Old court house, St Asaph

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Old court house, St Asaph

photo of royal coat of arms on court houseThis was built in 1853 as a County Court. Look up to see the royal coat of arms in the centre of the building (depicted on the right). A judge would hear civil disputes over money at the court.

Today county courts handle almost all types of civil cases (ones which do not involve criminal charges) but when this court was built the County Courts Act 1846 had only recently been passed. It divided Wales and England into districts, each of which established a county court. Initially they dealt only with claims of small financial losses, but from 1883 they also handled bankruptcy. It wasn’t until the 20th century that their jurisdiction expanded to include most civil cases, including divorce proceedings

Once a month, magistrates would sit in the court at St Asaph to deal with local criminals. The building behind the court house (to its left) was the police station, built c.1858. The cells, with their strong vaulted ceilings, survive to the right of the main house. Outside them is a small exercise yard, bounded by a high wall.

Despite St Asaph’s small size and the dominance of its cathedral, there was no shortage of sinful activity to keep the police and magistrates busy! Police reported in 1880 that there were three brothels in Irish Square - between the Catholic church and the cathedral! According to Prof David JV Jones, in his book Crime in 19th Century Wales, one of the criminals named in the annual police report to the Home Office in 1877-1881 was one Ann McManus, of St Asaph, who had been earning money from sex and thefts.

One of the criminals kept in the police cells was a female murderer. Many of the people brought here after arrest were committed to the lunatic asylum in Denbigh.

In recent decades the old court house has been used for various purposes, including auctions, a hat shop and a youth club.

Where is HiPoint?

Postcode: LL17 0RE

Other CRIMEHiPoints in this region:
Former Dudley Arms, Rhyl – jilted barmaid’s trial for attempted suicide made headlines in 1893
Former Ruthin jail, where felons from much of North Wales were locked up
Mochdre - inn where a renowned Victorian jailbreaker was apprehended while in bed