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Some Historical Background on the Courthouse

Some selected newspaper articles about the history of Heidelberg Museum. Many of these have been published in our newsletter, the Heidelberg Historian. Our large collection of historic and recent newspapers also provides a useful source for such information.

Heidelberg Courthouse Opens in 1900

'The News', 6th April 1900.
New Courthouse at Heidelberg. Open for Business.
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. The shape of the court-room itself is an elongated octagon; it is lighted from a range of clearstory windows all round, and the ceiling is of wood. The building is approached from a porch leading to a vestibule on either hand. and on a level with the court provision is made for female witnesses, barristers, and prisoners. On a level with the raised bench are the clerk of courts' office and the magistrates' retiring room. The whole is very conveniently arranged and the acoustic properties of the court itself have proved to be exceptionally good. Though the building itself has been completed, some work is still required to the approaches, fencing and footpaths; these it is proposed to modify in such a manner as to provide a suitable access to the building and at the same time improve its appearance. The architect was Mr J. B. Cohen, and the contractors were Swanson Bros., whilst Mr Edwin Hooks acted as inspector of works.

Planning the Courthouse 1899

Plenty of discussion took place during the planning for the new courthouse, including its placement adjacent to Jika Street. Image shows main entrance.
Mercury and Weekly Courier, 22 September 1899. Heidelberg Court House.
THE request made to the Government by the Heidelberg Council that the plans of the New Court House be altered so as to make the main entrance to the court face Jika-street has been refused. The building was estimated to cost £17,500 and the contract was let at £18,000 odd. The alteration desired by the council would have necessitated the expenditure of yet another £100, and Sir GEORGE TURNER emphatically objected. For our own part we do not see what there is to complain of concerning the present plans. It is not necessary that entrance doors to a police court should face a main-street. In populated centres the "great unwashed" that frequent such places are not either ornamental or useful. The offices, &c., of the Heidelberg building will have access from Jika-street, and that is all that is required. Mr. GAIR, M.L.A., is to lay the foundation stone, and he is justly entitled to any kudos that attaches to the performance of the ceremony. He got the court house for Heidelberg, and it is proper that the inscription on the stone should bear his name.
The main entrance facing Jika Street would have changed the character of the building. Premier Sir George Turner was renowned as a frugal leader. Comments about "the great unwashed" characterise attitudes to lower income citizens that might have changed in some quarters since then. The entrance in Jika Street referred to was to an area where the public could come to pay fines and other charges. Mr Gair, who was the local MLA, was remembered by having his name on the foundation stone of the court house, where it can still be seen in 2020.

First Session in Heidelberg Courthouse

'The News', 6th April 1900
(Immediately following the first article above was this account of the first court session in the new building.)
The first court was held in the new building on Monday last, the presiding magistrates being Mr. Keogh, P.M., and Messrs. Holland, Davey, Selby, Draper, Adams and Finney, J's.P.
Cr Holland (president of the shire) and Mr Keogh, P.M., congratulated the people of Heidelberg on having secured such an admirable building. Mr Day, on behalf of the bar, also made some remarks appropriate to the occasion. Mr Percy Ridgeway was the first legal practitioner to appear professionally before their worships in the new building.
On the business of the court being concluded, a number of gentlemen assembled, by invitation. in the magistrates' room.
Cr. Davey, as the senior magistrate, expressed pleasure at being in the new building, which was second to none in the colony.
Cr. Holland proposed a toast of the architects, and Mr Cohen (of the Public Works Department) in responding said when the outside work, asphalting, etc., was done the building would be one to be proud of.
Cr. Holland proposed a vote of thanks to Mr Gair, M.L.A., who was unavoidably absent, for his successful efforts in getting the Government to put up the buildings.
This was seconded by Cr. Lugton, and supported by Cr. Ryan, who said 10 feet of asphalting should be constructed all round the building, and good stabling for magistrates' horses should be provided.
The vote was carried with musical honors.
Mr D. E. Brayshay proposed "The Magistrates," and Messrs Keogh, Holland, Davey, Adams, and Finney replied.
Mr Keogh, P.M., proposed "The Legal Profession," and responses were made by Messrs Brayshay, Day, and Ridgeway.
The toasts of "The Clerk of the Court." and "The Police" were also honored, and the gathering dispersed.

The First Heidelberg Courthouse

The first Heidelberg Courthouse was built on the same site in 1853. Click here for more information.
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