Kilkeel Courthouse

The old courthouse in Kilkeel was situated in Kilmorey Square, stretching across what is now the top of Knockchree Avenue. It opened its doors once every three weeks on a Friday to hold court for minor offences and the Petty Sessions were held every 3 weeks on a Wednesday where ‘the number of outrages are very trifling.’[1] According to Samuel Lewis ‘ its jurisdiction extends over the whole of the barony of Mourne, which is included in this parish, and is the property of his lordship [Kilmorey], and pleas to the amount of £10 are determined either by attachment or civil bill.’ However the Courthouse is remembered as being the towns meeting place where dances, concerts and many other gatherings were held. One woman who remembers these functions well is a Betty Fairley (nee Orr) who fondly reminisces about spending her weekends here, socialising and participating in dancing competitions.

Over the years the courthouse underwent many improvements. The cost for putting a new door on the courthouse in 1819 cost £0.10.0 and in 1821 the cost of ‘repairing’ the building was £25. In 1825 lights were added to the courthouse, costing a grand total of £2.6.9. In 1914 the courthouse was enlarged and a new lock up room was built. During this time the statues, books and records were moved and stored in the Petty Sessions Office for safe keeping. The courthouse was much loved by all sides of the community and was a place where they could meet, but it was eventually demolished in 1952.

A market was held in the square outside the Courthouse every Wednesday and a fair every Tuesday of each quarter. Horses and cattle of every description were bought and sold at the fairs. Below are some photos of a very busy Kilkeel, presumably on a market or fair day.

[1] Ordnance Survey p.50