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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.

County Buildings including Lerwick Sheriff Court House and Police Station, boundary walls, gatepiers and railings and excluding 2-storey concrete rendered block to north, Hillhead, LerwickReference: LB37263

Status: Designated


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  • Category: B
  • Date Added: 18/10/1977
  • Last Date Amended: 09/09/2015


  • Local Authority: Shetland Islands
  • Planning Authority: Shetland Islands
  • Burgh: Lerwick

National Grid Reference

No information available.


David Rhind of Edinburgh, 1874-5. Irregular complex of single and 2-storey, crow stepped, Scots Baronial buildings consisting of county buildings to the south with taller court at rear to north and with police station and former prison extending north. The 2-storey concrete rendered extension to north is not considered of special architectural interest in listing terms at the time of review.

The building is set within its own grounds in a prominent position in Lerwick. Stugged, squared and snecked sandstone ashlar walls with contrasting droved ashlar dressings and details. Main buildings with base courses, curved corners, chamfered arrises and shallow pointed-arched lintels to windows. There are some bipartite window openings.

Asymmetrical 4-bay entrance elevation to south with advanced central bays and 6-panel 2-leaf timber entrance door with datestone set in stepped hoodmould above.

Predominantly 4-pane glazing in timber sash and case windows. Small cell windows to former prison. Grey slates. Decorative brattishing to court house and cast iron rainwater goods, some hoppers dated 1875. Apex and wallhead coped chimney stacks. Skewputts.

The interior of the court house was seen in 2014 and the interior of the police station was seen in 1996. There is a marble slab chimneypiece, 4-panel doors, panelled shutters and a coved plaster ceiling in county hall. Boarded ceiling in county clerk's office. Stone stair with cast iron balusters and timber handrail. Many original fittings surviving in courtroom, including curved bench, witness box, jury box, dock with metal railings, public bench and press bench, all in panelled pine. Vertically-boarded timber wainscoting, panelled shutters, architraved doors, coved and coffered ceiling. Stone prison stair with plain balusters and timber handrail.

Low, saddleback coped and stepped boundary walls to south and east with iron railings. Square gatepiers with pyramidal caps. Iron lamp bracket oversailing south gate. High random rubble wall to surrounding former prison yard to north and east.

Statement of Special Interest

Lerwick County Buildings was built in 1874-5 by the Edinburgh architect David Rhind. The complex is a prominent and significant civic building in the town with its distinctive crow-stepped gables and differing roof lines. With the exception of the circa 2003 addition the building has been little altered to its exterior and the courtroom is of particular interest in retaining many late 19th century fittings.

The Lerwick County Buildings, comprising the sheriff court, police station and prison was opened in 1875. The building is depicted on the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map of Lerwick (surveyed 1877), in roughly the same irregular plan as currently, with the exception of the 2003 extension to the rear. The former prison now forms part of the police station, and the building now only contains holding cells.

During the early part of the 19th century, the court and prison functions in Lerwick were carried out in the Tolbooth (see separate listing) and were moved to Fort Charlotte (Scheduled Monument, SM No 90145) in 1837. Negotiations for a new court house and prison resulted in the current building being constructed over 2 years and it opened in 1875. The contractor was a Mr D Outerson, who employed local labour. When the building opened, there was a large procession in the town with the county sheriff coming specially north for the event. In his book Shetland in the last Half-Century, Ian Manson wrote 'the County Buildings are certainly a credit to the burgh from an architectural standpoint; and from the commanding position they occupy are one of the first buildings in the town that the eye catches when Lerwick is first seen'.

David Rhind (1808-1883) began training as an architect in circa 1828 in the offices of A C Pugin and completed his training in Italy. He was a highly regarded architect of the mid to late 19th century period in Scotland. Working in a variety of styles from Gothic to Baronial to neoclassical, Rhind was a prominent designer of commercial buildings, notably in his role as principal architect to the Commercial Bank of Scotland. Rhind served as an architect to the Prison Board and designed many courts, such as Wick (1862-66), Dumfries (1863-5) and Selkirk (1867). His court house designs were stylistically varied, although he often referred to traditional tower house architecture precedents.

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.

Court houses constructed after 1860 generally had a solely legal purpose and did not incorporate a prison, other than temporary holding cells. The courts were designed in a variety of architectural styles but often relied heavily on Scots Baronial features to reference the fortified Scottish building tradition. Newly constructed court buildings in the second half of the 19th century dispensed with large public spaces such as county halls and instead provided bespoke office accommodation for the sheriff, judge and clerks, and accommodated the numerous types of court and holding cells.

The 2-storey, concrete rendered extension to north is not considered of special interest in listing terms at the time of the review (2014-15).

Statutory address and listed building record revised as part of the Scottish Courts Listing Review 2014-15. Previously listed as 'King Erik Street and Market Street, Police Station, County Buildings and Sheriff Courthouse (Formerly Zetland County Buildings), Including Boundary Walls, Gatepiers and Railings'.



Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland: CANMORE ID 216933.

Ordnance Survey (Surveyed 1877, Published 1881) Shetland, Sheet LIII.13. 25 inches to the mile. 1st Edition. London: Ordnance Survey.

The Scottish Civic Trust (1983) Historic Buildings at Work. Glasgow: The Scottish Civic Trust. p.167.

Brown, R. (ed) (1985) The Architectural Outsiders. London: Waterstone.

Irvine, J. W. (1985) Lerwick; the Birth and Growth of an Island Town. Lerwick: Lerwick Community Council.

Finnie, M. (1990) Shetland. Edinburgh: Mainstream Publications. p.27.

Manson, T. (1991) Lerwick During the Last Half Century (1867-1917). 2nd Edition. Lerwick: Lerwick Community Council.

Gifford, J. (1992) The Buildings of Scotland: Highlands and Islands. London: Penguin. p.489.

Historic Scotland (2014) Scottish Courts Preliminary Report at

Dictionary of Scottish Architects. David Rhind at [accessed 23 October 2014].

Further information courtesy of Lerwick Court staff (2014).

Link to Canmore Record

About Designations

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.

The information in the listed building record gives an indication of the special architectural or historic interest of the listed building(s). It is not a definitive historical account or a complete description of the building(s). The format of the listed building record has changed over time. Earlier records may be brief and some information will not have been recorded.

Enquiries relating to works to listed buildings should be made to the local authority in the first instance. Listed building consent is required for works which a local authority considers will affect its character as a building of special architectural or historic interest and local authorities also decide if listed building consent is required.

Listing covers both the exterior and the interior. Listing can cover structures not mentioned which are part of the curtilage of the building, such as boundary walls, gates, gatepiers, ancillary buildings etc. The local authority is responsible for advising on what is covered by the listing including the curtilage of a listed building. For information about curtilage see

Legislation introduced on 1 October 2015 allows us to state that: an object or structure fixed to the listed building; any object or structure within the curtilage of the listed building; and, any part or feature of the listed building that is not of architectural or historic interest may be excluded from a listing. If part of your building is not listed under the new legislation, the part will be excluded in the statutory address and in the statement of special interest. The statement will use the word 'excluding' and quote the relevant section of the Historic Environment Scotland Act 2014. Some earlier listed building records may use the word 'excluding', but if the Act is not quoted, the record has not been revised to reflect current legislation.

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