by Dylan Stone
Silverton’s Old Courthouse is proving very popular with school groups who are choosing to stay and enjoy the arresting surroundings and it’s now set to receive a further upgrade which will provide about $225,000 to install lights on the basketball court, extend the BBQ area to the rear of the property and install a picket fence around the courthouse to keep it in common with Silverton Gaol directly across the road.
The Colonial-era courthouse was built by March 1889, but the first District Court sitting was held on June 1, 1887, by Judge Backhouse but now it’s being used for visitor accommodation and is open for functions.
Sittings continued at the courthouse until March 30, 1932, according to an old newspaper report.
The article on the opening of the Courthouse, described being, “struck with the completeness of the fittings and the general excellence of the workmanship”.
It continued, “at the south end on either side of the entrance is the public gallery in which about 30 people can be seated. This part of the courtroom is divided from the official part by rails… The room is efficiently lighted and ventilated by windows, the upper half of each being on a pivot. The structure consists of masonry, faced with cement compo, and lined in imitation stonework, the whole being covered with cement wash”.
After World War II, many municipal buildings were rebranded as War Memorial halls or youth camps as a strategy for communities to recover from the war. So, the Courthouse became the Silverton War Memorial Youth Camp in 1948, and the change of name remained until relatively recently.
Helen Murray, Chairperson of the Silverton Village Committee Inc, told us in the last five or six years, about $800,000 had been spent on the building, mainly through the Stronger Country Communities Funding.
The building had been refurbished and is now referred to as Silverton’s Old Courthouse Accommodation.
“There is still dormitory accommodation with bunk beds, all new with pillow top mattresses,” said Mrs Murray, “but now the building also has a commercial kitchen and lots of other modern amenities. The most recent guests were a girls’ school group from Sydney who utilised the building for eight days, thoroughly enjoying their stay in the Outback.
The new kitchen is where the Judges room and Jurors’ Rooms were initially, when the area was divided into two rooms, and the current hall was the original Courtroom. The rooms on the right-hand side of the building are now accommodation but were originally Police and Wardens Quarters.
Mrs Murray told the Truth, “We’re now trying to attract other groups in addition to school and youth groups. It’s a beautiful old building, and now we are trying to attract a wider visitor base while preserving this building and other historic Silverton buildings which the Village Committee manage. The Silverton Village Committee Inc manages 14 Crown Reserves.”
Now, the Old Courthouse can accommodate groups sizes from 15, with a maximum capacity of 46 people on bunk accommodation, and the building has ducted reverse cycle air conditioning throughout.
The hall is suitable for weddings, parties, and other functions, and may be hired separately to the accommodation.
The Stronger Community funds will also support an upgrade in lighting to the Silverton Public Toilets and Municipal Chambers area.