Listed Building

The only legal part of the listing under the Planning (Listing Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 is the address/name of site. Addresses and building names may have changed since the date of listing – see 'About Listed Buildings' below for more information. The further details below the 'Address/Name of Site' are provided for information purposes only.

Address/Name of Site

Greenock Sheriff Court and Justice of the Peace Court, including boundary wall, gatepiers and railings, and excluding single-storey extension to north and 2-storey extension to east, Nelson Street, GreenockLB34133

Status: Designated


There are no additional online documents for this record.


Date Added
Last Date Amended
Local Authority
Planning Authority
NS 27429 76407
227429, 676407


John Dick Peddie and Charles George Hood Kinnear, 1867-69. 2-storey and attic, 7-bay, symmetrical Scots Baronial sheriff court with prominent advanced central 4-stage square-plan tower with pyramidal roof topped with an open spire. The single-storey extension to north and 2-storey extension to east are not considered of special interest in listing terms at time of review.

The 2-storey and attic building is T-plan with adjoining single storey sections to rear at north and south, forming a square plan. The building is faced in sandstone ashlar with moulded architraves. It has a base course, band course, crow-stepped gables to side elevations and machicolations to the eaves course with decorative water spouts. There are bartizans to the corners, angled buttresses and some decorative engaged columns at corners. There are segmental-arched windows at the ground floor and gabled and pinnacle dormers at attic level.

The entrance elevation has central steps which lead to a segmental-arched doorway with engaged decorative columns and with corbelled balcony above. There is a machiolated balcony to the tower with pierce quatrefoil decoration.

The building has predominantly replacement plate glass in timber sash and case windows. There are grey slates, some wallhead stacks and cast iron downpipes.

The interior, seen in 2014, is arranged around a central east-facing courtroom on the ground floor and with an imperial staircase to the north. The 1867 room layout has been slightly modified, but much of the 1867 plan remains. The court has a number of 6-panel doors and a high, deeply coved ceiling with moulded and decorative cornicing. There are segmentally-arched clerestorey windows set within deep arches. There is raked public pew seating and a timber gallery to the east on iron columns. There is an unusually wide timber sheriff's bench with Ionic column decoration and panelled back and sounding board. Other fittings were replaced in the 1990s, including the access hatch from the basement cells to the dock. There is some decorative cornicing to other rooms and the hallways. The staircase has decorative metal balusters and a timber handrail.

Low ashlar boundary wall to west with metal railings and with pair of pyramidal-capped gatepiers.

Statement of Special Interest

Greenock Sheriff Court dates to 1867 and was designed by the successful Edinburgh architectural practice of John Dick Peddie and Charles George Hood Kinnear. The building is a significant example of civic architecture as well as being an important early example of Scots Baronial design for a public building. Built in high quality materials, it has a distinctive and prominent central tower and forms a focal point in one of the main streets in the town. Internally, the court has been moderately altered but retains some of its original courtroom components and decorative features.

Greenock Sheriff Court opened in 1869 and is first is depicted on the 2nd Edition Ordnance Survey Map of 1897 as the County Court Buildings. There was originally a prison to the rear, which was demolished in 1936. In 1980-81 an extension was added to the north of the building housing a second court and associated offices. In the early part of the 1990s, further accommodation was added to the east.

The first court in Greenock was established in 1815; prior to this the nearest sheriff court was in Paisley. By 1815, Greenock was an important trading town and the population was increasing, and it was thought necessary that it should have its own court. Initially, the court was held at the town hall, until 1834 when the first purpose-built court house and prison opened, and this was subsequently replaced in 1869.

The partnership of John Dick Peddie and Charles George Hood Kinnear existed between 1856 and 1878 and it continued as a leading practice in Scotland up to the Second World War. Kinnear's earlier association with William Burn and David Bryce was a significant influence on the practice. The partnership was very successful from the beginning and there were numerous commissions for high status public and commercial buildings, schools and churches across Scotland.

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. 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.

The single-storey extension to the north and the 2-storey extension to the east are not considered to be of special interest in listing terms at the time of the review (2014-15).

Statutory address and listed building record revised as part of the Scottish Courts Listing Review 2014-15. Previously listed as 'County Court Buildings, Nelson Street'.



Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland: CANMORE ID 169627.

Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Original drawings in Dick Peddie and McKay Collection: DPM/1860/8.

Ordnance Survey (surveyed 1896, published 1897) Renfrewshire, Sheet 002.05. 25 inches to the mile. 2nd Edition. London: Ordnance Survey.

The Scottish Civic Trust (1983) Historic Buildings at Work. Glasgow: The Scottish Civic Trust. p.192.

Walker, F. A. (1986) The South Clyde Estuary. Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press p.129.

Monteith, J. (2004) Old Greenock. Catrine: Stenlake Publishing Ltd. p.62.

Historic Scotland (2014) Scottish Courts Preliminary Report at .

Dictionary of Scottish Architects. Greenock Courthouse, Prison and Governor's House at [accessed 30 September 2014].

Further information courtesy of Scottish Court Service (2014).

About Listed Buildings

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating sites and places at the national level. These designations are Scheduled monuments, Listed buildings, Inventory of gardens and designed landscapes and Inventory of historic battlefields.

We make recommendations to the Scottish Government about historic marine protected areas, and the Scottish Ministers decide whether to designate.

Listing is the process that identifies, designates and provides statutory protection for buildings of special architectural or historic interest as set out in the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997.

We list buildings which are found to be of special architectural or historic interest using the selection guidance published in Designation Policy and Selection Guidance (2019)

Listed building records provide an indication of the special architectural or historic interest of the listed building which has been identified by its statutory address. The description and additional information provided are supplementary and have no legal weight.

These records are not definitive historical accounts or a complete description of the building(s). If part of a building is not described it does not mean it is not listed. 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 legal part of the listing is the address/name of site which is known as the statutory address. Other than the name or address of a listed building, further details are provided for information purposes only. Historic Environment Scotland does not accept any liability for any loss or damage suffered as a consequence of inaccuracies in the information provided. Addresses and building names may have changed since the date of listing. Even if a number or name is missing from a listing address it will still be listed. Listing covers both the exterior and the interior and any object or structure fixed to the building. Listing also applies to buildings or structures not physically attached but which are part of the curtilage (or land) of the listed building as long as they were erected before 1 July 1948.

While Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating listed buildings, the planning authority is responsible for determining what is covered by the listing, including what is listed through curtilage. However, for listed buildings designated or for listings amended from 1 October 2015, legal exclusions to the listing may apply.

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 1997 Act. 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 subsequent legislation.

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: Greenock Sheriff Court and Justice of the Peace Court, principal elevation, looking southwest, during daytime on a sunny day and with parked cars in front of the building.

Printed: 08/12/2021 03:42