To create a suitable home for The Supreme Court, renovation works at the Middlesex Guildhall were wide-ranging.
The focus was on enhancing the historic fabric of the building, and sensitively reversing many of the more recent adaptations that left it feeling gloomy and cluttered. The imposing, adversarial atmosphere of the Crown Court also had to be converted into an environment suited to Supreme Court business: learned discussion of points of law rather than trial by jury.
Plans were developed on behalf of the Ministry of Justice by conservation architects Feilden + Mawson, supported by Foster and Partners, and in consultation with the Law Lords, Westminster City Council and English Heritage.
Special interest groups such as the Middlesex Guildhall Art Collection Trustees, the Middlesex Regiment, the Westminster Society and Thorney Island Society were also involved, along with statutory consultees.
In the course of renovation, former Crown Court and council chamber furniture was remodelled to provide furniture for the three new court rooms. The highly ornate throne used by the Council chairman now stands in the gallery of Supreme Court One, and other pieces of court furniture have been relocated to the Crown Court at Snaresbrook.
The north and south light wells were cleared of machinery and services such as air conditioning ducts and a lift shaft. This brought light back into the building, improved orientation, and greatly enhanced the appearance of original features such as stained glass windows, wood panelling and ornate ceilings.
As a centrepiece of the new Supreme Court, a modern triple-height law library was created by partially removing the ground floor of the former Crown Court One. The historic fabric of the court, the wall panelling and the impressive ceiling been retained.
Facilities for everyone working at The Supreme Court have been improved, including a spacious and functional area for advocates to meet, discuss, read and research. A separate media room has been provided , and office space for support staff is modern, and purpose-designed.
Inspired by Lord Bingham’s vision great opportunities for public access were built into the renovation plans from the earliest stage. 160 square metres of brick vaults in the lower ground floor were converted from cells into a public café and exhibition area, and all court rooms are open to the public while in session.
The Supreme Court building is fully adapted for disabled access, with lifts to all floors. There is also a dedicated lift to Court 3.
Judicial Committee of the Privy Council
The renovation allows the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council to be co-located with The Supreme Court. This co-location recognises that the two courts share the same Justices and have similar business processes.