Hamilton Architects were privileged to undertake the repair and refurbishment of Old Antrim Courthouse, a Grade A listed building built in 1726 by the Grand Jury.
The oldest remaining courthouse in Northern Ireland and one of the town’s most treasured historic artefacts, the building was in use for petty sessions until 1994.
“It’s an elegantly proportioned building designed in the Italianate style,” said Paul Millar, Partner. “The lower floor provided an arched market hall, while the upper floor housed the court. The roof is surmounted by a small cupola dating from 1817.
“The old courthouse is certainly the jewel in Antrim’s architectural crown and this revival was carefully considered to restore it to its rightful place in the community, giving it new purpose and enhancing civic pride in a formerly under-used area of the town centre.”
Many cases of highway robbery and animal theft were tried at the courthouse, with strict criminal laws resulting in transportation or death for relatively trivial offences, such as sheep-stealing. By 1836, the lower floor had been converted to a prison yard for prisoners attending trials and confining drunkards and rioters.
The project was completed early in the new millennium, ensuring the venerable old building will continue to serve local people for the next century as an approved marriage venue, visitor information centre, and host to corporate events and theatrical productions.
Due to its Grade A listed status, the Hamilton Architects design team worked closely with statutory agencies, including the NIEA, to ensure strict conservation requirements were met. Partnership funding was provided by Antrim Borough Council, the Heritage Lottery Fund and Historic Buildings. DRD Roads Service and Translink agreed to locate new public transport facilities in the adjacent square, which eased traffic congestion in the town centre and allowed the building breathing space in which to reveal its full design quality and graceful proportions.