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Heritage Tour - Londonderry Courthouse

This is an image of Londonderry Courthouse

Londonderry Courthouse
(Grade B listed building)

The courthouse in Londonderry resides within the historic walls of the city and is one of the architectural jewels of the area. Situated on Bishop Street and relatively close to the Diamond, the courthouse is built on slightly elevated land and therefore gives a clear avenue of sight down to the Shipquay Street Gate and further on to the banks of the Foyle.

This is an image of Londonderry Courthouse

Behind the courthouse lies the imposing edifice of Saint Columb’s Cathedral, the first in the British Isles to be constructed after the Reformation and is a fine example of the local “Planters’ Gothic” style.

The building of the Londonderry Courthouse was completed nearly 200 years ago in 1817, at a cost of over £30,000, from an architectural design by John Bowden. Most of the building was constructed using local sandstone from the Dungiven area.

Exterior

The structure proves to be an excellent example of a neo-classical building, using the architectural style of “Greek Revival”. The entrance incorporates a portico of four Greek classical “Ionic” columns, distinguishable from “Doric” or “Corinthian” pillars by its capital of a spiral scroll. A pediment sits on top of the columns, and on top of the pediment there is a representation of the royal coat of arms. To the left hand side of the coats of arms, a lion roars out on to Bishop Street. To the right hand side sits a proud and majestic unicorn with a long slim horn of bronze.

Statutes representing Justice and Peace surmount the building. These where not part of the original plans of the architect, but placed there at a later date. Edward Smyth using imported Portland stone rather than the local sandstone sculpted these statues. The original architect, John Bowden had planned to put a Greek inscription translating to “ This is the eye of Justice that sees all things” in and around the pediment, but in the end, this was not executed.

On either side of the entrance are two wings incorporating “Doric” pilasters. Again, the “Doric” columns can be distinguished from “Ionic” and “Corinthian” by having a plain capital and no base. A block of offices was added to the structure in 1836 and a major refurbishment was carried out in the 1990s with an extra courtroom being added, along with new accommodation for the staff.

Interior

This 200 year old courthouse is one of the oldest in the Court Service estate and is a grade B listed building. In addition three out of the four courtrooms are also listed.  Listed on a plaque in the main hall are the names of all those who have held the office of High Sheriff from 1900.  These plagues are colourfully decorated with the city's Coat of Arms residing above the office holders names.

This is an image of the plaque in Londonderry Courthouse

The main hall leads directly to the entrances to the two original courtrooms. Both entrances to these courtrooms have fine Doric pillars either side of the doors. The rear wall of the main hall has a plaster rendition of a laurel crossed by a sword and the Royal Mace. On top of the laurel sits the scales of justice. The courtrooms have been much altered over the last 200 years, although the two original courtrooms still rise up as though funnelled into their tall roof-lanterns high above. Out of all the courtrooms, No 1 court is the most architecturally impressive, with a twelve windowed skylight set high above the court and surrounded in delicate plaster work. A regal canopy sits above the judge’s chair and the room has a balcony surround, supported with pillars emblazoned with oak leaves. A reference to the city’s ancient name of the "Oak Grove".

This is an image of the ceiling in Londonderry Courthouse This is an image of a court room in Londonderry Courthouse This is an image of the plaster rendition of a laurel crossed by a sword and the Royal Mace. This is an image of a court room in Londonderry Courthouse

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