Description of Historic Place
The Old Court House is situated along the Barrington River in a historic part of Barrington, NS. It is a two-and-one-half storey wooden building, clad in wide wooden shingles, located directly on the main road. The municipal heritage designation applies to the building and property.
The Old Court House is valued for its age, architecture and its association with the history of Barrington and later the Municipality of the District of Barrington.
Barrington was originally settled by families from New England, who brought with them a New England style of government and architecture. In the early years of the community, residents held their town meetings in the Meeting House, originally built for secular and religious assemblies. However, circa 1839, church officials decided that the Meeting House must be used solely for religious purposes and the doors were locked against town officials. After this, meetings were held in private homes and often in a school house on nearby Sherose Island. At this time in Nova Scotia, local governance was done through the Court of General Sessions of the Peace, overseen by justices of the peace and circuit judges. While the Courts did act as courts of law, they were predominately local governments.
The Old Court House was built in 1843 by Sherard Kenney and was then known as the Town House and Lock-up. It was built in the Neo-classical style with symmetrical lines and a simple design. In 1854 Shelburne County was divided into two administrative districts, creating the District of Barrington, which then had its own Court of General Sessions. Until this time, Barrington residents had to travel to Shelburne to attend court.
In 1870, with the provincial Municipal Act, the Court of General Sessions was replaced by a Municipal Council and Clerk who were based in the Old Court House. In the 1890s extensive changes were made to the interior of the building, mainly on the second floor court room and chambers and two small one-storey additions made to the rear. Much of this work was done by local builder Wilson H. Crowell. In 1966-1967 a small two-storey addition was made to the south end of the building to provide space for social services offices. The building no longer serves as a court house and is used as a local museum and historical society.
The Old Court House is the third oldest court house in Nova Scotia. Although much altered, the original, Neo-classical building is clearly evident. Many of the original and historic interior elements also remain, including the jury box, seating, doors, trim and flooring. A number of well known magistrates have presided in the court room, including Hon. James Lorimer Illsley, former Federal Minister of Finance and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia.
Source: Municipality of the District of Barrington, Municipal Heritage files, Old Court House
Character-defining elements of the Old Court House relate to its original Neo-classical form and include:
- large two-and-one-half storey construction;
- symmetrical seven-bay façade of original building;
- wood frame;
- wood cladding;
- medium pitched gable roof;
- large eaves with gable return;
- six-over-six wooden windows;
- second-storey windows located directly beneath eaves;
- simple entablature over main floor windows;
- front entrance protected by overhang supported by decorative brackets.
Interior character-defining elements of the Old Court House relate to its original use as a court house and include:
- all original and historic interior elements including: court room on second floor with judges' chambers, jury room, lawyers robing room dating from 1890s renovation;
- original panelling and flooring on main floor;
- writing, including the Lord’s Prayer, on first floor walls left by prisoners;
- all remnants of original jail.
Other character-defining elements of the Old Court House include:
- Gothic Revival style window in attiic storey of gable ends;
- located directly beside road in centre of Barrington;