Street's masterpiece and one of Victorian London's great public buildings. 13C Gothic given a Victorian interpretation.
G E Street,
Land was bought through slum clearance by the Crown in 1865. A competition for the Law Courts was held, from which no clear winner emerged. G E Street was appointed, with George Gilbert Scott, who soon resigned leaving Street as sole architect. Work began in 1874 and the building was opened in 1882 by the Queen. Street had died the previous year, allegedly from the stress of the project. Further work on the building was completed by his son and Arthur Blomfield.
The overall aspect of the façade is of a 13th century Gothic townscape from a Book of Hours, a fantasy of turrets and towers, spires and pinnacles translated into Victorian reality. The entrance is beneath a giant arch at the end of the asymmetrical façade, with an arcaded bridge above. Inside, the litigant passes through an entrance lobby and the astonishing Great Hall, 230 ft long and 82 ft high. Street used 13th century Gothic forms – tall, stepped, lancet windows at the East End and sexpartite rib vaulting overhead.
The cathedral-like quality of the architecture, and the sheer scale, is awe-inspiring. The doorways have richly foliated stiff-leaf carved forms, the walls are decorated with diapering and the windows have geometric tracery. At each end are spiral stairs to the administrative part of the building.
There is a monument to Street on the east side of the Hall, showing the architect seated above a frieze of artists and craftsmen.