Royal Courts of Justice

London, United Kingdom | C.1882

Photo Credit: Sruthi Ramesh

For a building created for law and order London’s Royal Courts of Justice has had its fair share of superstitions. Perhaps its knack for the nefarious has to do with the fact that its architect was possibly duped into designing the court, and later died from the stress of building it.

In the mid 19th century, London’s Parliament justices decided they needed a new building to conduct their judicial affairs. The government purchased a six acre tract of land for £1.4 Million and twelve architects were selected for a sneaky design competition — believing they were submitting designs for a Cathedral.

British architect George Edmund Street was the chosen winner, but celebrations were short lived as construction was met with struggle. In 1873, stone masons went on strike, and when Germans were brought in to supplement the work, further hostility arose. The new workers had to be housed in the building for their safety.

After eleven years in the making, the Royal Courts were finally completed in 1882 and who better than Queen Victoria to preside over its opening. Unfortunately, Street was not there – he never even saw his Victorian Gothic masterpiece completed. He died a year before the opening – allegedly due to the stress of the job.

Since then, the Royal Courts have housed London’s Law Courts with plenty of interesting stories outside the legal realm. One room in particular, Room 666, has baffled maintenance crews for years as professional stone cleaners have been unable to remove the original painted numbers – despite monumental efforts – and it remains one of the coldest rooms, so it’s rarely used. Perhaps Street finally found a proper place in his architectural masterpiece.

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