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Paisley Sheriff Court

A Category A Listed Building in Paisley, Renfrewshire

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Latitude: 55.8486 / 55°50'55"N

Longitude: -4.4268 / 4°25'36"W

OS Eastings: 248162

OS Northings: 664379

OS Grid: NS481643

Mapcode National: GBR 3K.4GRX

Mapcode Global: WH3P5.Z846

Plus Code: 9C7QRHXF+F7

Entry Name: Paisley Sheriff Court

Listing Name: Paisley Sheriff Court and Justice of the Peace Court, excluding 3-storey extension to north, St James Street, Paisley

Listing Date: 26 February 1971

Last Amended: 9 September 2015

Category: A

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 405609

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB39103

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Paisley

County: Renfrewshire

Town: Paisley

Electoral Ward: Paisley Northwest

Traditional County: Renfrewshire

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William Clarke and George Bell, 1885 with addition by George Bell, 1890 and extended to Love Street after 1891 by Thomas Graham Abercrombie. Imposing classical U-plan court house consisting of 1885 2-storey, 7-bay, L-plan symmetrical building to left with linking bay to 1890 2-storey, 7-bay asymmetrical, L-plan former County building with prominent Ionic pedimented portico to right. The 3-storey extension to the north is not considered to be special in listing terms at time of review. Situated on prominent corner site with 3-storey, 11-bay return elevation Love Street. Ashlar, channelled at ground. Base course, cill courses, cornice and parapet with urns to left.

1885 building to left has advanced end bays with linking balustraded Doric colonnade with steps leading to advanced central porch with mutuled frieze. Central key-stoned round-arched doorway. Windows within the colonnade have architraves rising from the floor and recessed panelled aprons and there are lugged architraves, carved friezes and consoled cornices to the centre windows above. Windows to the end bays are tripartite with square colonettes between. The upper storey windows have decorated friezes, consoled cornices and flanking paired Ionic pilasters. Single archway to far left.

The 1890 building to the right has a prominent advanced 3-bay portico to off-centre right with Ionic columns rising from first floor to pediment with sculpted frieze behind by F W Pomeroy depicting Greek mythological figures. Advanced Doric-columned porch to left. Architraves to first storey windows.

Predominantly plate-glass in timber sash and case windows. Grey slates.

The interior was seen in 2014. The long rectangular entrance hall contains Doric columns supporting a surrounding balcony with decorative metal railings. The court house was refurbished in 1998 and the main staircase and part of this entrance hall balcony dates from this period. Courtroom 1 to the rear is the original 1885 court and has clerestorey windows and an imposing pedimented timber bench with elaborately carved consoles to sounding board. The courtroom retains its late 19th century raked public timber pew seating and some former timber jury pews. There is a coffered ceiling and cornice. Steps lead directly to the cells from the dock. Courtroom 8 is the former council chambers and there is extensive, elaborate oak panelling to the walls and semi-barrel-vaulted ceiling with paired pedestalled Ionic columns at either end, flanking a stone fire place and the former entrance door. Sculpted figurative panels around room, depicting mythological figures working in local trades. Other rooms and halls with decorative cornicing, panelled timber doors, and carved fire surrounds. Open-well staircase with carved timber banister.

There is a low boundary wall with iron railings to the south elevation with a pair of octagonal gatepiers at the entrance.

Statement of Interest

Paisley Sheriff Court is the combination of an 1885 sheriff court by William Clarke and George Bell and an 1890 county buildings by George Bell, which was extended after 1891 by the Paisley architect Thomas Graham Abercrombie. It was one of the last 19th century large courts to be built in the grand classical style, with a highly distinctive and prominent portico and fine decorative detailing. It is an important and striking building in this busy area of Paisley. Internally, the court house has a wealth of decorative detailing, particularly the exceptional oak- lined courtroom 8.

Paisley Sheriff Court was built at a cost of £23,000. The court was previously accommodated in the former county buildings, which was situated on the east side County Square in the centre of Paisley. There was a prison to the rear of this building, which was demolished in 1968.

The County Buildings, built to the immediate east of the court house in 1890 and extended after 1891, was taken over by the Scottish Court Service in the 1970s and considerable substantial refurbishment work was carried out in 1998, when a new stair was built and the reception hall opened out to link the two buildings. The former county hall is now courtroom 8.

The practice of William Clarke and George Bell ran between 1841 and 1903 and was based in Glasgow. The two architects met while working for William Burn and had early success in the competition design for the City and County Buildings and second Merchants' House in Glasgow (1841-5). The practice was a prolific and highly regarded one. Their work spanned many types of premises, from large public buildings and schools to private houses.

Frederick William Pomeroy (1856-1924) was born in London and was an early sculptor member of the Arts and Crafts movement. A member of the Royal Academy, his work can be seen throughout Britain, with perhaps his most famous being the statue of Justice on the Old Bailey in London.

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 early 1990s 3-storey extension to the north is not considered to be of special in listing terms at the time of review (2014-15)

Statutory address and listed building record revised as part of the Scottish Courts Listing Review 2014-15. Previously listed as 2 separate listings: 'St James Street Sheriff Court House' and 'St James Street, Procurator Fiscal's Office'.

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