The Former Melbourne Magistrates Court and The Old Melbourne Gaol

Serendipity Photography Magistrates Court

Built be the Swanson Brothers a the beginning of the 20th century, the Old Magistrates Court was designed in the Norman, or French Romanesque, style of the 11th and 12th centuries. This styling can be seen in the heavy arching doorway, grand pillars and zig-zag ribbing that frame the windows. Norman architecture was considered appropriate for a court of law, having associations with the ancient heritage of English law.

On the 20th January, 1914 the court opened for proceedings, and served the City of Melbourne for 81 years, before relocating to William Street. Today this spectacular piece of Melbourne architecture is part of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, City campus, holding student lectures and classes.

Built on top of a huge plinth of rock-faced limestone, with bluestone and marble this incredible building has stunning finishings in iron and blackwood. The two story façade is made up of gorgeous turrets, gables and towers, with elaborate carved stonework running the length of the grand slate and iron roofs. Majestic lion statues guard the entrance of the court, looking out across the City of Melbourne with authority and strength.

Serendipity Photography Magistrates Court

The curved steps up to the heavy front entrance made of basalt stone, on the corner of Russell and La Trobe Streets, forms the perfect platform for fantastic wedding photography. Looking up at the main tower, with turrets on either side, the dramatic architecture makes for a brilliant backdrop, rich with Melbourne’s historic past.

The Magistrates Court replaced the earlier Supreme Court on the same site, and still retains some fittings from the original building. Sir Redmond Barry sat beneath the ornate Gothic canopy in the court, whilst presiding over the infamous Ned Kelly trial in 1880. This incredible building has witnessed too many iconic moments in Victoria’s history to name, and the weathered façade seems to emanate from the past.

Nearby is the wonderful Old Melbourne Gaol, built in 1841 after the original Gaol in Collins Street was deemed to small to house the State’s criminals. Based on the designs of British prison engineer Joshua Jebb, and the Pentonville Model Prison of London, the Gaol was built in bluestone and had its own perimeter wall. The original wall is still in existence and now surrounds a lovely hidden lawn in the heart of the city, where individuals can stroll or picnic in the quiet, taking respite from the hustle and bustle of the CBD on the other side of the wall.

The building was completed in two stages, from 1857–9 and in 1858–9 when the boundary wall was extended. The prison housed both male and female inmates, though in separate wings, and was closed in 1929 after it became overcrowded following the 1st World War.

Serendipity Photography adores shooting couples in front of the spectacular façade of the Former Melbourne Magistrates Court. For anyone interested in Melbourne’s rich colonial history, or if you just love grand and ornate architecture it’s worth considering the Old Magistrates Court as a brilliant backdrop.

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