Royal Courts of Justice: Queen's Court Building

Overview

Heritage Category:
Listed Building
Grade:
II
List Entry Number:
1469797
Date first listed:
20-Apr-2020
Statutory Address:
The Strand, Westminster, London, WC2A 2LL

Map

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Location

Statutory Address:
The Strand, Westminster, London, WC2A 2LL

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County:
Greater London Authority
District:
City of Westminster (London Borough)
Parish:
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:
TQ3090381183

Summary

A five-storey law court building, completed 1968 to the designs of Eric Bedford (Chief Architect), G Stoddard (Senior Architect also involved in design), John Masson (Project Architect from 1968), all for the Ministry of Public Building and Works.

Reasons for Designation

The Queen’s Court Building, The Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, London, completed in 1968, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest: * the building respects the material and massing of the C19 court building by Street, but is also clearly a design of the mid-C20;

* in its lucid planning and use of materials the interior expresses an increased clarity in the operation of the court system;

* the great majority of the original fixtures and fittings survive in situ.

Historic interest: * the building marks a change in attitudes towards the planning of courtrooms and anticipates changes in the arrangement of courts following the Courts Act of 1971.

Group value: * with the many listed buildings along the Strand and Carey Street, most particularly the Law Courts building by Street (Grade I).

History

The Bankruptcy Buildings formerly in the north-west corner of the Royal Courts of Justice site suffered heavy bomb damage in the Second World War and were demolished in 1964. This presented an opportunity for redevelopment, and there was a need to expand the site because the number of sitting judges had increased from 28 to 79 since the original building by GE Street was completed. The Ministry of Public Building and Works began to draw up plans for two new buildings to provide additional court rooms and replacement office space for the departments previously based in the demolished Bankruptcy Buildings.

Chief Architect Eric Bedford signed off the initial plans, with additional design input from Senior Architect G Stoddard. John Masson was named as Project Architect in 1968.

The first of the new buildings, the Queen’s Court Building, was completed in 1968 and provided 12 new courts. It was opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 1st October 1968. This extension represented the first major development at the Royal Courts of Justice since the completion of West Green Building in 1911-12.

A former probate bar library at ground-floor level has now been turned to storage, as have the public galleries to the rear of the courtrooms. There was originally a central control and recording room where a master recorder made permanent records of proceedings in each of the 12 courts. This was considered advanced technology at the time, but the equipment has now been removed.

Details

Queen's Court Building, a law court building, completed 1968 to the designs of Eric Bedford (Chief Architect), G Stoddard (Senior Architect also involved in design), John Masson (Project Architect from 1968), all for the Ministry of Public Building and Works.

MATERIALS: a reinforced concrete structure with Portland stone facings and purpose-made steel windows.

PLAN: a rectangular plan form and five storeys, two of which are mezzanines. The main elevation faces Carey Street to the north. The eastern half of the south elevation is slightly extended to create a direct link the West Green Building (completed 1911-12). The building is constructed around a three-storey core with four courtrooms on each floor, surrounded by offices and other accommodation on corresponding and mezzanine floor levels.

EXTERIOR: the three-storey core of the building is expressed externally in the double-height floor-ceiling metal windows on the south elevation. The reinforced concrete structure is clad in Portland stone on all elevations. On the north elevation there are five storeys of purpose-built windows which light the offices within.

There are eight window bays on the north elevation and five on the south, as the eastern portion of the south elevation is joined to the West Green Building, obscuring its north front. Each bay projects slightly with smaller panes of glass on the returns to create boxy, articulated fronts on the north and south elevations.

The west elevation is sparser, smaller, and has a vertical emphasis. The eastern front also emphasises the verticality of the staircase tower at the north-eastern corner, which forms a link in its massing and emphasis with the staircase tower at the rear of the West Green Building. Wall heights and vertical panels are treated in the same way to give variety. INTERIOR: the ground-floor foyer has Perlato marble floors and polished Portland stone walls. There are foyers on each court floor level which run the entire length of the building and provide space for litigants and barristers to congregate before entering the courtrooms. Each foyer has a balcony at mezzanine level which gives access to the public galleries and there is a similar arrangement to the two upper foyers, giving access to the court rooms from the south side which is naturally lit by the large floor-to-ceiling windows and these are formed as square bays with seating areas for discussions.

To the rear of the courtrooms a judges’ corridor also runs the entire length of the building on each of the three courtroom floors. These corridors also provide access to offices for judges and clerks on four out of five floors. The floor levels of this part of the building are offset from the floor levels of the courtrooms, which allows for five storeys in total.

Each courtroom has timber panelling and they all retain the original wooden benches, bookshelves and other furniture. The front of the dais features a row of three square blue panels with a gold outline motif. A Portland stone sound reflector with a gold engraved royal coat of arms is built into the rear wall behind the dais.

The public gallery to the rear of each court has now been blocked up on the courtroom side to provide additional storage space.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURE: a fibreglass sculpture ‘Civilization: The Judge’ (1962) by Siegfried Charoux is placed in the main concourse on the ground floor. One of a series of six sculptures on the theme of civilization, with each sculpture commissioned for a specific London building. This cycle represents Charoux’s best-known work.

Sources

Books and journals
Bradley, S, Pevsner, N, Buildings of England, London 6: Westminster, (2003), 314
'Royal Courts of Justice Extension' in Building, , Vol. 215, (1 Nov. 1968), 71-73

Legal

This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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