On Tuesday the 18th February 1902 a tender went out in the Hobart Gazette for the building of a courthouse, offices, and police quarters, at West Devonport. The plans and specifications were made available at the West Devonport Post Office and the Public Buildings in Launceston. On the 10th March 1902 the Examiner advised that the tender of Mr Ashby White to the value of £1920 12s had been accepted.
Mr White began the works as soon as he could organise delivery of materials, and by the end of May 1902 the courthouse foundations were well on track. High expectations were held for the building, which was to be constructed of brick with cement facings and to be located beside the Town Hall. It was reported that the courthouse would be as good as any other in the State, while the offices and the watchhouse keeper’s quarters were expected to be better than those anywhere in Tasmania outside Hobart or Launceston.
The temporary home of the courthouse needed to be vacated, so although the new building and surrounds weren’t quite finished due to difficulty finding qualified contractors, police officials moved into the new building on Tuesday the 24th June 1903. The first sitting of the Police Court took place on Thursday the 25th June 1903, with some eight to ten cases being listed. The first Judge to preside in the new surroundings was Judge McIntyre. Unfortunately, the Judge had cause on a number of occasions to refer to his difficulty in hearing what was being said, due to a lack of carpeting which caused echoes in the building.
The building fit-out appears to have been outstanding, with highly polished wood throughout and leadlight windows. The magistrates were accommodated with a dais and bench capable of seating six and the solicitors and press were provided with a wood table separated by a polished ornamental railing. The Justices occupied a raised dais and a dock was provided for the accused. The court was heated by two fireplaces, one in the gallery and the other near the Judge’s dais. The main area of the court was separated from the gallery by a polished railing, while the railed public area had a separate entrance. The interior colours sound quite interesting, with newspaper reports stating that some of the rooms were painted light green and some salmon. The courthouse was reported to be painted a conservative white.
Numerous upgrades were made to the building over the years and garaging was first provided for police motorcycles in 1938. However, increasingly there were complaints, particularly from lawyers, about what were seen as inadequate facilities and in 1988 Devonport City Council decided that the time had come to construct a new courthouse.
Written by Leah Johnson
The Hobart Gazette, Tuesday 18th February 1902, page 332
The Examiner, Monday 10th March 1902, page 1
The Examiner, Friday 30th May 1902, page 2
The Examiner, Thursday 8th January 1903, page 4
The Examiner, Monday 18th May 1903, page 4
The Mercury, Wednesday 24th June 1903, page 2
North West Post, Saturday 8th August 1903
The Mercury, 26th June 1903
The Examiner, Friday 19th June 1903, page 4
“Talking History with Faye Gardam,” Devonport City News, 12th June 1996
The Advocate, 23rd July 1988
Devonport Police photograph:
(Standing) Constables Foskett; H. W. Peachey; Sub. Inspector Harris; Constables Patton and Wilson; Trooper Britton.
(Sitting) Detective Dwan; B.C. Greene (Council Clerk)
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