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‘Magnificent civic building’ recognised with upgraded listed status

A “magnificent civic building” designed by the architect behind London’s Natural History Museum has had its listing upgraded to recognise its high level of interest.

Bedford Shire Hall, beside the River Great Ouse, was designed in 1878 by Alfred Waterhouse, whose other works include Manchester Town Hall.

Its listing has been upgraded to Grade II* by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport on the advice of Historic England.

Historic England listing adviser Eilise McGuane said: “Bedford Shire Hall is a magnificent civic building and we are delighted to recognise its high level of special architectural and historic interest by upgrading this listed building to Grade II*.

Bedford Shire Hall has had its listing upgraded to Grade II*. (Historic England Archive/ PA)
Bedford Shire Hall has had its listing upgraded to Grade II* (Historic England Archive/PA)

“Through the work of the High Street Heritage Action Zone, local people will be able to learn about Shire Hall and its importance to Bedford.”

A smaller Sessions House was built at the site in 1753, before the larger Bedford Shire Hall was designed in 1878 and completed in 1883.

New Gothic assize courts were built at the back of the old Sessions House, with a riverfront entrance.

Waterhouse replaced the existing Georgian Shire Hall with a three-storey building containing a spacious baronial hall and offices.

Bedford Shire Hall has had its listing upgraded to Grade II*. (Historic England Archive/ PA)
Bedford Shire Hall was completed in 1883 (Historic England Archive/ PA)

Shire Hall was occupied by the Assize Courts until 1972, after which it became used by the Crown Courts, and, from 1986, the Magistrates’ Courts.

The county council was also previously housed in the building.

Bedford Mayor Tom Wootton said: “It is fantastic to see the former home of Bedfordshire County Council, Shire Hall, become Grade II* listed.

“We’re proud of our town and it’s great to see this wonderful building be recognised.”