Holding Court

The former courthouse in Shillelagh, County Wicklow. The main body of the building dates from 1893-94 when erected by local landlord, the sixth Earl Fitzwilliam; a report from the time ascribes the design to one ‘Mr Fieldsend’ who may have worked for the Fitzwilliams on their main estate in Yorkshire (there is no documentation of someone with that name undertaking any other work in Ireland). Originally called the New Hall, the building served a variety of purposes, not just a location for the local petty sessions court but also a venue for meetings and dances. In July 1893 the future seventh Earl Fitzwilliam came of age and his father’s tenants decided to commemorate this event by enhancing the courthouse with a clock tower and weather vane. Seemingly these were again designed by the aforementioned Mr Fieldsend, but the clock came from Johnson’s of Grafton Street, Dublin. Subsequently donated to the village, the building was used as a sessions court until 2001 after which it remained empty for six years until restored as a community centre, although it would now seem to be in need of some attention once again.