The Judges Lodgings - History and Facts | History Hit

The Judges Lodgings

Presteigne, Wales, United Kingdom

The Judges Lodgings in Presteigne is a living museum of its own history as a Victorian courthouse and judges’ lodgings.

Amy Irvine

01 Apr 2021
Image Credit: Alan Murray-Rust / CC

About The Judges Lodgings

The Judges Lodgings is a living museum of its own history as a Victorian courthouse and judges’ lodgings, located in the pretty Welsh border town of Presteigne. The house was once the Shire Hall for Radnorshire, housing apartments for judges and courtrooms where Quarter Sessions were held.

History of The Judges Lodgings

The Judges Lodgings partially exist due to a murder. In the early 16th century, the town of Rhayader acted as the site for a Court of King’s Great Sessions for the county. Following the murder of a judge in Rhayader in the 1530s, the town was deemed to be unsafe for eminent people to stay in such as the king’s judges. In 1542, the Sessions court was moved to Presteigne, which became the centre for legal proceedings in the county for the next 400 years.

Presteigne thrived in its legal and administrative role for the county by the early 1800s, but the Shire Hall (used for trials and hearings, and a lodging house for the judges and a jail) was in disrepair and on the brink of collapse. A new jail was built on the edge of town, and a new Shire Hall, Court of Justice and Judge’s Lodging was commissioned from eminent architect Edward Haycock, completed in 1829.

The grand building lent itself to additional uses – in 1834 it was decided that the judge’s apartments would be rented out when the judge was not in residence, and in the 1860’s, many temperance lectures and brass band concerts were hosted. The building was used as the Officers’ Mess of the Radnor Militia in 1865 and hosted many other social functions.

Presteigne’s county town status dwindled at the end of the 19th century when Llandrindod Wells was chosen as the future County Council meeting place. The last judges stayed here in October 1970, though the magistrates continued to deal with the lesser criminal matters for another 20 years.

Although the grand rooms continued to be used throughout the 20th century for social events, meetings and elections, along with the local museum and library, use of the Shire Hall dwindled and its condition worsened.

The Judges Lodgings today

Now fully restored and with its original furnishings, the rooms and building of the Judges Lodgings have been transformed into a lively museum. Audio guides bring its history to life, with the stories of its inhabitants, servants and the criminals who faced justice there.

The Judge’s Lodging welcome families and has a ‘hands-on’ policy, meaning that children can touch the exhibits and feel for themselves what life was like in a Victorian house. Visitors are able to wander through the judge’s apartments, sit in the judge’s chair and pump water in the kitchen. Below stairs there is the full range of servants rooms to explore, with kitchens, sleeping quarters and workrooms.

You can also enter the damp cells and the vast courtroom where you can discover the trial of William Morgan, local duck thief.

Getting to The Judges Lodgings

The Judges Lodgings are located in Presteigne town centre, half way down Broad Street, from the High Street end. Parking is free, though the Lodgings are also accessible by public transport, and are 6 miles from Knighton station.