St. Albans Court House.
Guest House Accomodation
The Old Court House and Lockup as it stands today.
The Old Court House and Law and order.
High above the village stands an imposing stone building this is, or was the last Police Courthouse and Lockup. It was constructed in 1890 to replace the previous structure damaged by floods. It is now in private hands and is used as a luxury self contained guest house and is in an excellent state of preservation.
Originally, Most of the Macdonald Valley was in the police district of Maitland, and administrated from Wollombi in the north by a Mr. David Dunlop who lived at the now restored homestead ‘Mulla Villa’ south of that town. He was the first Police Magistrate appointed for the district in 1840 and regularly traveled by horseback via St. Albans to hold Court in the Inns of the valley including the Industrious Settler and Travelers Arms [Settlers Arms Inn] and although Wisemans Ferry and Lower Macdonald [or Lower Branch as it was earlier known] were covered by Windsor Police who based a police constable at St Albans although the magistrate came from Wollombi regularly to hear cases. Until the l850's there was no official Police building at St Albans, despite frequent requests for a watch-house and courthouse. The area was remote, and bushrangers, rustlers, and other potential malefactors were not uncommon. The Settlers Arms Inn was used by magistrates such as David Dunlop and Major B. Sullivan to hear cases. Prisoners were detained in a locked room at the Inn.
David Cross of Windsor successfully tendered to erect a watch-house in 1848, but three years later had scarcely begun its construction. After many problems the building was finally completed in mid-1852, although the Clerk of Works felt the quality of workmanship left much to be desired. The building was of stone, with three rooms, two to house prisoners, and an administrative room for the constable. Twelve years later, a prisoner, Thomas Cross, was caught attempting to break out of one of the cells, while the constable was absent. Cross had removed a large stone from the wall, but was discovered before he could escape. When the building was examined in detail, it was found that the mortar was so poor that stones could be removed from the walls without any instrument; but even worse, a prisoner could have easily made an escape through the door, as it was very light, and neither the bolts nor the hinges were strong enough to make it secure. The building was upgraded and strengthened, but was damaged by the big flood in 1889. A correspondent from the news of the day writes. ‘On Tuesday the 28th. May the river rose to 45 feet above the usual level. The Police Station, Stables, Boatshed and all the fencing were washed away. The courthouse was left standing but worked out of position. A great proportion of the Police paddock was washed into the river. Constable Gilbert lost all his furniture and clothing. He had wisely taken the precaution to place all books, papers, etc. belonging to the Police Station and Court House high up in the latter building, but they were removed by the rush of water, and, with the Government and Police Gazettes, were lost.’
Tenders were called in the l890's for construction of a new police
station and courthouse built high on the hillside to avoid a repetition
of the damage
caused by floods. This is as it stands today.
Following the well liked David Dunlop, Major Benjamin Sullivan from Port Macquarie was appointed District Police Magistrate and moved to St. Albans when the first courthouse was built. From the beginning neither he or his wife approved of the settlers nor they of him, Mrs. Sullivan complaining bitterly about the ‘total absence of respectable society’ in the valley, fairly obvious as the landholders of the small farms were all either emancipated convicts or the sons of emancipists.
It seems that our Major and his wife lived in a house at the top of Wharf Road in an area that is now unfortunately used for Hawksbury Council storage. It is said that the prolific briar roses that compete with the scrub on the hill are the regressed descendents of those planted in his extensive garden.
The Court House Lounge room and outside heated Spa.
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