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Lifford Courthouse


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Lifford Courthouse or Lifford Gaol, as it is sometimes referred to by locals, is a historic courthouse situated in the centre of Lifford, County Donegal, in Ulster, Ireland. The building was designed by local architect Michael Priestley and built in 1746 in order to enable a circuit assizes judge to visit the county. The Courthouse also incorporated 'The County Gaol' in the basement which was to last as a place of confinement for debtors, felons and eventually those deemed to be 'lunatics', until a new gaol was completed next to the courthouse in 1793. This large gaol allowed more prisoners to be processed in the town before being demolished in 1907. The Courthouse itself, however, continued to hold trials until 1938. For a time, the building fell into disrepair before being improved in the late 1980s and then fully renovated and reopened as an award-winning Heritage Centre in 1994.
The introduction of this purpose-built courthouse gave the County Donegal Grand Jury a place to hold trials in the form of periodic criminal courts or assizes. Up until this point, when the Manor Courts were the most common institutions of local justice, any building of suitable size was used to hold court. Quite often, the most suitable building was a public house. On one noted occasion, the money from the fines collected over the course of a day in court was used to buy drinks for the jury.


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