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The Royal Courts of Justice, commonly called the Law Courts, is a court building in London
London
which houses the High Court and Court of Appeal of England and Wales. The High Court also sits on circuit and in other major cities. Designed by George Edmund Street, who died before it was completed, it is a large grey stone edifice in the Victorian Gothic
Victorian Gothic
style built in the 1870s and opened by Queen Victoria in 1882. It is one of the largest courts in Europe.[1] It is located on the Strand within the City of Westminster, near the border with the City of London
London
(Temple Bar). It is surrounded by the four Inns of Court, St Clement Danes
St Clement Danes
church, King's College London
London
and the London School of Economics. The nearest London
London
Underground stations are Chancery Lane
Chancery Lane
and Temple. The courts within the building are generally open to the public with some access restrictions depending upon the nature of the cases being heard. Those in court who do not have legal representation may receive some assistance within the building. A citizens' advice bureau is based in its Main Hall which provides free, confidential and impartial advice by appointment to anyone who is a litigant in person in the courts. There is also a Personal Support Unit
Personal Support Unit
where litigants in person can receive emotional support and practical information about court proceedings. The Central Criminal Court, widely known as the Old Bailey
Old Bailey
after its street, is about 1⁄2 mile (0.80 km) to the east — a Crown Court with no direct connection with the Royal Courts of Justice.

Contents

1 History and architecture 2 Extensions to the building 3 See also 4 Notes 5 References 6 Bibliography 7 External links

History and architecture[edit]

The Great Hall

The search for a design for the Law Courts was by way of a competition, a then-common approach to selecting a design and an architect. The competition ran from 1866 to 1867 and the twelve architects competing for the contract each submitted designs for the site.[2] In 1868 it was finally decided that George Edmund Street
George Edmund Street
was the winner.[2] Building was started in 1873 by Messrs Bull & Sons of Southampton. Its masons led a serious strike at an early stage which threatened to extend to the other trades and caused a temporary stoppage of the works. In consequence, foreign workmen were brought in – mostly Germans. This aroused bitter hostility on the part of the men on strike, and the newcomers had to be housed and fed within the building. However, these disputes were eventually settled and the building took eight years to complete; it was officially opened by Queen Victoria
Queen Victoria
on 4 December 1882. Street died before the building was opened, overcome by the work.[3] Much of the preparatory legal work was completed by Edwin Wilkins Field
Edwin Wilkins Field
including promotion of the Courts of Justice Building Act of 1865 and the Courts of Justice Concentration (Site) Act of 1865. A statue of Field stands in the building.[4] Parliament paid £1,453,000 for the 6-acre (24,000 m2) site upon which 450 houses had to be demolished. The building was paid for by cash accumulated in court from the estates of the intestate to the sum of £700,000. Oak work and fittings in the court cost a further £70,000 and with decoration and furnishing the total cost for the building came to under £1 million. The dimensions of the building (in round figures) are: 470 feet (140 m) from east to west; 460 feet (140 m) from north to south; 245 feet (75 m) from the Strand level to the tip of the fleche. Entering through the main gates on the Strand, one passes under two elaborately carved porches fitted with iron gates. The carving over the outer porch consists of heads of the most eminent judges and lawyers. Over the highest point of the upper arch is a figure of Jesus; to the left and right at a lower level are figures of Solomon and Alfred the Great; that of Moses
Moses
is at the northern front of the building. Also at the northern front, over the Judges entrance are a stone cat and dog representing fighting litigants in court. On either side are gateways leading to different courts and to jury and witness rooms from which separate staircases are provided for them to reach their boxes in court. During the 1960s, jury rooms in the basement area were converted to courtrooms. At either end of the hall are handsome marble galleries from which the entire Main Hall can be viewed. The walls and ceilings (of the older, original courts) are panelled in oak which in many cases is elaborately carved. In Court 4, the Lord Chief Justice's court, is an elaborately carved wooden royal coat of arms, salvaged from the fire that destroyed the original Palace of Westminster. Each court has an interior unique to itself; they were each designed by different architects.The grand hall is magnificent in architectural style and huge in size. In addition to the waiting rooms are arbitration chambers, consultation chambers and robing rooms for members of the bar and solicitor advocates. Extensions to the building[edit] The first extension was the West Green building for which plans were drawn in 1910; the space was for extra divorce courts. They were the first to have modern air conditioning and tape recording in their original design. The next new building was the Queen's Building, opened in 1968, providing a further 12 courts. This building also contains cells in the basement. It was intended that these courts could be used for criminal matters, however as the jury boxes can hold only 10 people they are not suitable for such a use and are now primarily used for family proceedings. The 11-storey Thomas More
Thomas More
Building was built to house the Bankruptcy and Companies Courts with associated offices. A semi-panorama is possible from the top floor to St Paul's Cathedral
St Paul's Cathedral
and the Central Criminal Court (the Old Bailey) in the City of London. Further courts are at the Rolls Building, within the grounds of the Law Courts. The Thomas More
Thomas More
Courts are twelve courts for the Chancery Division which opened in January 1990. The Thomas More
Thomas More
Building has become the County Court at Central London, in the lower tier of hierarchy, not part of the High Court or Court of Appeal. Vacant land for horizontal extensions is minimal and proximity to natural light of various windows coupled with a longstanding consensus to remain relatively low-rise among the older Courts restricts vertical extension. Full refurbishment of the east block took place during 1994–95 which provided 14 extra courts for the Civil Division of the Court of Appeal and two extra large courts which are unassigned and will be used for cases having multiple parties or an unusually large number of documents and books. [1] Anyone is allowed to watch the trials and hearings which are taking place free of charge, the main exception is private family cases such as adoption proceedings. See also[edit]

Courts of England and Wales

Notes[edit]

^ a b "Royal Courts Of Justice – latest news, breaking stories and comment". The Independent. Retrieved 2017-01-08.  ^ a b Harper 1983, p. 96. ^ 'Nosing around the Royal Courts of Justice', Chambers Student Guide 2011 ^ " Royal Courts of Justice
Royal Courts of Justice
visitors guide". HM Courts Service. Archived from the original on 24 July 2010. Retrieved 15 December 2008. 

References[edit]

Harper, Roger H. (1983). Victorian Architectural Competitions: An Index to British and Irish Architectural Competitions in The Builder, 1843–1900. Mansell Publishing Limited. ISBN 0-7201-1685-6. 

Bibliography[edit]

Brownlee, D. (1984). The Law Courts: The Architecture of George Edmund Street. MIT Press. 

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Royal Courts of Justice.

Official website Daily Cause List – Daily list of cases 360 degree image of the Royal Courts of Justice

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