Sheriff Court House and Prison

Buildings, Historic Buildings, Monuments & Statues
The tall castellated building on the High Street, is the former court house, built in 1868. The tower behind it is the prison, built in 1815 and closed in 1883.

About Sheriff Court House and Prison

The sheriff court house and prison were built in different phases. Originally a former court house built in the 1780s occupied part of the site. By 1812 prison accommodation in the Tolbooth was insufficient for the number of people who needed to be confined. The foundation stone for a tower prison, 25 metres tall, was laid with Masonic honours in May 1815. The prison was built adjacent to the former court house for civil and criminal prisoners and opened in 1817. During their lives both buildings underwent internal change. Reform of the penal system from 1839 and the policy of separating prisoners meant individual cells replaced communal forms of confinement. A prison governor’s house was built in 1842 and a 6 metre high wall was built around a prison yard.

Major changes to both court house and prison were made in 1868 when the prison was temporarily closed. Thousands of prisoners passed through court house and prison for a wide range of offences from poaching to murder. Mary Timney, the last woman to be publicly hanged in Dumfries was held in the prison in 1862. During the period when transportation was a form of punishment, dozens of prisoners began their journey overseas here.

Kirkcudbright prison closed in 1883 and the prison yard was sold and the land used to build a Roman Catholic school and hall. The court house closed in 2015 when court work was centralised at Dumfries.

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