Thursday, 26 August 2010

Crumlin Road Courthouse.

The Crumlin Road Courthouse was designed by the architect Sir Charles Lanyon and completed in 1850 at a cost of £16,500 and is situated facing Crumlin Road Gaol.

Sir Charles Lanyon was the architect behind a large number of well-known buildings in Belfast, including Queens University’s main building, Belfast Central Library, the Customs House, the Theological College in Botanic Avenue (which was used for Northern Ireland's first parliament before Stormont was built), the Palm House in Botanic Gardens (the first in the world and built 10 years before Kew Gardens famous palm house) and Belfast Castle. He later went on to become Belfast Lord Mayor and an MP.

Northern Ireland still has some beautiful working courthouses of this era, Downpatrick, Armagh (which resembles a smaller “Crum”) and Enniskillen are of particular note.

The Courthouse served as the main “Crown Court” for Belfast as such many of the most signifigant trials in Nothern Irish s history took place in this building and it remains a huge part of our Legal History. The last execution in N.Ireland was ordered from these very benches, its important to remember for the first 50 years of this Courthouses history these were public hanging’s. It’s dock has had some vistors of note such as NI Politicians Gerry Adams, Ian Paisley and the late David Ervine as well as the infamous Lenny Murphy the leader of the so called Shankill Butchers.

Whilst Prisoners today appear in Court via video link or are brought by bus from HMP Maghaberry in Lisburn. Crumlin Road Courthouse prisoners were quite literally “sent down” as the courthouse was linked to Crumlin Road jail by an underground passage that was used to bring prisoners to and from the jail.

The Courthouse closed in June 1998, much of the work of “The Crum” was transferred to the new Laganside Court buildings which face the Royal Courts of Justice on Chichester Street in the city centre. Which, while a leap forward in modernisation, “Laganside” lacks a great deal of the athmosphere and grandeur of this old building and to me has a bit of a Travelodge feel.

It was sold to local investor Barry Gilligan in September 2003 for £1. His plans for the courthouse include redeveloping it as a tourist attraction and a hotel. The courthouse had a series of fires in 2009 causing further massive damage to the structure.

Sadly the future of the building remains in question and with inaction, further damage seems inevitable. A very sad end to this once great and historic building.

To quote one of Belfast’s defence QC’s “bring back the crum”

The Photos for this post were taken from the 28 days later forum and more can be found there.

There is an excellent video guide of the courthouse at present by I guidez, 6mins long and well worth checking out.

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