Listed Building

The only legal part of the listing 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.

Perth Sheriff Court and Justice of the Peace Court, Tay Street, PerthLB39325

Status: Designated


There are no additional online documents for this record.


Date Added
Last Date Amended
Local Authority
Perth And Kinross
Planning Authority
Perth And Kinross
NO 12062 23391
312062, 723391


Sir Robert Smirke, 1819. Exceptional single-storey, 13-bay, E-plan Greek Revival court house with monumental and advanced Greek Doric octostyle portico with 10 pillar colonnade. Pale polished sandstone, ashlar to principal elevation, squared and snecked whinstone to rear. Base course; entablature with triglyphed frieze, eaves cornice and blocking course. Shallow steps to central portico with fluted columns lead to trio of heavy panelled 2-leaf timber entrance doors behind with round-arched fanlights. Pilasters divide flanking paired windows with attic openings above. 3-bay outer sections with architraved and corniced windows and pilastered corner angles. 3 bays to side (north and south) elevations with round-arched tripartite windows with pilaster mullions.

Predominantly 15-pane glazing to timber sash and case windows. Grey slate. Coped stacks with clay cans. Cast iron rainwater goods.

The interior, seen in 2014, is arranged around a central, west facing courtroom (courtroom 1) on the first floor. Excellent and largely intact 1860s decorative scheme. Entrance hall with dominant, T-plan Arbroath stone staircase with stone parapets and shouldered arches under side landings. Hall lit by central lantern light. Courtroom 1 retains much of its 1866 furniture and fittings and is square in plan with clerestorey lighting and a timber panelled gallery supported on cast-iron columns. Long timber panelled bench with full-length sounding board supported on corbelled brackets. Raked pew seating, and timber jury box and witness stand. Dock with covered hatch over stairs leading to cells below. Timber dado lining, coffered ceiling with rosettes and central ventilator. Courtroom 2 with timber furniture and bench recess in alcove. Former Assembly Room in south wing retains Smirke scheme with remarkable white marble Greek Doric chimney piece with eagles holding mantelpiece. Panelled ceiling; arcaded walls. Many timber panelled doors and some decorative cornicing. Vaulted strongroom with fitted timber shelving units. Vaulted cells to basement.

Statement of Special Interest

Perth Sheriff Court dates to 1819 and is an outstanding example of Greek Revival architecture by the eminent London architect Sir Robert Smirke. It is situated on one of the major routes through Perth overlooking the River Tay to the East and is a significant piece of early 19th century civic architecture. The court is remarkable in retaining much decoration and fittings from the 19th century in particular an almost complete 1867 courtroom interior.

Perth Sheriff Court was built by Sir Robert Smirke in 1819 to replace the county and court functions of the old Tolbooth, and was remodelled internally in 1867 by David Smart. The building was first planned by Robert Reid as a county building with a jail to the rear. The jail was built, but the commission for the County Buildings went to Sir Robert Smirke. The building cost £32,000 and housed the justiciary court, a sheriff court and a county hall, together with associated judges' rooms, witness' rooms, and offices. The county hall is now office accommodation. The pillars used for the monumental portico were initially designed for Broomhall House in Fife, as part of an unexecuted portico there.

There was originally an underground passage linking the jail to the court. The jail to the rear was demolished in the 1960s and only part of the exercise yard wall remains.

Sir Robert Smirke (1780-1867) was one of the foremost architects of Greek Revival architecture in Britain. Based primarily in London, he started his practice in 1806 and was immediately successful, both for public and private clients. He is noted for building the first Greek Doric portico in Britain at the Covent Garden Theatre (1808-9). His work includes the British Museum (1823) and the Royal College of Physicians in Trafalgar Square (1822-5). Perth Sheriff Court was his only public building in 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. 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 'Tay Street, Sheriff Court'.



Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland: CANMORE ID 159771.

Thomson, J. and Johnson, W. Map (1820) Perth City Archives.

Wood, J. (1823) Plan of the city of Perth from Actual Survey. Edinburgh: J Wood.

Unknown (1824). Guide to Perth. 4th Edition. p.9-10.

The Scottish Civic Trust (1983) Historic Buildings at Work. Glasgow: The Scottish Civic Trust. p.217-218.

Haynes, N. (2000) Perth and Kinross, An Architectural Guide. Edinburgh: The Rutland Press. p.14.

Gifford, J. (2007) The Buildings of Scotland: Perth and Kinross. London and New Haven: Yale University Press. p.609.

Historic Scotland (2014) Scottish Courts Preliminary Report. at

Dictionary of Scottish Architects, Robert Smirke at [accessed 22 October 2014].

Other information courtesy of Scottish Court Service (2014).

About Listed Buildings

Listing is the way that a building or structure of special architectural or historic interest is recognised by law through the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997.

We list buildings of special architectural or historic interest using the criteria published in the Historic Environment Scotland Policy Statement.

The information in the listed building record gives an indication of the special architectural or historic interest of the listed building(s). It is not a definitive historical account or a complete description of the building(s). 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 only legal part of the listing is the address/name of site. Addresses and building names may have changed since the date of listing and if a number or name is missing from a listing address it may still be listed. Listing covers both the exterior and the interior and any object or structure fixed to the building. Listing can also cover structures not physically attached but which are part of the curtilage of the building, such as boundary walls, gates, gatepiers, ancillary buildings etc. The planning authority is responsible for advising on what is covered by the listing including the curtilage of a listed building. Since 1 October 2015 we have been able to exclude items from a listing. 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 Historic Environment Scotland Act 2014. 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 current legislation.

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Perth Sheriff Court and Justice of the Peace Court, north and east elevation, looking southwest, during daytime on an overcast day and with traffic lights in the foreground.
Interior of courtroom 1, Perth Sheriff Court and Justice of the Peace Court.

Printed: 17/02/2019 13:42