Situated in North Street, directly opposite the Civic Centre, the building which houses the Law Courts was originally constructed as a replacement for the old Town Hall (built in 1687) which had been demolished. The official opening of the new Town Hall, on Oct. 19th 1871, is commemorated by a statue of George Thorneycroft, Wolverhampton's first Mayor, which stands in the main entrance hall.
The initial idea for the construction of a new Town Hall was put forward by Henry Hartley Fowler in 1865. The decision to proceed was taken at a Council meeting in 1869 after a proposal by Alderman Walker seconded by Alderman Hawksford. The building Was designed by a Manchester architect, Mr Bates, and constructed by Philip Horsman of Wolverhampton.
As the seat of the Council, the Town Hall originally contained a Council Chamber, which was used for the Authority's Council meetings, large rooms for committee meetings, Members rooms and a Mayoral suite with Reception Room. A carved Mayoral Chair, which can now be seen in the Mayor's Parlour in the Civic Centre, was at one time located in the Council Chamber. It bears the inscription, 'This Chair was presented by the Rev.F.B. Owen M.A. Vicar of St. Mary's, Bilston to George Benjamin Thorneycroft Esq., first Mayor of Wolverhampton and by him presented to the Corporation for the perpetual use of their Chief Magistrate A.D. MDCCCXIVIII.'
Also housed in the Town Hall were a Sessions Court, Borough Magistrates Court, offices for the Department of Chief Officials and rooms for the Recorder, Magistrates Clerk and witnesses. Detention cells, where defendants could be kept before facing the Courts, were situated beneath the buildings. The rear of the Town Hall, in conjunction with the nearby Police offices and Fire Station, surrounded a large courtyard. The building was in 1902.
The Town Hall's Civic functions remained the same until 1978 when the Council Seat was transferred to the newly opened Civic Centre. The building was then used solely for legal and administrative proceedings and became the Law Courts. Today the majority of the Courts sitting are Magistrates Courts which are housed and administered on the upper floor. In addition there are five Petty Sessional Courts sitting five days a week. The Domestic Court and Juvenile Court also sit in the building under the administration of the Magistrates. Two rooms are used by the Crown Court which is administered from Dudley and does not sit continuously. With the construction of a new Crown Court building planned for the near future, the administration will move to Wolverhampton.
The original floor tiles, which are believed to have been made in Ironbridge, were taken up and restored to their original condition in 1983. Some of these were in such a bad state that they had to be replaced with modern red tiles. All the tiles, both replacements and originals, were relayed in the original pattern. In the latter part of 1983 work also began on restoring the stone work of what is now classed as a Grade II Listed Building. This was completed in the middle of 1984 and suggests that the building will remain in use for some years to come.
The Law Courts is a symmetrical two-storey building constructed in the French Renaissance style with a sandstone facade and rusticated plinth. Above the plinth an the ground floor are fourteen bay windows divided by eight flat Corinthian pilasters which also divide the windows on the top floor. At the centre of the facade is the main entrance which has a window above it.
In the centre of the balustrade which runs along the top of the facade is a clock tower and clock which are both part of the original building. The clock was purchased around 1870 for 8 pounds and 1O shillings. From the centre of the slate roof, and immediately behind the clock tower, a truncated curved slate roof projects upwards. On either side of this, at both ends of the facade, two similar but smaller flat roofs can also be seen. All three roof tops are decorated in wrought iron.