Former Skipton County Court (subsequently offices and a church), built between 1856 and 1857 to designs by Charles Reeve. C20 additions and alterations.
Reasons for Designation
The former Skipton County Court of 1856-1857 is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* as a mid-C19 local county court public building designed by Charles Reeve, a prominent architect and Surveyor of the County Courts, who has a range of listed buildings to his name;
* as a restrained and dignified design of the Italianate style, making use of rusticated frost-work quoins, pilasters and symbolic decorative detailing;
* for the legible plan form, with distinct separation of access and circulation routes for the public and court judiciary;
* for the survival of fixtures and fittings in the Judge’s Room, the Chubb and Sons walk-in safe, the public's entrance vestibule and hall alongside the Italianate wall scheme in the court room and the external street-light brackets and railings.
* as an example of a local county court purpose-built after the Act of 1846 which reflects the great desire to extend the jurisdiction of the county courts with the creation of a new building type.
* it forms part of a group of public buildings listed at various grades, which include the nearby Skipton Town Hall, the Tolbooth, Church of Holy Trinity and the range of buildings which form Skipton Castle, and it is in close proximity to Court Lane Warehouse and 2 and 4 Court Lane.
County courts are local civil courts established in England and Wales, following legislation in 1846, to allow a national system for the recovery of small debts. They were derived from the Courts of Request or Courts of Conscience, which had been established piecemeal from around 1700 until their formalisation in 1846. The Act of 1846 allowed for the position of a national Surveyor of County Courts; this post (abolished in 1870) was first held by Charles Reeves, and from 1866 by Thomas Charles Sorby.
Skipton County Court was built between 1856 and 1857 on the south side of Currer Street. The land was formerly owned by the Free Grammar School of Clitheroe until a special act of parliament, passed in 1837, allowed the school to sell its land in Skipton and led to the development of Currer Street (now Otley Street) from the High Street to Otley Road. A county court was first established in Skipton in 1847 and the purpose-built county court on Currer Street followed around a decade later to designs by the architect Charles Reeve (1816-1866). Reeve studied under Thomas Loader of Romsey, Richard Suter and Annesley Voysey of London, and he was partners with Henry Annesley Voysey between 1847 and 1852. He became architect to the Metropolitan Police, and between 1847 and 1866 was architect to the national network of county courts, where he designed and superintended the construction or alteration of sixty-four county courts. Drawings for twenty-six of these survive in the Public Record Office, and Skipton County Court is one of them.
Tenders were sought for Skipton County Court between May and June 1856, with Reeve’s architectural plans and specification held for viewing at the assistant Clerk of the Court’s offices in Skipton. It was designed with two entrances to provide separate circulation routes around the building. The north-west entrance provided private access for the court judiciary (judge, clerk and registrar) into an entrance lobby with a north-south aligned corridor providing access to two private north rooms (the judge and registrar’s room) and the lofty courthouse to the south. The robing room was located in a south room off the courthouse. The east entrance provided access for the public into a vestibule, with a north door leading to the public office for the transaction of business and a west door leading to a small entrance hall through to the main courtroom. External access into a small courtyard and associated outbuildings was through an external door in the entrance hall. The building was opened on Friday 30 October 1857 by Judge J J Lonsdale.
In the C20 some alterations were made to the building in line with county court requirements. From the 1930s onwards two chimneys were removed from the L-shaped range, a wall was removed between two northern rooms, and a wall and upper floor was inserted into the eastern third of the double-height court room (with a U-shaped staircase giving access to three first-floor rooms above). In the mid- to late-C20 the courtyard's outbuildings were converted into WCs. Further facilities were provided in the 1990s, with a disabled WC inserted into the north-west entrance vestibule and a small extension, with WC, built in the courtyard (with an access from public vestibule). A new boiler unit was installed around the late C20. The building remained in use by the court until 22 May 2003 when the decision was made to close and it was converted to a solicitor’s chambers and offices, with the insertion of temporary stud walls and suspended ceilings to provide further temporary rooms and a kitchen area. It subsequently became a place of worship in 2011 for the Church of the Latter Day Saints until 2021.
Former Skipton County Court (subsequently offices and a church), built between 1856 and 1857 to designs by Charles Reeve. C20 additions and alterations. Italianate style.
MATERIALS: finely dressed sandstone ashlar with rusticated frost-work quoins. Welsh slate hipped roofs and a leaded flat roof, with cast iron guttering, hoppers and railings. Wooden sash window frames.
PLAN: a single-storey L-shaped block, composed of north-south and east-west aligned blocks with a canted flat-roof north-west entrance, which wraps around a two-storey east-west orientated main block. Attached to the rear (south) of the two-storey block is a small single-storey extension, with an internal courtyard to the east containing a small east-west aligned outbuilding, a square C20 extension and east boundary wall.
EXTERIOR: the building occupies a south-east corner site at the junction of Otley Street and Court Lane, with elevations to both these streets and Alma Terrace. The main elevations facing Otley Street (north-west and north) and Alma Terrace (east) are single-storey and built of ashlar with hipped roofs, apart from a flat-roof north-west entrance. Both elevations have pilaster framed bays, each bay with a single or pair of segmental arched and shouldered stone window surrounds with arched double-hung margin light sashes. Both pilasters and windows rise from a splayed base of rusticated frost-work quoins. A three-stepped eaves cornice runs above, decorated with pairs of neo-Grecian corbel ornamentation at the heads of the pilasters. At intervals the outlet pipes of the overhanging cast-iron guttering cuts through the cornice to cast-iron hoppers, which are decorated with lion head plaques.
