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Listed Building

The legal part of the listing is the address/name of site only. All other information in the record is not statutory.

Inverness Sheriff Court and Justice of the Peace Court, including Police Station and boundary wall, Castle Wynd, Castle Hill, InvernessReference: LB35166

Status: Designated


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  • Category: A
  • Date Added: 21/05/1971
  • Last Date Amended: 10/09/2015


  • Local Authority: Highland
  • Planning Authority: Highland
  • Burgh: Inverness

National Grid Reference

No information available.


Castellated court house and prison complex built primarily in 2 phases: William Burn, 1833-6, court house; Thomas Brown II, 1846-8, police station and district court (former prison). Alterations to connect prison to county offices by Ross and Macbeth, 1904; and further alterations, R J Macbeth, 1911. Between the two buildings are the remains of the medieval castle well, restored in 1909.

Court House: 2 storeys, with 7-bay ashlar principal elevation, and advanced and raised centre 3 bays; bay to the left (west) has a round tower; bay to the right (east) has a square plan tower. There is a centre round-arched doorpiece under a gablet and flanked by heavy buttresses. Predominantly round-arched windows linked by continuous hoodmoulding, the first floor windows at 2nd and 6th bays are tripartite. Crenellated parapet, machicolated at towers and with crosslets at towers and centre.

The interior to the court house was seen in 2014 and is arranged with the court and public offices, faculty library and main courtroom at the ground floor, all accessed from a large central hall with colonnade opening onto an imperial stair rising under a coffered barrel vault. To the north of the stair at the ground level is the principal courtroom, with coffered ceiling, and a semi-circular gallery to the south accessed from the first floor. The courtroom is lit by large round-arched tripartite windows and has timber pew seating arranged in a semi-circle around the timber bench which has a Tudor Gothic sounding board canopy above. The well furniture, dock and witness box were been replaced in the 1980s in a period style. Colonnades at ground and first floor groin and barrel-vaulted, springing from heavy pilasters. A perambulatory timber panelled hall links the main courtroom to various rooms at ground floor, including the faculty room. The faculty library has a large bay window to the east and a groin vaulted ceiling, with most furnishings largely intact including the break-front bookcase and library table. All secondary rooms, offices and passages include decorative cornicing and panelled doors, and a number of fireplaces.

Police Station and District Court (Former Prison): 3 storeys and 4 bays to the principal (entrance) elevation. Snecked rubble with ashlar dressings. There is a square tower at southwest and an octagonal tower at northwest with a tall slim circular turret at one angle. Crenellated and machicolated parapet. The interior of the police station was not seen in 2014.

The court house and police station are linked at the east by a martially bastioned enclosing wall enlivened with towers and bartizans, all by Joseph Mitchell, 1839.

Coped, squared and coursed rubble boundary walls enclosing site to the west, north and east.

Statement of Special Interest

Inverness Sheriff Court, including its police station (former prison), is an important early example of burgh court building constructed unusually in the castellated style. It is an outstanding example of civic architecture, displaying some fine architectural features and designed by renowned architect William Burn and extended in a similar style by prison architect, Thomas Brown II. The interior retains much of its 1830s decoration and plan form, and the main courtroom is one of two surviving in Scotland that has semi-circular public seating.

The present group of buildings is the result of 2 main phases of construction with two substantial castellated blocks linked by a series of bastions and perimeter walls.The sheriff court at Inverness dates from 1833 and was designed by prominent architect, William Burn. The new court building was planned from 1812, but sufficient funds for its construction were only made available from 1831, when Burn's plans were drawn up. The building was constructed on the prominent historic site of the medieval castle of Inverness which had been demolished after it was attacked by the Jacobite army in 1745. Sheriff Depute William Fraser Tytler, with clear Jacobean lineage, was instrumental in promoting a new court house and aspired to building a significant monument for the capital of the Highlands.

While Burn put forward plans for the prison, the work eventually went to Thomas Brown II (official architect to the Prison Board from 1837). The prison was constructed as a second phase over ten years later, from 1846-8, due to the need for economy.

The 1833 entrance to the south was blocked up in the 20th century to respond to the need for increasing court space, and this area is now a second courtroom.

The police station (prison) was altered extensively in circa 1904, and this work is attributed to Ross and Macbeth. Most cells, except those at basement level, were altered to accommodate new functions, with many of the cell windows enlarged.

The perimeter walls, mainly to the police station, were reduced in height after the Second World War and the associated gate lodge demolished.

William Burn (1789-1870), one of Scotland's foremost 19th century architects, was one the country's chief proponents of the picturesque castellated style in his domestic commissions, the designs for which relied on English medieval models, and often also included Tudor-revival elements. Burn was involved in prominent public commissions for court buildings and in 1829 had designed alterations for Edinburgh's Court of Session. In the same year he was engaged at Inverness, he designed Haddington Sherriff Court, which is in the Tudor-Gothic style.

Thomas Brown II began his architectural career in his father's firm, and probably worked in the office of William Burn prior to being appointed as architect to the Prison Board of Scotland in 1837 and setting up his own independent office in Edinburgh. As architect to the Prison Board of Scotland, Brown II had extensive experience in designing county court houses and prisons (the design work of which his partner Thomas Wardrop gradually took over), such as at Dingwall (1842) and which later included the court houses of Wigtown (1862), Alloa (1863), Forfar (1869) and Stirling (designed 1866, built 1874) (see separate listings). The practice were also successful at remodelling and designing country houses, with their work accomplished examples of the French Baronial style and later pioneering examples of neo-Georgian.

The development of the court house as a building type in Scotland follows the history of the Scottish legal system and wider government reforms. The majority of purpose-built court houses were constructed in the 19th century as by this time there was an increase in the separation of civic, administrative and penal functions into separate civic and institutional buildings, and the resultant surge of public building was promoted by new institutional bodies. The introduction of the Sheriff Court Houses (Scotland) Act of 1860 gave a major impetus to the increase and improvement of court accommodation and the provision of central funding was followed by the most active period of sheriff court house construction in the history of the Scottish legal system, and many new court houses were built or reworked after this date. The design of court houses in the early 19th century tended towards neoclassical or Renaissance styles to convey their status as important public buildings.

Statutory address and listed building record revised as part of the Scottish Courts Listing Review 2014-15. Previously listed as 'Castle Wynd, Sheriff Court and Police Station, Including Boundary Walls, Castle Hill'.



Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland: CANMORE ID 98264.

Ordnance Survey. (1875) Inverness, Mainland Sheet XII.1. 25 inches to the mile. Ist Edition. London: Ordnance Survey.

Inverness Journal, 10 May 1833.

Inverness Courier, 16 January 1839; 25 February 1846; 8 January 1904; 19 September 1911.

New Statistical Account, xiv 16.

Cameron, George (1847) A History and Description of the Town of Inverness. p.69.

Alexander Mackenzie (1903) A Guide to Inverness. p.33.

The Scottish Civic Trust (1983) Historic Buildings at Work. Glasgow: The Scottish Civic Trust. p.69-70.

Gifford, J. (1992) Buildings of Scotland: Highlands and Islands. London: Penguin Books Ltd. p.196-197.

Dictionary of Scottish Architects, Thomas Brown II at [accessed 03 November 2014].

MacKechnie, A. (2014) Inverness Castle: A Preliminary Historical Account. Historic Scotland. Unpublished.

Further information courtesy of Buildings of Scotland Research Unit (1971) and Scottish Courts Service (2014).

Link to Canmore Record

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Listed Buildings

We list buildings of special architectural or historic interest and these are selected according to criteria published in the, Annex 2, pp74-76.

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