Courthouse, Beechworth

Originally published


From the information leaflet provided:

Built in 1858 of local honey coloured granite at a cost of £3730. It was the central Court of the "Northern Bailiwick" during the gold rush era and closed as a Court House in 1989 after 131 years of continual service. The Court had many roles. It served as a Magistrates Court, Court of Petty Sessions, County Court, Court of Assize (Supreme Court), Insolvency Court, Mining Wardens Court and Court of General Sessions. The Court sat every 12 weeks when the appointed Judge would arrive from Melbourne in his horse drawn vehicle. The lesser Courts were held at more regular intervals.


The benches form the Public Gallery (men only), the table and chairs are for the bar lawyers and prosecutors. On the right is the Jury Box. On the other wall, beside the fireplace, is the Dock (which figures in this image, which is reproduced on the wall there) and beside that the Reporters Bench. At the front of the room, are two Witnesses Boxes (only one visible here), the Clerk of Courts (table?) and the Judges Bench.


Looking at it from the other end, the Ladies Galley above can be seen. The door underneath that leads to a porch and the one on the right to the Barristers Room, which was either locked or had nothing of interest in it because I have no photos.

The door between the Dock and the Reporters Bench leads to a short corridor with holding cells on either side.

Holding cells

From the men's holding cell, which was probably used at some point by almost everyone who will get mentioned during the rest of the day, through to the women's holding cell.



Courthouse Room

Judges Chambers. I notice my tolerance for timers and slow shutter speeds has dropped off now. It's going to be a long day.

Courthouse clerk

"Clerk of the Peace' it says on the door, 'Administration' on my information leaflet. From a map on the wall of the 1864 additions, this room was divided in the Clerk's Office and Judge's Bedroom.

Courthouse - display

There is a display in there of police uniforms and equipment.


Back in the courtroom, in the dock oh no!, you can see both witness boxes, one for sworn evidence (for Christian witnesses who would swear on the Bible) and one for unsworn evidence. You might get an idea from this photo, how crowded the room is. There is not enough space there to actually walk between the dock and the witness box, it's more a sort of squeeze. When I left, I commented on this lack of space to the guy on the desk and he said the room used to be smaller.

The door in the back corner goes into the Judges Chamber. The door on the right to a short corridor between the Clerk's room and the Jury Room.

Courthouse room

Jury Room. Common Jurors and Special Jurors each had their own ballot boxes from which their names would be selected.

Courthouse - ballot box

That's the Special Jurors ballot box. I forget the reason for the distinction and the extra qualification needed to be eligible to be a Special Juror, but there were less of them.

Courthouse - display

Courthouse - window

Town Hall, from the Courthouse.

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