The Greenspond Court House

Court House by Janet Davis

The Court House

 After the granting of Responsible Government to Newfoundland in 1855, there was a great deal of public building. In short, a booming economy and a growing population created new demands for government services. The design of the Greenspond Court House is similar to other court houses on the Island built during the same period: Bonavista built in 1897; Bell Island, built in 1900 and torn down in 1970; Placentia, built in 1902; Trinity, 1903; St. George’s, 1903; Bay Roberts, built in 1903 and torn down in the 1960s; and Burin, 1905. The majority of these structures had two-sided mansard roofs, frontal towers that housed the stairway; and were generally three storeys in height. All possessed large court rooms with very high ceilings marking the interiors of the mansards. Many court houses had large-faced clocks in the tops of their towers. By 1933 and the advent of the Commission of Government there were approximately 26 court houses in Newfoundland. All were of wood construction except those at Harbour Grace and St. John’s. By 1977 when Environment Canada did a survey of the court houses in Canada there were only nine court houses remaining in Newfoundland: Greenspond has one of them.

The Greenspond Court House is listed in the Canadian Inventory of Historic Buildings which was completed in 1977 by the Government of Canada. The court house was described as having Second Empire characteristics such as a mansard-style roof surmounted at the front facade by a tower which was crowned with a small bell-cast mansard roof. The Court House in Greenspond was built between 1900 and 1901 and it is believed that the architect was William Henry Churchill, the Superintendent of Public Buildings in the Newfoundland Government from 1895 to 1927. The frame edifice measured approximately 42 feet by 20 feet and was two stories in height, with a two-sided mansard roof. There was an off-centre mansard-roofed tower on the front elevation and dormer windows on the roof. The total cost of the building was $1,621.21. The gaoler’s residence was probably located on the ground floor.[i]

The Court Records for Greenspond are held at the Provincial Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador. One case of interest occurred on October 20, 1835 – the case of Grunter versus Lawler. The complaint in this case was for stealing Grunter’s vegetables.  James Hayden apparently saw a man get over the fence of Grunter’s garden on Friday, the night of October 17th, and immediately proceeded to pull up something from the ground which Hayden judged to be vegetables growing there.  Hayden identified the man in Grunter’s garden to be Lawrence Lawler, a cooper at Slades.

The following morning, James Hayden went to Grunter’s garden to discover what vegetables had been taken and observed signs in the garden that a quantity of turnips and cabbages had been pulled and the ground appeared as if it had been pulled during the past night.  When Lawrence Lawler, the defendant, was examined he stated that he went to Pond Head on Friday evening and that on his return while passing by Grunter’s garden a man called out to him.  He went up to him and discovered him to be James Hayden with whom he spoke for about five minutes, and during that time, offered him a shilling to get rum but he refused.  Having left Hayden, Lawler said he went home to Mrs. Slades to whom he was a servant.  On November 6, 1834, Lawrence Lawler was convicted and fined the sum of twenty pounds.  Ten pounds to be paid to the court for Grunter, plus ten pounds to be returned to the district.

Constables of Greenspond included:

  • Robert Smith
  • Alex Tucker
  • William Richards.

Gaolers of Greenspond included:

  • John Bridle
  • Kenneth Carter

The Court Records for Greenspond are held at the Provincial Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador.

     [1] The information in this essay is taken from The Domestic Architecture of Old St. John’s by Shane O’Dea (St. John’s: Newfoundland Historical Society, 1974); and, The Early Court Houses of Newfoundland, Manuscript Number 312, by R.R. Rostecki, (Ottawa: Parks Canada, 1977).


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