Midleton – a Grand Jury town

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For many years, going back to the seventies at least, we’ve been told that the Courthouse in Midleton was built in 1829 to the designs of George Richard Pain.

In fact this information needs to be corrected. In the Summer of 1825, The Cork Constitution noted that a number of courthouses and bridewells (local prisons) were then under construction in Co. Cork and some were well advanced.

Indeed, the courthouse and gaol in Midleton were expected to be completed ‘shortly’, which suggests that they were completed by the end of that year having been started in 1824. The courthouses indicated were the five designed by the English architect George Richard Pain for the Grand Jury of Cork.

The Grand Jury of Cork was the body that governed the county until 1899 when Cork County Council was established. Grand Juries ran all the counties until that year.

The Grand Jury was an assembly of local landowners (including absentees!), who were sworn in before an assizes judge and charged with keeping the peace and governing the county affairs.

The Grand Jury would meet each year to draw up a budget of expenditures, which they approved before the judge – these presentments were based on the rates or county cess raised locally and spent locally.

The county cess paid for roads, bridges, some hospitals, such as Midleton Free Charitable Infirmary on the site of Hurley’s Supervalu. This later became Midleton Fever Hospital. The Grand Jury also paid for courthouses and gaols.

Read the full article in Tony Harpur’s Historical Tales in the latest issue of Midleton & District News.