Armidale Courthouse and Sheriffs Cottage | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

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Armidale Courthouse and Sheriffs Cottage

Item details

Name of item: Armidale Courthouse and Sheriffs Cottage
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Law Enforcement
Category: Courthouse
Primary address: 145 Beardy Street, Armidale, NSW 2350
County: Oxley
Local govt. area: Armidale Regional
Hectares (approx): 0.02
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
145 Beardy StreetArmidaleArmidale Regional OxleyPrimary Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Department of Justice and Attorney GeneralState Government 

Statement of significance:

Armidale Courthouse has been associated with the provision of law and justice in Armidale and the broader region since 1860. The courthouse is Armidale's oldest remaining public building and a landmark building in the town. The scale and quality of Armidale Courthouse demonstrates the importance of the town as a regional centre during the nineteenth century. A good example of the Classical Revival style, the original building and two major alterations during the nineteenth century have the ability to demonstrate the work of three successive NSW Colonial/Government Architects.
Date significance updated: 13 Oct 10
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.


Designer/Maker: A Dawson; J Barnet (additions); WL Vernon (additions)
Builder/Maker: Moore and Glover
Construction years: 1859-1860
Physical description: The Armidale Courthouse is an impressive building of immense importance to the town and region. The front façade is designed in the Victorian Free Classical Style, with a central gable-roofed courtroom featuring a triangular pediment supported on fluted Corinthian columns. A timber clock tower surmounts the main roof. On either side of the central building are single-storey wings, featuring grouped windows with pilaster detailing. Important features include the wrought-iron gates, cobbled stoned vestibule, cedar joinery and furniture. (Schwager Brooks 1993)
A Sheriff's Cottage (former lock-up) is located at the rear of the courthouse and is a single-storey residence constructed of brick with a hipped roof clad in corrugated iron.
Other accommodation: Occasional courtroom, office, Judge and Magistrate's chambers, interview/legal rooms, Crown Prosecutors room, jury, Sheriff's office, records room, staff room, residence.
Construction: Armidale Courthouse is constructed of local brick with sandstone detailing. The roofs are clad in copper sheeting.
Interior materials: Cedar joinery, plasterboard.
Exterior materials: Rendered brick, corrrugated iron.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Good. (December 2008)
Date condition updated:31 Aug 10
Modifications and dates: Substantial alterations and additions including single-storey wings (1870).
New portico and new windows on Beardy Street façade (1898).
Clock tower added (c1898).
Conservation works (1978).
Reconfiguration of registry and public waiting area and relocation of doors in Sheriff's Cottage (2009).
Current use: Courthouse
Former use: Courthouse


Historical notes: The first courthouse in Armidale was constructed in 1844 by Commissioner George Macdonald. Macdonald controlled the border police force at this time and constructed a slab-walled courthouse opposite his headquarters for the adjudication of land disputes. In 1845, Bishop Broughton visited this courthouse and conducted a series of services. In 1846, this court was officially appointed a Court of Petty Sessions.

A more permanent courthouse became necessary as Armidale developed into a major regional centre in the middle of the nineteenth century. In 1856, a petition with 1500 signatures from the residents of Armidale was handed to the NSW Legislative Assembly requesting the establishment of an Assizes Court. In July 1859, a Court of Quarter Sessions was established in Armidale and a new courthouse constructed. The tender for the construction of this new courthouse was awarded to William Moore and Edward Grover for £3,250. The foreman appointed by the Colonial Architect to oversee the works was David E McDonald.

Major alterations and additions were made to the building in 1870 following requests made to the Colonial Secretary by the Chief Justice. The courthouse had been designed to face onto Market Square, which had been envisaged as a major civic square for the town, but never eventuated. The alterations, which included remodelling the building to face the main street rather than the failed Market Square and the addition of a single-storey wing on either side of the courtroom, were completed by September 1870 to a design by Colonial Architect James Barnet.

During these renovations, a time capsule was laid beneath the floorboards of the courthouse by the Clerk of Petty Sessions. This clerk, Sydney Blythe, who appeared to have been drunk at the time of writing, dedicated the time capsule (which was contained in a cognac bottle), ‘For and on Behalf of my numerous creditors.’ The time capsule was discovered during renovations to the building in the 1971.
Repairs were made to the building in 1884 and 1890.

Further alterations were made to Armidale Courthouse in 1898 and were designed by Government Architect Walter Liberty Vernon. The alterations included construction of a grand portico with Ionic columns, larger windows in each single-storey wing and remodelling of the courtroom. A clock tower was added c1899.

An extensive program of restoration works was completed in 1978 at a cost of $94,000.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Towns, suburbs and villages-Activities associated with creating, planning and managing urban functions, landscapes and lifestyles in towns, suburbs and villages -
7. Governing-Governing Government and Administration-Activities associated with the governance of local areas, regions, the State and the nation, and the administration of public programs - includes both principled and corrupt activities. -
7. Governing-Governing Law and order-Activities associated with maintaining, promoting and implementing criminal and civil law and legal processes Administration of justice-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Creative endeavour-Activities associated with the production and performance of literary, artistic, architectural and other imaginative, interpretive or inventive works; and/or associated with the production and expression of cultural phenomena; and/or environments that have inspired such creative activities. -

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
Armidale Courthouse has been associated with the provision of law and justice in Armidale and the broader region since 1860 and is Armidale's oldest remaining public building. The scale and quality of Armidale Courthouse demonstrates the importance of the town as a regional centre during the nineteenth century.
The Sheriffs Cottage has been associated with the provision of law and justice in Armidale for 30 years from 1878 to 1907. Since that time, the cottage has been used for administration associated with the courthouse.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
Armidale Courthouse is associated with the work of three NSW Colonial/Government Architects: Alexander Dawson, Colonial Architect 1856-1862, James Barnet, Colonial Architect 1862-1890 and Walter Liberty Vernon, Government Architect 1890-1911. While the main elevation of the building is the work of Vernon, each phase of the building's design is evident in its form.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The imposing form of Armidale Courthouse is symbolic of the approach to the provision of law and justice in the nineteenth century, when courthouses were designed to symbolise the authority and power of the Colonial government and justice system.
Armidale Courthouse is a good example of the Classical Revival architectural style.
The courthouse is a landmark building in Armidale and an important element of the town’s civic precinct.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
Armidale Courthouse is likely to have significance for the local community as a long-standing civic institution of the region.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The many changes made to Armidale Courthouse throughout its history and demonstrated in its form have potential to yield information about the changing requirements and uses of courthouses in NSW.
SHR Criteria f)
Due to the intactness of the courthouse, its ability to demonstrate the work of three successive NSW Government Architects is rare.
SHR Criteria g)
Armidale Courthouse is representative of the growing confidence in regional centres and the widespread perception during the nineteenth century that the local courthouse was a symbol of local respectability and a focus of civic pride.
Integrity/Intactness: Armidale Courthouse is highly intact and retains a high level of integrity. The Sheriff's cottage is highly intact and retains a high level of integrity as a small residence associated with the courthouse.
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - s.170 NSW State agency heritage register     

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenHBO+EMTB Heritage Pty Ltd2009Armidale Court House and Sheriff's Cottage Conservation Management Plan
WrittenSchwager Brooks and Partners Pty Ltd1993Courts Administrations Files

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: State Government
Database number: 3080003

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