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Townsville Magistrates Court (former)

  • 600929
  • 81 Sturt Street, Townsville


Also known as
Townsville Museum; Townsville Court House
State Heritage
Register status
Date entered
21 October 1992
Law/order, immigration, customs, quarantine: Courthouse—magistrates/court of petty sessions
7.1 Maintaining order: Policing and maintaining law and order
Stanley, Francis Drummond Greville
Construction period
1874–1901, Townsville Magistrates Court (former) (1874 - 1901)
Historical period
1870s–1890s Late 19th century


81 Sturt Street, Townsville
Townsville City Council
-19.25829987, 146.81572808


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Criterion AThe place is important in demonstrating the evolution or pattern of Queensland’s history.

Magistrates Court (Former), completed in 1876, is significant historically as evidence of the early consolidation of Townsville as a government administrative centre in northern Queensland, and in illustrating the early use of brick in Townsville.

Criterion DThe place is important in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a particular class of cultural places.

It illustrates some of the principal characteristics of its type, with the imposing classical design exemplifying the building's important judicial and authoritative role.

Criterion EThe place is important because of its aesthetic significance.

The Magistrates Court (Former) is an aesthetically pleasing 19th century building which sits well in a modern townscape, as well as contributing significantly to Townsville's surviving historical townscape.

Criterion GThe place has a strong or special association with a particular community or cultural group for social, cultural or spiritual reasons.

The place is valued by the local community as an important part of their cultural heritage, as evidenced by the 1970s purchase of the property by the Townsville City Council.

Criterion HThe place has a special association with the life or work of a particular person, group or organisation of importance in Queensland’s history.

It is significant as an example of the work of colonial architect FDG Stanley, and of the early work of the Townsville-based North Queensland building firm, J & J Rooney.


This single-storeyed brick building was constructed in 1874-76 as the second Townsville Magistrates Court. It was designed by colonial architect FDG Stanley, and was constructed by Townsville builders J & J Rooney, at a cost £4,463.

The Magistrates Court was the second brick building erected in Townsville, and took two years to complete due to of a shortage of suitable brick clay.

The Townsville Magistrates Court held circuit sittings of the Northern Division of the Supreme Court [twice a year], as well as sittings of the Northern District Court [twice a year], the Police Court [daily], and the Petty Debts Court [twice a week] - the latter two presided over by the Police Magistrate. A lockup and quarters for the lockup keeper were associated with the Court House.

The court house was repaired and painted in April 1895 and a verandah on the western side was added in 1897. In 1901 James Brady constructed a strong room on the rear western side.

The building functioned as a court house for almost 100 years. With the construction of new court facilities in Walker Street, the old structure was threatened with demolition. Community agitation saved the building and it was purchased by the Townsville City Council in the early 1970s.

After restoration it was used as a day care facility, then as a tourist information centre and in 1985 it became the Townsville Museum. The building was vacated in November 2003.


This single-storeyed building was constructed in two distinct parts. The front section was made of rendered brick and the rear of timber.

The Sturt Street frontage, which originally housed the magistrate's office, is a symmetrically designed structure. The classical portico, which is reached by a short flight of stairs, features a gabled pediment, columns and round arched door and windows. The restrained nature of this section gives the impression of strength and permanence.

The timber rear of the building, with its wide verandahs and timber valance, is more in keeping with the tropical environment.

A section across the back of the structure has been enclosed with glass louvres, while the 1901 strong room remains intact.

The building has a hipped roof of corrugated iron and a skillion roof covers the original strongroom at the rear.

A modern garden of lawn and shade trees enhances the building.

This structure retains its early façade despite interior alterations.

Image gallery


Location of Townsville Magistrates Court (former) within Queensland
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Last updated
20 January 2016
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