History in Structure

This site is entirely user-supported. See how you can help.

Forfar Sheriff Court House including steps, boundary walls and piers, Market Street and Brechin Road, Forfar

A Category B Listed Building in Forfar, Angus

We don't have any photos of this building yet. Why don't you be the first to send us one?

Upload Photo »

Approximate Location Map
Large Map »


Latitude: 56.6499 / 56°38'59"N

Longitude: -2.8873 / 2°53'14"W

OS Eastings: 345688

OS Northings: 751251

OS Grid: NO456512

Mapcode National: GBR VM.459B

Mapcode Global: WH7QL.M38Y

Entry Name: Forfar Sheriff Court House including steps, boundary walls and piers, Market Street and Brechin Road, Forfar

Listing Date: 11 June 1971

Last Amended: 9 September 2015

Category: B

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 405633

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB31609

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Forfar

County: Angus

Town: Forfar

Electoral Ward: Forfar and District

Traditional County: Angus

Find accommodation in


James Maitland Wardrop; 1869-71. 2-storey and attic, 7-bay, symmetrical U-plan court house in Flemish-Baronial style with 2-storey rectangular-plan former police station adjoined to northeast corner, on elevated site overlooking town. Squared and snecked red sandstone with ashlar dressings. Base course and cill course at first floor. Band course between second floor and attic. Crenellated parapet. Crowstepped gables with decorative finials. Bipartite windows with tripartite windows to advanced gables, all with stone mullions and transoms. Hoodmouldings, with those to ground floor windows stepped and incorporating armorial panels. Gabled and bargeboarded, timber dormers.

Principal (south) elevation with 2-storey 5-bay centre flanked by advanced crowstepped gables with diagonally set, crocketed pinnacles and mock griffon gargoyles to base. Four-centred arched doorway at centre, flanked by buttressed piers topped with bracketed balcony at first floor with pierced quatrefoil parapet and panelled piers topped with ball urns and griffons to base. Carved armorial panel above central first floor window and below crowstepped gable. Circular tower at centre of west elevation with arcaded and rope-moulded eaves course incorporating carved griffons, and topped by candle snuffer roof with weathervane. Crowstepped gabled porch to east elevation.

Former police station with first floor windows breaking wallhead with triangular dormerheads and finials. Entrance in re-entrant angle with rope-moulded hoodmould.

Timber-framed, sash and case windows. Slate roof. Ridge stacks rising into octagonal flues. Corniced stacks to gables of rear elevation.

Interior, seen in 2014, is arranged around a south-facing courtroom at first floor characterised by panelled fixtures and fittings. Half-turn stone staircase with decorative cast-iron balustrade topped by timber handrail. Coombed ceiling over staircases. 2-leaf door to courtroom 1 set in deep architrave with panelled jambs. Courtroom 1 with panelled timber Judge's bench, witness box, dock, well barrier and to dado height on walls. Replacement public seating. Timber panelling to jury box is not original but in a similar style. Carved stone coat of arms at centre of south wall. Hammerbeam timber roof trusses on carved stone corbels with thistle, rose, shamrock and daffodil motifs. Quatrefoil carved timber to ceiling vents. Courtroom 2 (at first floor to southeast corner) with timber boarding and panelling to dado and moulded cornice. Courtroom 3 (at ground floor to left of main entrance) has late 20th century fixtures and fittings. Replacement public seating in courtroom 3. Some timber fireplaces and moulded cornicing to ancillary rooms. Round arched openings to corridors, some with later panelled doors. Panelled timber doors in moulded architraves. Some windows with splayed architraves and panelled timber window shutters.

Curved imperial entrance stairs with coped, squared and coursed masonry walls extended along Market Street with chamfered square piers topped with pyramidal caps. High rubble wall with round cope to rear of court house.

Statement of Interest

Designed by the prolific court architect James Maitland Wardrop in 1869-71, Forfar Sheriff Court is a significant example of civic architecture. The court house has a wealth of good Flemish-baronial detailing, including crowstepped gables, a turret, carved griffon and a balustrade balcony over the entrance. Internally the building retains much of it mid-19th century decorative scheme and plan form, including finely detailed timberwork to the main courtroom such as the roof trusses. The court house is a landmark building in Forfar as it is prominently positioned on an elevated site overlooking the town centre.

Forfar Sheriff Court was designed by James Maitland Wardrop of Brown and Wardrop. The foundation stone was laid on 5 August 1869 by the Earl of Dalhousie and the building was opened on 2 February 1871 by Sheriff Robertson. Adjoining the northeast corner are the former offices for the Forfarshire County Constabulary, which included accommodation for the Superintendent on the first floor. In 1869 the Sheriff Principal was required to be based in the county town and the carved plaques over the ground floor windows indicate the jurisdiction of this court house, with an A for Arbroath, D for Dundee, B for Brechin and M for Montrose. Dundee was within the county of Forfarshire and did not have its own sheriff.

The court house was constructed adjacent to the former county jail of 1842-3 (rebuilt as offices in 1884) (see separate listing). This court house replaced an 1823 court house on Castle Street.

James Maitland Wardrop (1823-1882) was articled to Thomas Brown, becoming a partner in the practice in 1849. As architect to the Prison Board of Scotland, Brown had extensive experience in designing county court houses and prisons, the design work of which Wardrop gradually took over, including the court houses of Wigtown (1862), Alloa (1863), Forfar (1869) and Stirling (designed 1866, built 1874) (see separate listings). The practice was also highly successful at remodelling and designing country houses, with their work accomplished examples of the Franco-Baronial style and later pioneering examples of neo-Georgian. Their Franco-Baronial style was undoubtedly influenced from previously working in the office of David Bryce, and Wardrop became a serious rival to him.

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.

Statutory address and listed building record revised as part of the Scottish Courts Listing Review 2014-15. Previously listed as 'Sheriff Court House, County Buildings, Market Street and Brechin Road'.

Recommended Books

Other nearby listed buildings

BritishListedBuildings.co.uk is an independent online resource and is not associated with any government department. All government data published here is used under licence. Please do not contact BritishListedBuildings.co.uk for any queries related to any individual listed building, planning permission related to listed buildings or the listing process itself.

British Listed Buildings is a Good Stuff website.