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The Heidelberg Museum

The old court house, which is now the Museum of the Heidelberg Historical Society, was opened in 1900, replacing an earlier wooden structure. In the 1960s, the red brick building was judged to be inadequate and was replaced by a modern one further down Jika Street.

The Museum Today

As you enter the Museum from the front door, galleries extend on either side. At one time, the galleries had attractive lead-light windows. The roof was covered with slates and the building fronted with a picket fence.
The main area was the body of the court. The magistrates bench faces the visitor imposingly. To the right is the witness box and to the left, the dock, in which the accused would be seated. This is our main exhibition area.
Display cases contain items that refer to pioneers, early transport, houses, churches, sport, cultural organisations, hotels and famous people. Special exhibitions from time to time provide an in-depth focus on a particular theme (eg, an object, a person, a place or an event).
Behind the Magistrate's Bench, a passage leads to the Research Room, which houses early newspapers, cuttings, books and brochures and our large collection of photographs. Visitors can ask one of the museum staff if they wish to delve into our files and documents. Materials can be photocopied on request, at a small charge.

You can Contribute to the Museum

The Society is always on the lookout for items of relevance to Heidelberg's history. If you have old photographs, papers, brochures, maps that you would be prepared to donate, they would be gratefully received. If you have information regarding our district history, or if you have been engaged in projects or research, we would very much appreciate a copy of your work for preservation in our archives.

Heidelberg Courthouse 100 Years Ago

Our Court House - Museum : 100 Years Old.
from 'Heidelberg Historian' No 197, April 2000
On Monday 2 April 1900, an historic event took place in Heidelberg, the opening of the then new Heidelberg Courthouse, before a gathering of councillors and the shire officers, and perhaps some parliamentarians and members of the legal profession. It was a quiet enough occasion for the growing township, but the fine new brick building was an adornment to the place, a far cry from what was there for the magistrates and court officials throughout the previous forty years. The old building had been shifted across the road and now formed part of the Heidelberg Shire Offices. For the past few months, it had housed the new Heidelberg Public Library.
The old courthouse was completely unsuitable, far too small and inadequate for court purposes. A new one was planned in 1896, and following Council requests and deputations and the efforts of the local MP, Mr M.J.S. Gair, the new courthouse was promised in 1898, when the Government was prepared to build a new brick building for a cost of £1700. This was later modified to £1200 by the Premier, Sir George Turner, who was known for his efforts to save costs wherever he could.
In July 1899 the old courthouse was donated to the Shire and moved across the road, again through the efforts of Mr Gair, and attached to the Shire Offices. The business of the court then moved temporarily to the Sir Henry Barkly Hotel while work began on the new building. When the old building was in place, it was arranged that it be used as a public library, as well as for meetings by such groups as the Australian Natives Association.
The foundation stone of the new courthouse was laid on 4 October 1899, and work continued throughout the summer, in time for the opening and first court on 2 April 1900. Accounts of the opening appear in Articles 2 and 3 below.
The courthouse continued in use until 1979 when a new modern courthouse was built in Jika Street nearby. With the help of our local member, Bruce Skeggs, and the Minister for Public Works, the Hon. Roberts Dunstan, the Heidelberg Historical Society was able to acquire the old building for our Museum.
The large elongated octagonal court room with its magistrate's desk, witness stand and prisoner's dock retained, became the Museum's main display room. Larger items are displayed in the former vestibules on either side of the main entrance porch. The research room occupies what was the clerk of court's office, which also has a bench where people would pay their fines or conduct their legal business. The committee room and kitchen was formerly the magistrate's retiring room. The prisoner's room behind the prisoner's dock is used for storage of artifacts, and another room behind this, also used for storage, was the barrister's room. The room to the right was for female witnesses, and was also used as a second court room.

Courthouse Opens in 1900

New Courthouse at Heidelberg. Open for Business. - 'The News', 6th April 1900
The new courthouse erected at Heidelberg by the Public Works Department for the Crown Law Department has been completed. It cost £1800, and occupied a triangular site adjoining the police station. It is constructed of brick with cement dressing, and is roofed with slates. The external architecture is of the simplest character, but the main lines of the building produce a very pleasing effect...
More newspaper articles on the opening of the courthouse in 1900 and its history... more