1834; remodelled and extended by John Murray in 1886; Alex Cullen, James Lochhead and William Brown extension to Beckford Street in 1900. 2-storey, neoclassical, symmetrical, multiphase court house with central, advanced, pedimented, tetrastyle Ionic porticos to south and west (Almada and Beckford Street) elevations. Polished ashlar. Channelled base course, band course between ground and first floor, plain entablature with moulded cornice and a low parapet. Giant Order Doric pilasters between bays. Predominantly corniced ground floor windows with panelled aprons. Moulded window surrounds at first floor windows. Almada Street elevation is 9 bays comprising advanced 3-bay centre with Ionic portico (1834), advanced single end bays (1886) and 2-bay joining sections (1834). Beckford Street (1886) 9-bay centre flanked by 3 bay wings, linked by recessed sections. Triangular pedimented doorpiece to Beckford Street elevation. Consoled and corniced door piece to north elevation.
Predominantly plate glass in timber sash and case windows. Grey slates. Cast iron rainwater goods to east (rear) elevation.
The interior, seen in 2014, is arranged around richly decorated entrance halls (1886) with high quality timberwork and plasterwork leading to first floor principal courtrooms (courtroom 1 (1886) and 2 (1834
. Beckford Street entrance hall has a tiled floor, lugged and pedimented door architraves, timber panelling to dado to walls and a decorative plaster ceiling. Imperial stone staircase with timber balustrade, square newel posts topped with ball finials and panelled timberwork to underside of stair. Armorial stained glass windows above corner landings of staircase. Coombed ceiling with fine plasterwork over stairwell. Flat arched niched over half landing with plaster segmental arched and pilastered surround flanked by round arched niches set in pedimented surrounds. Doors to courtroom 2 set in round arch niche with decorative plasterwork including fluted pilasters. Courtroom 2 is west facing and has a highly decorative coombed plaster ceiling. Fixtures and fittings predominantly replaced in 1990s refurbishment. Almada Street entrance hall has a tiled floor, lugged and pedimented door architraves, pair of stone stairs with decorative cast iron balusters and barrel-vaulted ceiling with compartmented plasterwork and modillioned cornice. Courtroom 1 has 1886 boarded and panelled timber fixtures and fittings to the well of court, including witness box with curved sounding board. Stairs beneath dock leading to cells. Coombed ceiling with moulded cornice. The public seating has been replaced. Most rooms in the 1834 building have decorative cornices, some fire marble firesurrounds and panelled timber window shutters. Stairwell to 1900 north wing with 6-light stained glass window incorporating crest, stone stair with decorative cast iron handrail, and ceiling with modillioned cornice.
Low boundary walls topped with iron railings. Pair of gates to right of Almada Street elevation.
Statement of Special Interest
Hamilton Sheriff Court is a significant example of civic architecture and is of outstanding importance because of its fine neoclassical design and 1886 interior decorative scheme. The three significant phases of the design are all in the neoclassical style, resulting in a coherent and unified building. The imposing scale of the building with its striking Ionic porticos, and its prominent position on one of Hamilton's main streets give it important streetscape presence.
Hamilton Sheriff Court was built in three significant stages. The foundation stone for the Town County Buildings was laid on 10 June 1834. This building is shown on the large scale Ordnance Survey Map of 1858 as a symmetrical building with a ground floor square courtroom at the centre, flanked by a suite of offices for court and burgh officials and a sheriff's room to the front opposite a single staircase. The New Statistical Account of 1834-45 describes a county hall at the first floor. To the rear is a prison complex, which included a governor's house.
The prison remained in use until 1882, when it was demolished to make way for the new county building of 1886. Designed by J. L. Murray in a neoclassical style to be in keeping with the 1834 court building, the county building addition faces Beckford Street with a linking section to the earlier court house, which was extended at this time by the addition of flanking wings and internally remodelled to increase and improve court accommodation. This work included moving the principal courtroom to the former first floor county hall (which, from map evidence appears to have been extended as part of this work) and the entrance hall was substantially refurbished including the addition of a pair of staircases.
In 1900 a wing for Lanarkshire Constabulary was added to the north of the County Hall block by Alex Cullen, James Lochhead and William Brown. This wing completed the symmetry of the Beckford Street elevation.
Since 1900 incremental alterations have been made to the building, such as the addition of a 2 storey block (courtroom 4 at first floor) to the rear, which is first evident on the 4th Edition Ordnance Survey Map. From the late 1980s the Scottish Court Service undertook a significant refurbishment programme for all Scottish courts and the interior of Hamilton Sheriff Court was refurbished at this time, with the interior, fixtures and fittings of courtroom 4 dating from this refurbishment. Offices have also been converted to smaller courtrooms with moveable court furniture, and the former police station is now used by the court service.
John Lamb Murray (1838-1908) was a self-taught architect, civil and mechanical engineer. The County Buildings at Hamilton is the most significant remaining example of his work.
Cullen, Lochhead and Brown was an architectural practice based in Hamilton. Whilst they undertook work all over Scotland they were particularly prolific in the Lanarkshire area. Their work is characterised by Edwardian baroque and classical detailing and they were accomplished in a range of building types, particularly public buildings, including police stations, libraries, hospitals, schools and churches. Their extension to Hamilton Sheriff Court is among their best-known public works.
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 'Sheriff Court Buildings, Almada Street'.
New Statistical Account (1834-45) Account of 1834-46: Hamilton, County of Lanark, Vol. 6. p.275.
Ordnance Survey (surveyed 1858) Hamilton  - XVII.4.2. Ordnance Survey large scale Scottish town plans. London: Ordnance Survey.
Glasgow Herald (13 March 1886) The New County Buildings at Hamilton.
Ordnance Survey (surveyed 1897, published 1896) Lanarkshire, Sheet 017.04. 2nd Edition Map, 25 inches to the mile. London: Ordnance Survey.
Hamilton Herald (1904) Glasgow and Lanarkshire Illustrated. Hamilton: Hamilton Herald. p.63
Ordnance Survey (surveyed 1910, published 1912) Lanarkshire, Sheet 017.04. 3rd Edition Map, 25 inches to the mile. London: Ordnance Survey.
Ordnance Survey (surveyed 1936, published 1938) Lanarkshire, Sheet 017.04. 4th Edition Map, 25 inches to the mile. London: Ordnance Survey.
The Scottish Civic Trust (1983). Historic Buildings at Work. Glasgow: Scottish Civic Trust. p.187-88.
Historic Scotland (2014) Scottish Courts Preliminary Report at http://www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/scottish-courts-preliminary-report.pdf.
Scottish Dictionary of Architects. County Hall and Sheriff Court Houses and County Police Office at http://www.scottisharchitects.org.uk/building_full.php?id=202289 [accessed 29 December 2014].
British History Online. A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland: Hamilton at http://www.british-history.ac.uk/topographical-dict/scotland/pp527-539#h3-0010 [accessed 09 January 2015].
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Printed: 17/11/2018 21:58