Building Name

City Police and Sessions Courts Minshull Street, Manchester

Minshull Street
Central, Manchester
GMCA, England
Manchester Corporation General Purposes Committee
New Build

Messrs Clegg and Knowles, Messrs Maynall (sic) and Littlewood, Mr Salomans, (sic) Messrs Speakman and Charlesworth, Mr Waterhouse and Mr Worthington, have been invited by the General Purposes Committee of Manchester to prepare competitive plans for the new Police Courts for that city. The sum of £50 is to be paid to each architect, such premiums to form a portion of the commission to be ultimately paid to the successful competitor. [Building News 14 June 1867 p 418].

At a meeting of the Manchester General Purposes Committee yesterday, the new Town Hall Sub-committee reported a recommendation that Mr Thomas Worthington should be appointed architect of the new City Police Courts in Minshull Street, Portland Street. Mr Worthington’s plans were selected in the competition, but would be subject to any modification the Council may think desirable. The report was approved. [Manchester Guardian 25 October 1867 page 3]

On Friday last the foundation stone of the new City Police and Session Courts was laid at Manchester by the mayor. The building, which will be in the Gothic style, has been designed by Mr T. Worthington, of that city. [Building News 17 July 1868 page 490]

MANCHESTER CITY POLICE AND SESSIONS COURTS – This large pile of buildings, which has a frontage to Minshull Street of 182 feet, and to Bloom Street 117 feet, is now rapidly approaching completion, and the two courts which are to be appropriated to the police business of the City are to be formally opened on Wednesday. Mr T Worthington, the architect of the building, having received instructions to proceed with the preparation of plans, the old buildings which occupied the site, and which had previously been used as a stone yard, were pulled down by the Corporation in May 1868; and the contractors for the foundation and basement storey commenced proceedings by building the wall forming the boundary against the canal in the early part of June. Tenders for the superstructure were publicly advertised for, and that of Mr R Neill and Sons was accepted. The style of building is that type of pointed Gothic of which examples abound in Florence, Verona, Sienna, and other cities of northern Italy. At the angle of Minshull Street and Bloom Street is a large and lofty tower, the lower portion of which is occupied by offices, and the upper part by the clock, which has four illuminated dials 8 feet in diameter, and strikes a bell weighing upwards of a ton, placed in the arcaded chamber at the top.

The principal entrance into the building, for use of magistrates and persons officially connected with the courts, is in the centre of the Minshull Street façade. From this entrance a broad flight of steps leads to a spacious corridor parallel to Minshull Street, which is about 6 feet above the foot-walks, and gives access to the barristers’ dining room, porter’s room and various other apartments on this floor. In the centre of the Bloom Street façade is the entrance to the public hall connected with the police courts, which measures 84 feet by 40 feet, and contains rooms for witnesses in waiting, separated by low glazed screens. A wide staircase from this hall admits the public to a corridor, 10 feet wide, on the court floor, which gives the witnesses and officials access to the two courts, and is terminated by the general office at the angle of Bloom Street and Minshull Street. From this corridor a short flight of steps leads to a balcony connecting the public portion of the two courts, and gives admittance to that portion which is reserved for spectators only, who are entirely separated from those having business to transact. Opposite the entrance in Bloom Street, a staircase from the public hall admits witnesses immediately wanted to a gallery, which is raised 8 feet above the hall floor; the ceiling being at the level of the bench (which is 4 feet above the court floor) admits of the gallery floor being raised, so that each court may be reached by a few steps, which are so placed that witnesses can pass at once into either court. This arrangement also admits of the court officials calling witnesses as wanted either from the hall or waiting rooms. The public hall on the sessions side, which has its entrance from Minshull Street, is arranged in a similar manner; with the addition of a refreshment bar, room for solicitors, and private lavatories. The remaining portion of the ground floor is occupied by the rooms for prisoners awaiting trial, which are reached by double flights of stone steps from the cells below, and have each a separate stair leading to the docks. The waiting rooms on the sessions side are separated from those on the police side by a large open area, 86 feet long by 44 feet wide, with entrance for the police van to drive in for the purpose of discharging prisoners, and a large courtyard for the police. This area divides he building into two portions, and is an important aid to light and ventilation. Ascending to the court floor from the magistrates’ entrance in Minshull Street previously mentioned, a corridor 8 feet wide is reached, extending the whole length of the building, which gives access to a series of offices facing Minshull Street, connected with the business of the various courts. Immediately over the entrance is the grand jury and magistrates’ room, a lofty and handsome apartment. A suite of offices, extending on the police side from the grand jury room to the general office at the corner of Bloom Street, includes the clerk to justices’ room, the deposition room, the clerk’s office, and the general office already mentioned, in which the fines are paid and the ordinary business of the courts conducted. On the other side of the grand jury room are offices appropriated to the clerk of the peace, the public prosecutor, etc. In the centre of the corridor and immediately opposite the grand jury room, a few steps lead to the gallery surrounding the central area, which is glazed with stained glass of handsome design. This gallery gives access to the benches in the four courts, the magistrates’ and barristers’ rooms, and the retiring rooms for the stipendiary magistrate, the recorder, the clerk of the piece, and juries. The magistrates’ retiring room is placed between the two police courts, and adjoining it and communicating with it by means of a gallery raised about 4 feet above the floor, is the hall for granting summonses, which is reached by the public from the corridor at the back of the courts parallel with Bloom Street. The object of this hall, with its gallery, is to enable the public to obtain summonses without crowding into the court, which has been found a source of much inconvenience at Bridge Street. In a similar position on the sessions side are placed the barristers’ library, robing room, and consulting room.

