The minutes of the Quarter Sessions held in Warwick and Coventry are currently being indexed and they turn out to contain all sorts of surprising snippets of information. For example, they reveal the origins of the Judge’s Lodgings in Warwick.
Purchase of the site in Sheep Street
In 1814 the Quarter Session minutes mention the purchase of houses in Sheep Street in order to build lodgings for judges attending the Assizes in Warwick.1 Strange I thought – the Judge’s Lodgings are in Northgate Street. On further investigation I discover that Northgate Street became the site of the market for sheep in the late seventeenth century, whereupon its name changed to Sheep Street. The market moved to Coton End during the nineteenth century and the name reverted to Northgate Street.2
Previous houses on the site
Dr Amos Middleton owned one of the houses in Sheep Street and William James Esq the other; they were paid £554 12s and £915 12s 6d respectively.3 These two houses would presumably have been like the ones that still stand opposite, constructed after the Great Fire of Warwick in 1694. The two houses were demolished to provide the site for the Judge’s Lodgings.
The architect Henry Hakewill (who designed many of Rugby School buildings) was authorised to spend up to £1,000 building the Judge’s Lodgings in 1814. He was paid this amount in two installments later that year.4 The Judge’s Lodgings represents a nice example of late Georgian civic architecture, and ‘The Judges House’ is now a Grade II listed building that Alec Clifton-Taylor calls ‘a model of simple dignity’.5
More from the Quarter Session minutes
Confirming the use of Sheep Street: in 1824 John Hodgetts was renting the ground in front of county hall and the gaol to erect sheep pens on fair days for £1 a year. In the same year, there were enquiries to use the judge’s lodgings when not occupied by a judge, but Mr. Holmes was directed to refuse all such requests except for meetings of the Savings Bank.6
The building today
The building ceased being used to accommodate judges in the 21st century and is now available to hire for weddings etc. The interior includes a grand dining room, drawing room and the High Sheriff’s room; you can visit if you join a conducted tour on occasions such as the heritage week in autumn.
1 Quarter Session (QS) Minutes, Warwickshire County Record Office reference QS39/11, 1814, pp. 625-6.
2 Christine Cluley ‘Northgate Street’, 2006, p. 12.
3 QS Minutes, Warwickshire County Record Office reference QS39.11, 1814, p. 625-6.
4 QS Minutes, Warwickshire County Record Office reference QS39/11, 1814, pp. 636 & 645. His name was mis-spelled Hackwill in the first of these entries.
5 Listed Building entry 1035394; Alec Clifton-Taylor ‘Six more English Towns’ BBC Publication, 1981, p. 34.
6 QS Minutes, Warwickshire County Record Office reference QS39/14, 1824, p. 238; p. 283.