, Robert Wallace. David Hamilton also drew up plans for the building, but the work was given to Wallace, although his scheme was more expensive. The foundation stone was laid in 1818 and the building was completed in 1822 at a total cost of over £30,000. The building contained the Justiciary Court and also the County Buildings. The former County Hall now serves as Court No 2. In common with many court buildings of the time, there was originally a prison to the rear (west) of the court. This was demolished in the 1930s and the site used to erect the Ayr County Buildings (see separate listing). The court house was refurbished in the early 1990s and some courts and offices to the west date to this period.
Robert Wallace (circa 1790-1849) was born in Ayrshire, but spent most of his working life in London. He entered the competition for The Houses of Parliament, which he lost, but he won the work for the Atheneum in Derby. He was involved in drawing up designs for Blairquhan House and Auchans House (now demolished), both in Ayrshire, but only the second was built to his designs.
John Murdoch (1825-1907) was a local, Ayr architect.
James Maitland Wardrop (1824-1882) was an Edinburgh based architect. He became a partner with Thomas Brown in 1849. Brown was architect to the Prison Board and the practice designed many county buildings, mostly in the Franco-Scottish style. It also designed a number of country houses.
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. The design of court houses in the early 19th century tended towards neoclassical or Renaissance styles to convey their status as important public buildings.
Statutory address and listed building record revised as part of the Scottish Courts Listing Review 2014-15. Previously listed as '14 Wellington Square, Sheriff Court'.
Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland: http://www.rcahms.gov.uk/canmore.html CANMORE ID 41823.
John Robertson's proposed plans for Wellington Square (SRO RHP 2555).
Ayr Advertiser (18 January 1817).
Wood, J. (1818) Plan of the Town and Parishes of Ayr, Newton upon Ayr and St Quivox. Edinburgh.
Ordnance Survey (Surveyed 1855, Published 1858) Town Plan of Ayr, Sheet 08. Large Scale. 1st Edition. London: Ordnance Survey.
Groome, Francis H. (ed) (1884) Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: Vol 1. Edinburgh: Thomas C Jack. p.97-8.
Dodd, W. (1972) Ayr; A Study of Urban Growth in Ayrshire Archaeological and Natural History Collections, Vol 10. Ayr: Ayrshire Archaeological and Natural History Society.
The Scottish Civic Trust (1983) Historic Buildings at Work. Glasgow: The Scottish Civic Trust. p.195.
Strawhorn, J. & Andrew, K. (1988) Discovering Ayrshire. Edinburgh: John Donald. p.104.
Davis, M. C. (1991) The Castles and Mansions of Ayrshire. Ardrishaig, Argyle: Privately Published. p.120-1.
Love, D. (1995) Pictorial History of Ayr. Darvel: Alloway.
Colvin, H. (1995) A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 1600-1840. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. p.1017.
Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (1996) Tolbooths and Town-Houses. Edinburgh: The Stationery Office. p.39.
Close, R. and Riches, A. (2012) The Buildings of Scotland: Ayrshire and Arran. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. p.132.
Historic Scotland (2014) Scottish Courts Preliminary Report at http://www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/scottish-courts-preliminary-report.pdf.
Further information courtesy of Scottish Courts Service (2014).
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