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Hertford courts of justice and corn market (now the Shire Hall), Fore Street, Hertford, Hertfordshire: alternative schemes for the building, 1767-68 (9)

1767-68
By the 1760s the Sessions House built in Hertford in 1627 was no longer adequate for the town's needs. Six architects were invited to prepare designs for a larger building on a new site, and those submitted by James Adam were selected. James had submitted six different schemes for the building, all of which were relatively austere. Three of these schemes are represented in the surviving drawings at the Soane, and four of these schemes are represented in the surviving drawings at the Hertfordshire Record Office. Although some of these are similar to the executed, none of these surviving drawings represent the building exactly. Unfortunately, there are no extant drawings for the executed, sixth scheme.

Construction in yellow brick began in April 1769 and was completed in April 1771. The new building had a top-lit domed rotunda, and provided a hall, two court rooms, a jury room, and a covered market at the rear. James Adam is not known to have provided any designs for the interior of the building. By the twentieth century the building was in disrepair, and had received some unfortunate nineteenth-century alterations. During the 1980s the building was renovated, and it was reopened as the Shire Hall in 1990.

There are fourteen drawings from the Adam office for the Hertford courts of justice in the Hertfordshire Archive and Local Studies. Drawings DE/P/P11/11-14 in the Hertfordshire Record Office represent two similar single-storey designs, one of which appears to correspond with Adam volumes 38/36-37 in the Soane Museum, and drawings DE/P/P11/4-10 appear to correspond with Adam volumes 38/32-35 in the Soane Museum. Drawings DE/P/P11/1-3 do not correspond with any of the drawings at the Soane Museum. I am grateful to Tim Shepherd of Hertfordshire County Council Archive for his assistance.

Literature:
A.T. Bolton, The architecture of Robert and James Adam, 1922, Volume II, Index p. 17; N. Pevsner, and B. Cherry, The buildings of England: Hertfordshire, 1977, p. 186; R. Moye, The restoration of the Shire Hall, Hertfordshire, 1990, pp. 1-24; D. King, The complete works of Robert & James Adam and unbuilt Adam, 2001, Volume I, pp. 32, 38-39, Volume II, p. 56

Frances Sands, 2012
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