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Wick Sheriff Court

A Category B Listed Building in Wick, Highland

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Latitude: 58.442 / 58°26'31"N

Longitude: -3.0928 / 3°5'34"W

OS Eastings: 336303

OS Northings: 950928

OS Grid: ND363509

Mapcode National: GBR L6QD.XM6

Mapcode Global: WH6DN.G2GM

Plus Code: 9CCRCWR4+QV

Entry Name: Wick Sheriff Court

Listing Name: Wick Sheriff Court, excluding flat-roofed extension to southeast, Bridge Street, Wick

Listing Date: 14 September 1983

Last Amended: 10 September 2015

Category: B

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 405639

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB42300

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Wick

County: Highland

Town: Wick

Electoral Ward: Wick and East Caithness

Traditional County: Caithness

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David Rhind, 1862-66. 2 storey and attic, 3-bay, roughly rectangular plan Italianate court house. The large, flat-roofed late 20th century extension to southeast is not considered of special interest in listing terms at time of review. Tooled ashlar with polished ashlar dressings. Round arched central door set in paired pilastered doorpiece, flanked by pilastered and round arched flanking windows. Channelled pilasters to corners. Band course between ground and first floor. Bipartite round arched windows at first floor with balustrade, colonnettes and rosettes in centre spandrels. Dentilled and modillioned cornice with lion head masks. Blind arcaded parapet with tall end piers supporting ball finials between 2 aediculed dormers flanking a pilastered centre tower, with one window and mansard roof and cresting. Slate roof.

The interior, seen in 2014, is arranged with the court and public offices on ground floor and a south facing principal courtroom on the first floor accessed from a dog-leg cantilever stone stair with decorative barley sugar iron balusters and timber handrail. The stair hall is lit by a lantern roof light set in a coffered ceiling. The principal court has a tripartite cupola lightset in a elaborate coffered ceiling with moulded and decorative cornicing, flower motifs, scrolled corbels and ornate roses. It has public timber pew seating and timber panelled sheriff's bench with coat of arms above. Secondary rooms, offices and passages include decorative cornicing, roses and panelled doors, and a number of fireplaces (many now boarded up) with marble surrounds.

Statement of Interest

Wick Sheriff Court dates to 1862-66 and was designed by the successful architect David Rhind. Built from high quality materials, the building is a masterful composition of classical and Renaissance features with round arched entrance, the paired round arched windows at 1st floor to the courtroom and aediculed dormers flanking a pilastered centre tower. Internally, the court has been little altered and retains most of its original courtroom components and decorative features. The interior of the principal courtroom is well-detailed with a tripartite cupola light in the shallow-vaulted ceiling with good dentil cornice and plasterwork detailing, and is similar to Rhind earlier scheme at Jedburgh.

After 1860 the classical style for court houses was largely superseded by Scots Baronial for court house design, however a few court houses from this period, such as Wick, reaffirm the classical or Renaissance tradition for civic buildings. It is likely that this style was chosen for Wick Sheriff Court so that the new court house complemented the 1828 townhouse (see separate listing) which is directly adjacent to the southwest.

David Rhind (1808-1883) began training as an architect in circa 1828 in the offices of A C Pugin and completed his training in Italy. Working in a variety of styles from Gothic to Baronial to neoclassical, Rhind was a prominent designer of commercial buildings, particularly in his role as principal architect to the Commercial Bank of Scotland. Rhind served as an architect to the Prison Board and designed many courts, such as Dumfries (1863-5, category B) and Selkirk (1867, category B) (see separate listings).

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 large, flat-roofed late 20th century extension to the southeast is not considered of special interest in listing terms at the time of the review (2014-15).

Statutory address and listed building record revised as part of the Scottish Courts Listing Review 2014-15. Previously listed as 'Bridge Street, Sheriff Court'.

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