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Former Berwick Court House and Prison with attached wall and detached rear stable range

A Grade II Listed Building in Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.7721 / 55°46'19"N

Longitude: -2.0022 / 2°0'7"W

OS Eastings: 399960

OS Northings: 653194

OS Grid: NT999531

Mapcode National: GBR G1GP.BP

Mapcode Global: WH9YK.65TW

Plus Code: 9C7VQXCX+R4

Entry Name: Former Berwick Court House and Prison with attached wall and detached rear stable range

Listing Date: 26 July 2017

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1446315

Location: Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland, TD15

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Berwick-upon-Tweed

Built-Up Area: Berwick-upon-Tweed

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

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Berwick-Upon-Tweed

Summary


Court house and prison with attached wall 1846-1849, to the earlier designs of Thomas Brown; prison range extended 1867 by W J Gray. Building converted to offices 1891-1892 with further C20 and early-C21 alterations. Tudor-Jacobean style. Stable range 1891-1892. Not included in the listing are the single-storey C20/C21 extensions attached to the left and right returns and the former cartshed attached to the north side of the stable.

Description

Court house and prison with attached wall 1846-1849, to the earlier designs of Thomas Brown; prison range extended 1867 by W J Gray. Building converted to offices 1891-1892 with further later-C20 and early-C21 alterations. Tudor-Jacobean style. Stable range 1891-1892.

MATERIALS: yellow ashlar sandstone to the front range; red sandstone to the rear prison range and stable range. Slate roofs with stone gable copings.

PLAN: symmetrical front range comprising court house and associated functions including chapel, and staff accommodation. Attached to the rear is a rectangular prison range, and further to the rear a detached stable range.

EXTERIOR: the main west elevation has five wide bays of two storeys and attics under pitched roofs with flat roofs to the end towers. Bays two and four project forward. There are gables over the three centre bays and battlements to the corner towers. Windows are either four-over-four unhorned and horned sashes or one-over-one horned sashes, and all have hood moulds; there are also first floor and eaves strings. Double-height canted bay windows with castellated parapets occupy bays two and four, and the wider central bay has end projections rising to paired polygonal chimneys with a high gable between them and a tall ventilation chimney rising behind. There are paired windows to the ground floor with a plaque recording the Sanitation Board's residency to the parapet above, and a porch to the right with stepped groups of lights above. The towers to either side have narrow lights to each floor and battlements with corner chimney stacks. The rear prison range extends slightly to the right beyond the front range, with three storeys and a castellated parapet. The left and right returns contain separate entrances for staff an d public respectively. The staff entrance has short flanking stone walls and squat polygonal piers, and a six-panel door and overlight; the public entrance is blocked with an inserted window. The left return has an attached wall with copings and a stone band and a central opening with chamfered piers giving access to the former prison yard.

The three-storey plain prison wing has a pitched roof with watertables, ridge and gable chimneys and an attached castellated corridor range. The rear elevation retains its original rhythm of three rows of eleven windows, six of which are original cell windows with bars; all others have been enlarged. Set to the rear of the prison yard there is a detached stable range with a pitched roof, numerous stable door and window openings and a tall chimney to the south east corner.

INTERIOR: the original plan of the building has seen some alteration but overall is readable, and original mid-C19 room functions are used throughout this description.

Front range: court house and staff accommodation -

Ground floor: the staff side entrance in the left return opens into a lobby with a plaster cornice, and a pair of six-panel doors to small compartments, originally a store and WC (a similar lobby to the former public entrance in the right return retains a plaster cornice). An entrance with panelled reveals and an over-light opens onto the staff winder staircase; this has an open string with cast-iron barley sugar balusters and newel post and a wooden ramped handrail. The former matron's parlour to the right has a plaster cornice, and shutters to its bay window; the location of a fireplace marked on the plans is obscured by modern panelling. The former witness room, police court and reception cells have been opened out to create an irregularly shaped large space with a suspended ceiling, and the former court is further divided by a modern partition. The plain public stair to the first floor has cast-iron balusters and handrail. An inserted late-C19 timber, open-well staircase with simple stick balusters occupies the location of the former matron's bedroom and keeper's office.

First floor: the public stair hall has a curved end wall and gives direct entry to a pair of linked debtors' rooms: the smaller with panelled shutters to its windows and a corner fireplace and the larger with an arched strong room in the thickness of the wall. The former double-height chapel has a raised floor accessed by a short, modern stair and has been subdivided into two rooms with late-C19 plaster cornices, simple architraves and boarded reveals to the windows; it has also been truncated by the insertion of a second floor above. The linked former chaplain's room retains a plaster cornice, shutters to its bay window and a timber chimney piece with a cast-iron grate. The plan of the former keeper's apartment remains largely intact and there are simple plaster cornices, shutters, panelled reveals and soffits to many of the doorways. The parlour also has a pair of original six-panel doors. The kitchen has a 21-light window overlooking the staircase and a timber C19 chimney piece with glazed-tile insert and panelled shutters to the window. The bedroom and parlour have simple timber chimney pieces and the latter also has a pair of original six-panel doors.

Second floor: the curved end stair hall gives entry to the under keeper's rooms, both with six-panel doors, cornices, shutters and simple corner timber fireplaces. The former keeper's apartment extends up to this floor and has shutters, some six-panel doors, further cornices and timber chimney pieces. A short C20 staircase leads to an inserted attic room above the former chapel; the original vaulted chapel ceiling remains with plaster cornices to the eaves, upper gables and ridge.

