The Victoria Law Courts is a red brick and terracotta judicial building, which accommodates Birmingham Magistrates' Court, on Corporation Street, Birmingham, England. It is a Grade I listed building.[1][2]

Victoria Law Courts, Birmingham
General information
TypeMagistrates' court
Architectural styleVictorian
LocationCorporation Street, Birmingham, England
Coordinates52°29′0.75″N 1°53′36″W / 52.4835417°N 1.89333°W / 52.4835417; -1.89333
Construction started1887
Completed1891, (+1894, 1914)
Design and construction
Architect(s)Aston Webb & Ingress Bell
Main contractorJohn Bowen and Sons
Awards and prizesGrade I listed
Listed Building – Grade I
Designated21 January 1970
Reference no.1075605

History edit

The Great Hall of Birmingham's Victoria Law Courts; serves as the main public entrance to the building

For much of the 19th century, criminal court cases were heard in the Public Office in Moor Street.[3] However, in the early 1880s, as the number of court cases in Birmingham grew, the judicial authorities decided it was necessary to have a dedicated courthouse.[4][5] The site they selected on Corporation Street had been occupied by the old Birmingham Workhouse, which had been built in 1734[6] and cleared away as part of a larger scheme by the mayor, Joseph Chamberlain, to demolish old slums.[7]

The foundation stone was laid by Queen Victoria on 23 March 1887 in her Golden Jubilee year.[8][9] Designed by Aston Webb & Ingress Bell of London after an open competition, assessed by architect Alfred Waterhouse, to provide the first assize courts in Birmingham, it is faced entirely in deep red terracotta from the clay of Ruabon in North Wales[10] and covered in intricate terracotta ornamentation. The design involved an asymmetrical main frontage facing Corporation Street, with a symmetrical centre section, a long wing with two gables to the left and a single gabled bay to the right. The central section featured a large round headed main entrance with multiple hood moulds flanked by turrets and, beyond that, by octagonal towers with conical roofs. A statue of Queen Victoria by Harry Bates surmounts the main entrance.[10] Other figures are by sculptor William Silver Frith to designs by Walter Crane.[10]

Built by Birmingham firm John Bowen and Sons, the courts were opened by the Prince and Princess of Wales on 21 July 1891.[8] Additions were made adding a projecting bow window on the left between 1891 and 1894 and extensions were erected along Newton Street in 1914.[10]

The interior, including the Great Hall, is faced with sandy-yellow terracotta and intricate ornamentation. The terracotta used for the interior was produced by Gibbs and Canning of Tamworth.[10]

Crown Court trials, i.e. criminal cases involving trial by judge and jury, moved to the Queen Elizabeth II Law Courts in Dalton Street in 1987.[11]

A proposal was made, prior to the 2010 UK General Election, to move the magistrates' court to a new purpose-built building nearby.[12] The project was subsequently abandoned after HM Courts Service had its budget cut and after magistrates indicated their desire to remain in the Victoria Law Courts complex.[13]

References edit

  1. ^ Historic England. "Victoria Law Courts (Grade I) (1075605)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 27 June 2014.
  2. ^ Historic England. "Photograph and details from listed building text (1075605)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 27 June 2006.
  3. ^ Dent, Robert Kirkup (1894). The Making of Birmingham: Being a History of the Rise and Growth of the Midland Metropolis. J. L. Allday. p. 301. Retrieved 14 February 2022.
  4. ^ Wallsgrove, Jon (2019). The Architecture of Law Courts. Paragon Publishing. p. 54. ISBN 978-1782227021.
  5. ^ Rudge, Ted; Joseph, Mac; Houghton, John (2010). Birmingham Up Town Through Time. Amberley Publishing. ISBN 978-1445626949.
  6. ^ "Records of City Hospital, Birmingham, previously known as Birmingham Workhouse Infirmary and Dudley Road Hospital". Calmview. Retrieved 23 January 2023.
  7. ^ "Birmingham's Hidden Spaces: Victoria Law Courts became jewel in 'terracotta city'". Business Live. 17 December 2014. Retrieved 23 January 2023.
  8. ^ a b McCarthy, Nick (27 December 2008). "Uncertain future for Birmingham courts landmark". Birmingham Evening Mail. Retrieved 27 December 2008.
  9. ^ "Birmingham: The Queen's Visit". The Illustrated London News. 26 March 1887. p. 337. Retrieved 23 January 2023.
  10. ^ a b c d e Forster, Andy (2005). Pevsner Architectural Guides - Birmingham. Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-10731-5.
  11. ^ Mulcahy, Linda; Rowden, Emma (2019). The Democratic Courthouse: A Modern History of Design, Due Process and Dignity. Taylor and Francis. ISBN 978-0429558689.
  12. ^ "Plans for new Birmingham magistrates court revealed". Birmingham Post. 19 November 2008. Retrieved 22 January 2023.
  13. ^ "Birmingham lawyers say new magistrates court is not needed". Business Live. 21 June 2010. Retrieved 23 January 2023.