Magistrates Court – General History

Borough magistrates were first empanelled in 1887, meeting weekly in the same place as the petty sessions’ justices but on a different day.

A new magistrates’ court and police station were designed by local architect, Henry Beck. The above architectual drawing, which shows the impressive building, appeared in the 1910 Royal Academy Exhibition. Local builder, Richard Kershaw, was selected to construct the building having completed both the new Fire Station and General Post Office in New Street a few years earlier. Reflecting the confidence of the town at the time, it was constructed from the best quality Portland Stone.

A foundation stone can be found at the front of the building that reads:

Shortly after the court was opened, this ‘Police Courts, Burton’ artistic ‘pallet style’ postcard was produced. I don’t personally like it at all but it is included here because it provides one of the best available views of the right side of the building with the tramway depot visible at the rear.

The surrounding area was a little different in this photo around 1911. Tantalizingly, the design of the right hand section has now been changed for some reason.

Originally, there was simply a gate on the left providing access to the police station. A property was eventually demolished to make a road to provide access and parking for the new police station. The new road also provided access to the drill hall.

The leaded dome… Burton’s answer to Saint Paul’s Cathedral!

Aside from the expensive materials, top quality stonework was incorporated, again, produced by local craftsmen. It was not a case of having to look afield for expert stoneworkers; Burton was a very up and coming town and it was more the case that expert craftsmen moved to the town knowing that they were likely to find the requirement for high quality work.

The stained glass window, though not very visible from the outside, bears Burton’s coat-of-arms. It would be nice to get a photo from the inside on a suitably sunny day.

The ‘Public’ door which I dare say many have entered with a degree of trepidation. On the other side of the building is another matching door with stonework informing ‘JUSTICES’.

The location was selected to make the most of the expensive building, positioned to provide a strong focal point visible for the whole of Guild Street, which it remains today.

An interesting feature is that once the building was surveyed, it was discovered that it would be impossible for trams to enter and leave the existing depot which was to be its new neighbour. Rather than make expensive alterations to the tramway and depot, it was decided to rotate the whole building by 12 degrees. It is not immediatley obvious from the road but the above aerial view shows it very clearly.

The former Burton Police Station occupied part of what is now the car park at the rear of the old court.

A separate quarter sessions for the county borough was granted by royal charter in 1912. It was abolished under the Courts Act, 1971, but Burton remained the meeting place for petty sessions.

A painting of ‘Burton Magistrates Court and Police Station’ was produced by C. Sheldon in 1993

On the site where the tramway depot once stood is the present day complex, opened in 1991, which includes Burton police station, magistrates court office block leaving the once proud building looking a little forlorn, not knowing quite what to do with itself in the world that has overtaken it.

From the inside of the new complex, it is a fairly seamless passage into the old Court 1 which is still used to full capacity for the most serious magistrate cases.

The new ‘Charrington House’ on the corner of Guild Street across the road from the church was build with a large mirrored frontage to provide motorists with an attractive reflection of the old court building.


Website by Kevin Gallagher