County Buildings by Robert Hutchison, 1815-17 (following 1810 plans by James Gillespie Graham) with addition by Thoms and Wilkie, 1924-25 (plans dated 1907), forming a broadly unified neoclassical terrace lining the south side of St Catherine Street, Cupar.
Principal section (circa 1815) to west (right): symmetrical, 2 storey and basement, 9 bay with channelled masonry to ground floor. Twin-engaged Roman-Doric columned doorway to centre with Diocletian window above and Roman-Doric pilasters and balcony. Outer bays advanced slightly with round-arched windows to ground floor. Projecting cornice and balustraded blocking course.
Former courtroom addition (circa 1817) to left: 2 storey and basement, 5 bay, plainly rendered with single door to outer-right bay and cill course to upper window level. Interior alterations by William Burn in 1836 include the remodelling of the former courtroom at first floor.
East addition (1925) to far left: 3-storey and basement, 9 bays, symmetrical with slightly advanced outer bays with round-arched windows to ground and tripartite windows above in similar style to the circa 1815 block.
All three sections have predominantly plate glass glazing in timber sash and case windows. Grey slates. Coped ashlar stacks. Cast iron downpipes.
The interior was seen in 2014. Principal chamber/hall and former courtroom at first floor level. Council chamber has bowed end walls with fluted Doric pilasters to ceiling height at regular intervals, balconied minstrels gallery with basket-arch to south wall over main entrance double doors, flanked by twin fireplaces. Moulded cornice. A pair of curved timber double doors to east and west lead to secondary reception chamber room to west and former library to east. Former 1836 courtroom by William Burn with segmentally-arched panelled plasterwork ceiling with central roundels and ribs terminating over full height Roman-Doric pilasters. Barrel-vaulted record room with flagstone floor at ground floor. Other areas with fixtures and fittings of various dates including boarded timber open-well staircase with decorative timber newels.
Basement (former cells) with corbelled vaulted ceilings, stone fireplaces and studded timber doors. Engraved panel above fireplace quotes Hamlet 'There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. To me it is a prison'.
Statement of Special Interest
The Cupar County Buildings is a fine example of civic architecture combining historical functions of council chamber and court house. The principal 9-bay block of 1810-1817 is a early example of the neo-classical work of James Gillespie Graham, and this style is broadly mirrored in the design of the 1925 addition to the east (built to a 1907 design). The building is well-detailed externally with a large Diocletian window and pilasters, moulded architraves and balustraded parapet. The Roman-Doric columned door piece provides an appropriately imposing entrance to the building. As a whole the buildings form a palatial suite of county buildings and contribute to an architecturally rich area of civic buildings within the town of Cupar, as the opposite end of St Catherine Street is terminated by the 1815 former burgh hall (see separate listing).
Internally, the bow-ended principal county chamber/assembly room on the first floor is of particular note with fluted pilasters, minstrels gallery and twin fireplaces. The interior of the later court house in the 1817 section was refitted as a courtroom in 1836 by the nationally significant Scottish architect William Burn and features a good segmentally-arched plasterwork ceiling with anta pilasters. This section is linked to the 1924-25 section internally at first floor level with doors between the former courtroom and jury room and a corridor leading to the former sheriff's room. There have been various changes to secondary interior spaces in response to shifting systems of local government and administration, and the changing functional requirements of the building more recently.
The earliest parts of the Cupar County Buildings were built on St Catherine Street in 1815-17 as the County Hall. St Catherine Street was developed by Provost and banker, John Ferguson, who is understood to have hired James Gillespie Graham to design the building in 1810. After Ferguson was bankrupted in 1817, the street was developed by architect-builder, Robert Hutchison. The principal elevation of the County Buildings appears to have been influenced by the work of Robert Adam in Edinburgh s New Town where similar designs were used as the centrepieces of terraces.
James Gillespie Graham (1777-1855) was one of Scotland's most influential 19th century architects. He was based in Edinburgh and worked all over Scotland, specialising in castellated country houses and Gothic church designs. Although perhaps best known for his Gothic style work, he was highly proficient in the classical style. The Cupar County Buildings was one of his first major commissions and he was commissioned for subsequent court houses in Scotland including his neoclassical 1819 design for the county buildings and court house at Inveraray and Dumbarton Court House (1824) (see separate listings). Associated early in his architectural career with the pre-eminent Victorian and Gothic Revival architect A W Pugin, Gillespie Graham went on to considerable success providing designs for many significant works using a classical and castellated forms such as at his remodelling of Duns Castle and Taymouth Castle (see separate listings).
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.
The 4-storey office and former police station, circa 1970, adjoining to the rear of the county buildings, and single storey brick block addition, circa 1920, to the east, were not considered to be of special interest in listing terms at the time of review (2014-15).
Statutory address and listed building record revised as part of Scottish Courts Listing Review (2014-15). The Cupar County Buildings was previously listed as three separate listings: 'County Buildings, St Catherine Street A) West Section; County Buildings, St Catherine Street B) Centre Section ; County Buildings, St Catherine Street C) East Section'.
Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland: http://www.rcahms.gov.uk/canmore.html CANMORE ID: 31591.
Wood J. (1820) Cupar Town Survey Map.
Ordnance Survey (surveyed 1856, published 1858) Town Plan of Cupar. Sheet XVII.4.11 and XVII.4.16. Scale: 1:500. 1st Edition. London: Ordnance Survey.
Gifford J. (1988) The Buildings of Scotland: Fife. London: Penguin Books Ltd. p.165.
Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (1996) Tolbooths and Town-houses: Civic Architecture in Scotland to 1833. Edinburgh: RCAHMS. p.68.
Pride, G.L. (1999) The Kingdom of Fife. 2nd Edition. Edinburgh: The Rutland Press. p.107.
Colvin, H. (2008) A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects 1600-1840. Fourth Edition. London: Yale University Press. p.420-424.
St Andrews University Library, James Gillespie and Scott Archive. Bundle no 1406.
Historic Scotland (2014) Scottish Courts Preliminary Report at http://www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/scottish-courts-preliminary-report.pdf .
The National Archives of Scotland. Guide to Sheriff Court Records at http://www.nas.gov.uk/guides/sheriffcourt.asp [accessed 30 June 2014].
Dictionary of Scottish Architects. Cupar County Buildings http://www.scottisharchitects.org.uk/building_full.php?id=223890 [accessed 30 June 2014].
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Printed: 25/05/2018 02:03