The main entrance (the former Judge’s entrance) is a flat-roofed north-west entrance block facing the junction of Otley Street and Court Lane. It is accessed by three shallow stone steps with chamfered pilasters either side of a segmental arched, shouldered and keystoned door surround. It retains a two-panel entrance door, with a brass door plaque and letter box, and a single-pane segmental arched over-light. Rising above the eaves cornice is the free standing, gilt painted, Royal Arms with the motto DIEU ET MON DROIT in raised lettering on a narrow plinth. The entrance is flanked to either side by a canted narrow bay containing a slender segmental arched stone with two-over-two horizontal sash. A single bay return (west), to Court Lane, has a similar pair of narrow windows, with a shouldered window surround and deeply grooved monolithic mullion.
To the east of the flat-roof entrance block, facing Otley street, is a three-bay elevation which projects forward into the street by two bays then one bay (west to east). The western two-bays have a single window in each bay, whilst the eastern bay has a pair of windows with a deeply grooved monolithic mullion. The east elevation, to Alma Terrace, is of four bays with an entrance (former public entrance) in the southern bay. The segmental and keystoned arched door surround is accessed by three shallow steps and retains a two-leaf wooden door, with original fittings, and a large arched over-light. The bays to the right (north) each have a single window, with mid-C19 street light brackets attached to the second and fourth pilasters (both with C20 replica Victorian street lanterns). Attached at the south end of the east elevation is a stepped courtyard boundary wall of three-bays. The boundary wall has a central segmental arched door, with large blind doorways to either side (one of which contains a C20 window punctured through).
Attached behind the main entrance and L-shaped range is an east-west aligned two-storey block (containing a double-height courtroom), with a slender ashlar stack at its south-east corner. It forms the principal elevation to the south and west elevation (facing Court Lane). At the level of the upper storey are pairs of windows with a deeply grooved monolithic mullion, and an ashlar band running through the lintel: the north and south elevation with three pairs of windows, and the east and west with two. All have wooden horned double-hung two-over-two sashes with an arched top light. Attached to the south elevation is a small single-storey extension, which forms part of the boundary wall to the south. It has an ashlar band running below a capped parapet and one flat lintelled west window.
INTERIOR: the interior plan form is designed to provide separate access and circulation routes between the north-west entrance (the former Judiciary entrance) and the east (public) entrance.
NORTH-WEST ENTRANCE: the north-west entrance lobby has wide wooden floor-boards (which may survive throughout the building) with a painted Royal Arms wall plaque on the east wall. Late-C20 stud walling inserted in the south-west corner forms a utilitarian disabled WC and a doorway into an original east-west aligned corridor. The south side of the corridor has two door openings into the former courthouse, both of substantial depth: a C19 opening with a late-C20 door to the east (directly south of the vestibule) and a late-C20 opening. The north side of the corridor has a bolection moulded door architrave, and fielded and panelled door with locks, which leads into a north room (the former Judge’s room). It contains two original cupboards with fielded and panelled doors, both with doors locks, and one cupboard with shelving. Deep mid-C19 moulded skirting boards, dado rails and cornicing remain intact throughout the room. At the east end of the corridor is an open plan room, now with stud walling set beneath a suspended ceiling to create temporary rooms. The room was originally divided in two (the Registrar’s room and Public Office) and corresponding wall nibs mark the original internal masonry wall. An original brick vaulted and stone lined Chubb and Son fire-proof strong room is located in the south wall (of the former Public Office), with flagged floor, stone-slab storage shelves and ventilation grates. To the south of the strong room is an access door into a utilitarian C20 kitchen area, which retains a wide heavily moulded door architrave (formerly giving access from the east entrance to the public office) with a stud wall set behind. Throughout the building all the windows retain heavily moulded architraves, those in the single-storey range rise from floor to ceiling with wood panelling beneath the windows (2022 - hidden by radiators) and sections of deep mid-C19 skirting boards. The original moulded cornicing is also thought to remain above the suspended ceilings.
EAST ENTRANCE: the east entrance vestibule retains a tall heavily moulded door architrave into the entrance hall, the upper half concealed by suspended ceilings and boarded over with inset late-C20 doors. Two stud walls either side of the vestibule form a C20 WC to the left (south) and a blind wall to the right (north) which forms the rear wall to the late-C20 kitchen.
The entrance hall retains an original low wooden waiting bench with a stud wall inserted to the north to create a small C20 WC. Directly ahead (west) is the three bay by two bay courtroom, now (2022) subdivided, which retains its full Italianate decorative scheme. Square pilasters rise through a heavily moulded string course, the upper part decorated with raised panels, to a heavily moulded cornice and cross-beam ceiling. Between the pilasters are pairs of three-centred arched upper storey windows with heavily moulded surrounds. The two-storey courthouse has been divided by a C20 partition wall to create a first floor across the easternmost bay. Within this bay an enclosed U-shaped staircase at ground-floor level provides access to three small first-floor rooms. A south door, with a bolection moulded architrave and original panelled door with locks, accesses a single-storey south extension, which houses a room to the west and boiler room (accessed from the courtyard) to the east. The plasterwork remains in situ throughout, apart from a section of moulded string course and panels which have been re-located to the inner face of the C20 partition wall, and the roof structure is thought to be intact above the cross-beam ceiling.
SUBSIDIARY ITEM: the cast iron railings, with a chamfered plinth and shaped and S-shaped supporting brackets, and a curved double-leaf entrance gate are part of the mid-C19 design. Within the rear courtyard there is an original single-storey east-west aligned outbuilding (containing C20 toilets) and an early-C20 fire sprinkler system.