Statement of Special Interest
The former Inveraray Court House is a fine example of an early 19th century court house of neoclassical design. The classical façade is the focal point of Crown Point, a small cul-de-sac that extends from heart of formal planned town, laid out in the mid-18th century. The exterior and internal plan form remains largely unaltered and with a rare example of semi-circular courtroom, that has been restored to replicate the fixtures and fittings contemporary with the early 19th century scheme. It is part of an exceptional and largely complete early to mid 19th century court house and prison complex in Scotland, which conveys the various Scottish judicial and penal reforms in the 19th century.
Age and Rarity
The court house in Inveraray was built between 1816 and 1820, by the wright William Lumsden and the builder James Peddie, both of Leith. It was built to replace the former court in the Town House on Front Street (now the tourist information office, LB35007). During the early 19th century, court houses with adjoining prison accommodation began to be separated and built independently of town hall buildings. Criticism of the provision made for cells in the town house at Inveraray led to the building of the new court house.
Plans for the Court House (and County Buildings) at Inveraray were drawn up in 1807 by Robert Reid, who was made 'King's Architect and Surveyor in Scotland' in 1808 and Master of Works to the Scottish Crown in 1824. His plan, which included separate prison blocks for men, women and debtors, were shelved due to the restrictive cost. Reid's proposals were later modified by James Gillespie Graham in 1813 and built by 1820. Graham simplified the design, resulting in the loss of Reid's proposed dome ceiling over the courtroom and the reduction in size of the proposed prison wing to a detached eight cell block (LB35034). The court house is shown on the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey Map (surveyed 1875) as the county buildings attached to a prison wall (LB35032) and two prison blocks (see separate listings).
The court house with the old prison block to the east (LB35034) were opened in 1820. In 1842 airing yards were built to the rear of the courthouse and in 1848 a 4-storey new prison block was built to the south (LB35033).
The High Court last sat at Inveraray in 1934 with court services transferring to Oban in 1953 and Dunoon in 1954. The building functioned as the local post office and masonic meeting room from 1930. Reconstructive work was carried out in the 1960s by Ian Gordon Lyndsay and Partners as part of wider restoration work at Inveraray Castle and the planned town. In 1989 the interior fixtures and fitting were reinstated, replicating the original appearance of the courtroom as far as possible for its new use as the Inveraray Jail Museum and visitor attraction.
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, however, prior to this time burgh judicial functions were commonly housed in a single building, such as the tolbooth or town hall. By the 19th century 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 functions of court houses and prisons are closely linked and the penal reform movement in Scotland was also influential on the design of court and prison building complexes. Early 19th century court houses typically had a separate prison, although the court house itself would likely contain some holding cells for those awaiting trial. The survival of early 19th century prisons and cell blocks is rare. Many of those that were adjacent to a court house still in use have been demolished (such as at Hamilton, Perth, Lanark and Ayr).
The former Inveraray Court House is a fine example of an early 19th century court house of neoclassical design, by the renowned architect James Gillespie Graham. It is part of one of the most significant examples of an early to mid 19th century court house and prison complex in Scotland.
Architectural or Historic Interest
The building was restored in the 1960s and further in 1989 as a visitor attraction, replicating the early 19th century interior scheme and reusing existing elements where possible. The timber pews have been reinstated in the original raked semi-circle formation. Inveraray is one of only two 19th century purpose built court houses in Scotland that has a circular timber pew seating arrangement. The other is at Inverness Sheriff Court by William Burn (see separate listing). The principal courtroom at Perth Sheriff Court (1818) was designed this way however the original seating arrangement does not survive.
The semi-circular courtroom at Inveraray is particularly rare, as it is the earliest of only two surviving 19th century semi-circular courtrooms in Scotland, the other being the slightly later Inverness Sheriff Court of 1833-36. Perth Sheriff Court was originally built with a semi-circular courtroom but this was changed to a rectangular plan courtroom as part of mid-19th century alterations.
Technological excellence or innovation, material or design quality
It was usual for an important civic building to use high quality materials and Inveraray Court House is no exception. The building is in the neoclassical style, a typical style for early 19th century civic buildings to emphasise their authority and it was used in a number of other court houses of a similar date. The neoclassical decoration in this building is of a particularly high quality, including giant order Tuscan pilasters, a Venetian window and balustrades. Externally the building has been little altered to its principal street elevations since it was completed in 1820.
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. Although perhaps best known for his Gothic style work, he was highly proficient in the classical style. The Cupar County Buildings of 1810-1817 was one of his first major commissions and is also in the neoclassical style. Graham was associated early in his architectural career with the pre-eminent Victorian and Gothic Revival architect, A W Pugin, and went on to considerable success providing designs for many significant works using a range of classical and castellated styles, specialising in Gothic churches and country houses such as at his remodelling of Duns Castle and Taymouth Castle (see separate listings).
The court house is a very prominent building in Inveraray. The classical façade of the courthouse is the focal point of Crown Point, a small cul-de-sac that extends from the side of the parish church which sits at the heart of this mid-18th century planned town.
Together with the prison wall, the prison blocks and former police station, the court house is part of an exceptional and largely complete complex of early to mid 19th century judicial and penal buildings. Many early 19th century cell block or prisons that were built adjacent to a court house have been demolished, such as at Hamilton, Perth, Lanark and Ayr. To the rear of the court house are a pair of airing yards which have been reconstructed in 1991 on the original foundations and using 1842 drawings by Thomas Brown. The bowed bay at the rear of the courthouse echoes the large semi-circular bastion at the centre of the retaining prison wall that overlooks the loch.
There are no known regional variations.
Close Historical Associations
There are no known associations with a person or event of national importance at present (2016).
Statutory address and listed building record revised in 2017 as part of the Former Scottish Court Houses Listing Review 2014-16. Previously listed as 'Inveraray Court House, Crown Point'.