The bricks and mortar of Walcha's law and order

Historic scene: A few spectators attending a minor fire at the Walcha Court House in the second half of the 1900s.
Historic scene: A few spectators attending a minor fire at the Walcha Court House in the second half of the 1900s.

The Walcha Court House is built on an ironstone foundation with colonial bond brickwork. It has granite window sills, lined with cedar panels, and has cedar furniture.

A contract worth £900 was awarded to Messrs Moore and Lonsdale of Armidale in September 1871 for the construction of the first stage of the present Walcha Court House.

The building, which was completed in 1873, also served as a police watch house, lock-up and Lands Office and was said to be one of the better buildings in Walcha. Alterations and additions were made in 1875, 1880 and 1890.

The Colonial Government had proposed an amount of £1200 to build a court house in 1854 but changed its mind in October 1855 when it decided to instead provide £400 for the building of a police watch house.

The Maitland Mercury of October 17, 1857, announced tenders were invited for the construction of the watch house, which was to be roofed with ironbark or box shingles. Three local justices of the peace recommended to the authorities that this be changed to stringybark shingles since the other timbers were not available locally.

Construction work on the watch house, which was to include a court room, was under way in 1858 but Walcha still lacked the proper facilities to conduct a Court of Petty Sessions. This caused frustration in Armidale as well as in Walcha.

A Walcha magistrate, who announced he would not hold court under a gum tree or in a public house, referred cases to the Armidale Bench of Magistrates, some of which they refused to hear since they believed there was no good reason for them not being heard at Walcha.

When it was ready for use in 1860, the court room in the Walcha watch house did not meet expectations,with one mid-winter report saying: “It was unusually cold while the gentlemen were on the bench, and between wind and smoke from the open fire, they were almost driven out of the place.” The 1860 building, said by some to be a disgrace to Walcha, was demolished in 1874 a year after the first stage of the present court house was completed.