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Heritage Tour - Armagh Courthouse

This is a photograph of Armagh Courthouse

Armagh Courthouse
(Grade A listed building)

In the ancient city of Armagh, at the northwest end of the Mall stands Armagh Courthouse. The courthouse, which retains a major focus in the centre of the city, was built in 1809 and was designed in the Georgian classical style by Mr Frances Johnston, a distinguished architect born in Armagh in 1761. Mr Johnston designed many beautiful buildings throughout Ireland such as the Armagh observatory and the Armagh museum, not to mention the Post Office in Dublin (the focus of the 1916 Easter rising).

EXTERIOR

This is an exterior photograph of Armagh Courthouse The exterior design is Georgian in style with the classical Portico consisting of four finely proportioned columns and a beautiful entablature and pediment. The main entrance is approached by a flight of steps surrounding the Portico.

The front elevation is finished in Armagh marble, with circular headed windows, double hung sashes and stone dressings. The elevation facing the Mall is finished in coursed ashlars and the cornice is continued across the front and side elevation.

'This controlled, symmetric, classical composition, clearly and simply proclaims order and the rule of law to all the populace' (Buildings of Armagh: Wilson and Weatherup)

INTERIOR

Armagh has an interior of as much merit and interest as its exterior. The central hall is not in fact central, it is (by several feet) off-centre. It contains two scrolled porticos leading to the courtrooms, each interior door case of severely impaired Doric pilasters is contained within a tall arch, supported on fluted pilasters swirling in exaggerated pilasters with oak leaf capitals. The cornice and freeze incorporate guttae, mutules and swags and the central circular roof light have finely moulded floral plasterwork.

This is a photograph of the inner hall.The inner hall contains a fine divided staircase. Here the corners of the cornice have been coved, the curves carried elegantly on bunches of feathers. At the head of the staircase, a wide segmental arch gives access to what was formerly the Grand Jury corridor and at either side is a scalloped niche with good plaster detailing - consoles, oak and olive leaves.

This is a photograph of a circular lunette

In the centre of the gallery is a circular lunette incorporating a cadaverous bust carved by JK Jones of Edward Tickell KC (Assistant Barrister for Co. Armagh for 1830 to 1858.)

The two large grand jury rooms boast tent coved ceilings with delicate plasterwork, incorporating in the former, arrows and scales of justice, in the latter, cornucopia and festoons, in each case surrounded by entwined sprays of oak and olive. Each room have a plain marble chimney piece and an impressive chandelier.

This is an interior photograph of Armagh Courthouse This is a photograph of a jury room in Armagh Courthouse This is a photograph of the ceiling in Armagh Courthouse

Light frames each courtroom through tall arched windows framed in fluted pilasters, each has a very strongly carved anthemion-console canopy over the Judges chair. In the Crown Court this is surmounted by a fine, crude, gaily painted lion and unicorn supporting the royal arms. The jury gallery is finished with corkscrew balusters.

This is a photograph of a courtroom in Armagh Courthouse This is a photograph of a courtroom in Armagh Courthouse This is a photograph of a court room in Armagh Courthouse

Armagh courthouse underwent complete reconstruction in the mid 1960s and by 1971 plasterwork, staircase, balusters and most of the woodwork had been skilfully replaced. Further restorative work was carried out after 3 September 1993 when a 1000 lb bomb exploded directly outside the courthouse causing major structural damage to the roof façade and walls. The main courtrooms were damaged and in the force of the blast one of the pillars was moved back a full 9 inches. Courtrooms were refurbished and a new 3-storey extension was added to the rear. An extensive programme of reconstruction and enlargement costing £8 million ensued under the direction of Stephen Leighton and on 15 Jan 1999 the courthouse was officially opened by the Lord Chancellor.

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