Historic court set for brighter future

MHLC-07-09-12 Explore Warwick Sep27 Heritage Open Days   Warwick Crown Courts & Judges House,Exploring the Victorian courtroom, cells, & Medieval prison. ENGNNL00120131104105530

MHLC-07-09-12 Explore Warwick Sep27 Heritage Open Days Warwick Crown Courts & Judges House,Exploring the Victorian courtroom, cells, & Medieval prison. ENGNNL00120131104105530

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Warwick’s former court rooms will be transformed into a venue for weddings and events to bring the historic buildings back in to public use.

The Old Shire Hall and Judges Houses off Northgate Street will be developed as a hospitality company after the plans gained support on Thursday, ending years of debate on the future of the site.

I think it is a great thing, this building needs to be looked after and we need to look out for maintenance

John Holland

Used by the judiciary since the 1750s, the Grade I building has sat largely unused since the legal service moved to Leamington in 2010.

It includes a main hall for larger functions, three courtrooms and cells - and will be used alongside the Georgian Grade II listed Judges’ House which is made up of dining and drawing rooms suitable for drinks receptions.

Warwickshire County Council’s cabinet agreed to set up the hospitality company on Thursday. And ward councillor, John Holland (Lab) described it as a vital step alongside ongoing residential development in Northgate.

He said: “I think it is a great thing, this building needs to be looked after and we need to make sure the historic sites are maintained.

“There is a very good plan here, and between commercial realities and working with the rest of the town centre this is a sound development.

“The council will work with town organisations such as the Warwick Society to make sure this is done sensitively, but we certainly need something to bring this back to use.”

Previous plans for the site - including for it to be run as a tourist attraction with the castle - fell through, and councillors said they were keen to make sure the site did not fall into disrepair.

The council has now set up an arm’s length company for hospitality, events and venue management over 10 years.

The non profit organisations give council’s flexibility in outsourcing management for projects to its own teams.

The company was also given an £18,000 loan which will be repaid from trading surpluses returned annually to the council.

Portfolio holder, Cllr Alan Cockburn said: “The Old Shire Hall, Law Courts and Judge’s House are stunning buildings with exceptional potential.

“For a long time we have wanted to do the buildings justice and we have a strong vision for the future.”