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Heritage Tour - Omagh Courthouse

Omagh Courthouse
(Grade A listed building)

This is an image of Omagh Courthouse

The Omagh Courthouse was built in 1820 at a cost of £17,000 to an architectural plan by John Hargreaves. It is situated on elevated site, at 300 feet above sea level, the highest ground in the town. It was constructed on the site of the old gaol and commands a fine view of the town. From the front steps, one has a clear avenue of sight down High Street, through Market Street and passed the bridge over the Drumragh River on to the Campsie Road which links Omagh to Cookstown.

This imposing building is yet another fine example of a neo-classical edifice using the “Greek Revival” style which enjoyed a period of great popularity in the late 18th and early 19th century.  The material used in the construction of the courthouse was local sandstone quarried for Kirlish, eight miles outside of the town and close to the town of Dromore.

Exterior

The entrance to the building has a portico of four “Doric” Greek classical pillars, distinguishable from other Greek columns by its plain capital at the top of the pillar.

On top of these pillars rests the pediment, a triangular structure that rests on top of the pillars. Within the pediment a clock resides a clock and surmounting the pediment is the Royal Coat of Arms, with the two heraldic beasts of the lion and unicorn resting either side with their heads proudly raised.

To the left of the front entrance one can see a slight difference in the colour of the stonework, this is due to this part of the building being added on as an administrative block at a later date, although it still continues with the same architectural theme. Looking at the courthouse from the High Street it becomes more apparent that a new structure has been added to the original bulding, as there is a distinctive seam running down the roof.

Just around the corner, to the right hand side of the building and above one of the fanlight windows in a square, resides a small statute of Justice holding a set of scales. No one knows the origin of the statue, but it is believed to be possibly 17th century.This is an image of the Statue of Justice at Omagh Courthouse

The building is surrounded by iron railings, which although part of the original design, had been removed during the Second World War, due to the shortage of metal needed for the armaments industry. The railings were eventually replaced in 1985.

The courthouse has twelve steps leading to the front entrance, but it was rumoured that it had originally had thirteen and one of them was removed due to the ironic coincidence, that at the time, this was the same number of steps that lead to the gallows. It can be envisaged that some of the sentences imposed by the court, could have indeed been the death penalty. However, there is no evidence to support this colourful rumour.

Interior

The two downstairs courtrooms are similar in construction with high ceilings and multi-framed skylights. Behind the judges' bench in both courtrooms are wood panelled walls housing a canopy with fine wood detail and supported by two Doric pilasters. In the centre of the pilasters and just below the canopy resides the Royal Coat of Arms. The main difference between Courtrooms 1 and 2, is that Court 1 is slightly larger and also has a wooden balcony at the back of the room.

This is an image of courtroom 1 in Omagh Courthouse This is an imagh of courtroom 2 in Omagh Courthouse This is an image of courtroom 3 in Omagh Courthouse

The third Courtroom, located on the floor above, is the most interesting of the three. Again one is focused towards the judges' bench with the Royal Coat of Arms placed above the door to the judge's chamber. On either side of the Coat of Arms are two proper Corinthian columns (that is, they incorporate a capital at the top of the rounded pillars representing "Acanthus" leaves) with two outer columns with Corinthian capitals but squared pillars.

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