Rear range: prison block; the three floors largely retain their overall original plan of corridor/gallery with separate cells off. The original corridor ceilings are obscured by suspended ceilings, but one arched plaster roof truss supported on plaster corbels is visible to the ground floor and the corbels of others are visible to the first floor. The outline of the matron's bedroom canted bay window is retained in the profile of the ground floor west wall. Original C19 cell doors have mostly been replaced with modern doors, although four examples survive to the second floor which also retains a plain cast-iron railing to the former gallery. The arched ceilings of most cells remain although some cells to the lower two floors have been knocked through to create larger spaces and some openings infilled or enlarged. The double hospital cells remain.

Stable range: this has a floor of setts and a queen-post roof structure of sawn timbers. Original fittings include six timber stalls, two of which retain timber mangers and three retain water troughs. Opposite each stall is a timber shelf with metal supports and shaped wooden hooks for hanging tack.

Pursuant to s1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) it is declared that inserted later C20/early C21 panelling, suspended ceilings, doors and fire doors, glazed screens and sanitary facilities are not of special architectural or historic interest.

History

As early as 1837 there were proposals to replace the existing C18 Berwick Gaol with a purpose-built court house and prison. Attempts to purchase land in 1841 were unsuccessful but regardless of the lack of a building site, a new building was designed by Thomas Brown of Edinburgh which was to be built by Adam Young of Kelso at a cost of £7000. Original plans (1844) were subsequently amended (1847) after the site on Wallace Green was purchased. Construction on the Wallace Green site began in late 1846 and the building opened on 26 November 1849. This was always a very controversial project with many residents opposing the great extravagance which it was thought would be better spent improving domestic sanitation within the town. The new building is depicted on the 1:528 Berwick Town Plan published in 1855 annotated 'court house and prison': it comprises a front range courthouse and a rear range prison block with a pair of exercise yards.

Original plans show the internal configuration of spaces. Within the prison wing female prisoners are housed in a linear range of cells with a washing house and bathroom and a double-cell hospital to the ground floor accessed off a corridor. Male prisoners are housed in a similar arrangement to the upper floors with an open iron gallery to the second floor. The court house range has a ground floor court and a witness waiting room, accessed by a separate public entrance and lobby. Staff rooms including matron's accommodation are accessed off a separate staff entrance and lobby. The first floor is reached via separate staff and public staircases and at its centre is a double-height chapel with adjoining chaplain's room and debtors' rooms. There is also a self-contained keeper's apartment and office, the latter overlooking the prison corridor. The chapel and keeper's apartment extend to the second floor, which also contains the under keeper's room and a store. The building was equipped with an innovative ‘passive air conditioning’ system of heated ventilating shafts.

In 1867 the prison wing was extended by local architect W J Gray, resulting in reconstruction of one of the exercise yards. By 1878 the court house and prison had gone out of use and the building was purchased by the town council for £1138; between 1891 and 1892 it was converted to offices for the Urban Sanitary Authority resulting in the insertion of a new entrance through the west elevation and various internal alterations. The rear exercise yards were replaced by a new stable and cartshed with hayloft to facilitate the work of the Sanitary Board. Late-C20 and early-C21 alterations include small single-storey extensions to the south and east elevations and the insertion of some modern openings, doors, lightweight partitions and inserted ceilings to office areas.

Thomas Brown (1806-1872) began his architectural career in his father's firm and probably worked in the office of William Burn prior to being appointed as architect to the Prison Board of Scotland in 1837 when he set up an independent office in Edinburgh. He therefore had extensive experience in designing county court houses and prisons and produced standard prison designs, working on more than twenty examples in Scotland, almost all of which are listed. Brown's prisons took on board the suggestions of the prison reformers and were built to reflect contemporary ideas of observation and control, with solitary rather than mass confinement in a hygienic environment and with an emphasis on rehabilitation. Many designs could be easily enlarged by extending the cell corridor. Thomas Brown is the leading prison architect of the C19 in Scotland. Berwick is his only prison and court in England.

Reasons for Listing

The former Berwick Court House and Prison of 1846-1849 by Thomas Brown is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* an accomplished courthouse and prison design by the leading Scottish prison designer of the period;
* a distinctive composition that has a well-crafted and good quality exterior incorporating several of Brown's trademark features;
* it retains a readable original layout in which the three distinct functional spaces (prison, court and domestic accommodation) are clearly defined;
* significant internal fixtures remain throughout the building including joinery, fireplaces and plaster work;
* it retains a relatively rare survival of an urban stable possessing significant horse-related features including timber mangers and water troughs.

Historic interest:

* Thomas Brown's only prison commission in England, illustrating the impact of Scottish influence on Berwick's architectural development;
* a mid-C19 design that illustrates reformed Scottish principles of prison building that were not widely adopted for local prisons in England until the later C19.
Group value:

* the building benefits from a functional group value with the listed Old Berwick Jail and the police station and magistrate's court, which taken together represent the development and reform of crime and punishment from the mid-C18 to the early C20;
* Berwick court house and prison benefits from spatial group value with a number of surrounding listed buildings lining Wallace Green and The Parade.

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