The home of The Supreme Court is the former Middlesex Guildhall, an impressive building in an historic location directly linked with justice and the law for nearly a millennium.
Long before the earliest courthouse was built here, the site was occupied by Westminster Abbey’s Sanctuary Tower and Old Belfry, where fugitives could seek refuge from their pursuers on an island at the junction of the Tyburn and the Thames.
In 1889 the old courthouse was replaced by the first Middlesex Guildhall, which housed the Middlesex County Council and Quarter Sessions. However, even this soon became too small, and the present building opened its doors just before the first world war in 1913.
Designed by architect James Gibson, and built in Portland stone, it features a great deal of internal and external decorative work by Henry Fehr and was described by Nikolaus Pevsner as art nouveau Gothic.
In 1964 Middlesex ceased to exist as an administrative and judicial area, and the Guildhall was converted in the 1980s to a Crown Court centre with seven busy criminal courtrooms. Original features were obscured by machinery, cells and partitions. The amount of natural light entering the building was vastly reduced, making it feel cluttered and gloomy.
Both light wells bring daylight back into the heart of the building again, in accordance with Gibson’s designs. Newly recreated spaces house airy new courtrooms, a magnificent triple-height law library, and welcoming public areas including a café and an exhibition area.
Restored to full splendour, the building now brings both dignity and accessibility to its role, housing the highest court in the United Kingdom.