The four courts, two of which are appropriated to the police business and two to the sessions, occupy the centre of the building, and are surrounded by the offices and corridors before mentioned; an arrangement by which the noise of the adjoining street will be materially lessened. Each court is a large lofty apartment, 53 feet by 33 feet and 36 feet high, is lighted by sixteen windows, and has a ceiling of pitch-pine, panelled and perforated for ventilation; the walls are also panelled to a certain height, the magistrates’ stalls on the bench are coved by a canopy the full width of the court; the barristers’ seats, docks, witnesses’ and public galleries; and the other fittings are of pitch-pine also. The object in the arrangement of the court fittings has been to concentrate, as far as practicable, the business of the courts, and to bring the prisoner, witness, jury and barristers as near the bench as possible. In order to give increased facilities for the rapid dispatch of business in the two police courts, speaking tubes and bells have been arranged to communicate from each of the magistrates’ clerks seats and the two docks to the general office. Similar provision has also been made for communicating from the courts and general office with the officials in the basement and elsewhere.  Over the grand jury room and adjoining corridor are placed apartments for the resident porter. The ceiling of the basement is raised 6 feet above the footpath in the street, in order effectually to light and ventilate the various rooms and passages, especially those connected with the cells for prisoners. The floor of the basement is 8 feet below the footpath, so that the entire storey is 14 feet in height. A broad corridor, 15 feet wide, extending along the back of the building, and two shorter passages at right angles to the main corridor, give access to the cells, which are of various sizes. The windows in these corridors are large and numerous, glazed with obscured plate glass of great strength, and protected by strong wrought iron bars. The series of offices on this floor facing Minshull Street, together with two warerooms, are intended to be let, and have a separate entrance under the tower in Bloom Street. 

To the warming and ventilation of the courts, especial consideration has been given, and provision is made for passing heated air from the basement through a series of cavities or flues into the courts, rooms and corridors. Air ducts are arranged so as to convey a supply of fresh air to the courts, and secure a complete and constant change in the atmosphere. Heating chambers and boiler house (which contains three boilers) are placed in the basement, and large channels are constructed under the former to convey fresh outer air thereto, which after being purified and warmed, passes into the courts at the time in use. The extraction of the vitiated air is effected by trunk and channels, which convey it to the ventilating shaft in the centre of the building, inside which the smoke from the boilers and the various fires throughout the building is conducted by a wrought iron flue. [Manchester Guardian 23 December 1871 page 8]

Reference    Manchester Guardian 6 June 1867 page 3
Reference    Building News 14 June 1867 page 418 – Competition
Reference    Manchester Guardian 25 October 1867 page 3
Reference    Building News 17 July 1868 page 490 - foundation stone
Reference    Manchester Guardian Saturday 30 January 1869 Page 2 – contracts
Reference    Manchester Guardian 23 December 1871 page 8
Reference    Manchester City News 30 December 1871 - opening
Reference    Building News 29 December 1871 page 501