2 June 2022

$240,000 funding to restore historic Yass Courthouse

| Sally Hopman
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Yass Courthouse

The classic-style Yass Courthouse is in urgent need of repair. Photo: File.

Fears the historic Yass Courthouse would deteriorate to the point of disuse have been allayed with substantial state government renovation funding.

Following strong campaigning by locals, Member for Goulburn Wendy Tuckerman announced yesterday (31 May) that the NSW Government had allocated a $240,000 investment for Courthouse repairs including painting, landscaping, cleaning and floor restoration.

In 2020 despite lobbying by the now Mayor of Yass Valley Allan McGrath, then a councillor, the town missed out on its slice of a $9 million NSW Government stimulus package allocated to courthouse upgrades.

Signs of the building’s disrepair include cracks and old paintwork, overgrown trees, dilapidated fencing and a general state of neglect.

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Ms Tuckerman, who had previously made recommendations to NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman on behalf of the Yass community, was happy with the outcome.

“This is a terrific announcement for the Yass community who have great pride in the heritage buildings of Yass,” she said.

“This magnificent building is a model example of James Barnet’s work and should be preserved and cherished.”

Mr Speakman acknowledged both the courthouse’s architectural significance to NSW and its importance to the Yass community.

“The NSW Government has initiated a maintenance program for the courthouse which will be managed by the Department of Communities and Justice, in a multi-staged approach,” he said.

It is understood the first stage of works will include landscaping, pressure cleaning pathways and stairs, new fencing and painting a number of priority areas inside.

Old map

A sketch of the survey of two acres of land originally designated for the Yass Courthouse back in 1835. Image: NSW State Archives.

The second stage, to be completed in the 2022/23 financial year, will include repainting the entire exterior of the building and whatever else is required inside.

The Yass Courthouse is rich in history. Its beginnings can be traced back to the 1830s when, with the arrival of squatters, settlers and convicts to the valley came the need for the law. Three magistrates were appointed in 1834 with the first courthouse, then little more than a slab hut, opening a year later.

As the population rose, so did crime, and tenders were called for a more permanent structure using the design of colonial architect Mortimer Lewis. This building opened in 1837 near where the police station now stands and, as the only official building in town, was also used to hold church services.

Historic plaque

The historic Yass Courthouse, at the bottom end of the town near the river, has had a colourful history. Photo: File.

It took just over 30 years for the community to outgrow its courthouse and it was demolished in 1878 – as was the gum tree out the front used to flog convicts.

In great contrast to Mortimer Lewis’s humble design, the then Government architect James Barnet designed the new courthouse in the Victorian classical style. It was built by Frederick Horn of Goulburn at the cost of about 15,000 pounds and opened in 1880.

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A Yass Valley Council spokesperson welcomed the NSW Government announcement that the courthouse would be renovated.

“This is a much-needed win for the community and ties in with the work Council is currently undertaking to improve the main street of Yass,” the spokesperson said.

The first stage of work on the courthouse is expected to start almost immediately.

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