The Sessions House now has a licence for weddings. For more details please contact the Sessions House Manager For more information look here;
Office currently available to rent for £172 per month plus utilities.
The Sessions House was designed by Thomas Wyatt and opened in 1877 by Samuel Richard Bosanquet, the Chairman of the Monmouthshire Quarter Sessions. In 1944, Court No.1 (to the right as one faces the front of the building) was gutted by fire and not rebuilt. Court No.2, still extant, was its mirror image and remained in use for the administration of justice until the last hearing by the Magistrates in 1995.
As a Millennium project, Usk Town Council decided to buy the premises for use as its town hall. Since 2000, therefore, it has been used not only for that purpose and as an asset for the Town, but it also includes offices let on a commercial basis and provides facilities for meetings in either the Court Room or Library for local organisations. In addition, it has been used as the set for television/film productions, not to mention a memorable live production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s Trial by Jury in the Court Room.
Built in Victorian symmetrical style, this has a glazed ceiling dome and has been refurbished in décor matching the colours of the period.
The Court Room
The Court Room is the one remaining of the original two Courts. Apart from the addition of electric light, it is virtually unchanged since 1877. There is an impressive judge’s chair and the benches retain their original labels for Counsel, Solicitors, Reporters, Jury, etc. Below the dock is the passageway that once led to Usk Gaol next door.
The Court Room hosts imposing portraits of:
Samuel Courthope Bosanquet (1832-1925), Chairman of the Quarter Sessions from 1890 to 1912;
Samuel Richard Bosanquet (1800-1882), father of the foregoing and Chairman of the Quarter Sessions from 1848 to 1882;
Granville Henry Somerset Q.C. (1824-1881) Deputy Chairman of the Quarter Sessions from 1867 t0 1881;
Sir Henry Mather Mather-Jackson C.B.E. (1885-1942), Chairman of Monmouthshire County Council from 1905 to 1928, Chairman of the Quarter Sessions from 1912 to 1935, and Lord Lieutenant of Monmouthshire from 1934 until 1942. On his initiative, the collection of books belonging to his father (the second Baronet) has been preserved in the Library.
While many cases heard at the Usk Quarter Sessions were routine, those of Viscountess Rhondda (a prominent suffragette) and of Josef Garcia, convicted of the murder of a family of five in Llangybi, became notorious.
The Mather-Jackson Library
In March 2007, Usk Town Council hosted a Reception at the Sessions House, Usk to celebrate the re-establishment, after 65 years, of the Trust to oversee and maintain the most interesting, mainly Victorian, law library housed there. It comprises almost 3000 volumes of law reports, statutes and commentaries dating from 1698 to 1971, including many local and personal Acts which have a particular interest from a social history viewpoint.
The original Trust was established in 1886 by Sir Henry Mather-Jackson, later Lord Lieutenant of Monmouthshire, in memory of, and to preserve the book collection of, his father, the 2nd Baronet who was also a Sir Henry! He had been a Member of Parliament and, briefly, a High Court Judge. The last of the original Trustees died in 1942 and, as a consequence, the Trust then became moribund. Usk Town Council was keen that the Trust should be re-established and, through the efforts of the Honorary Curator, Tony Fleming, and with considerable assistance from many others, this was achieved in 2007. Seven new Trustees were appointed, including three Members of the Town Council (the Mayor and the Chairmen of the Finance and the Sessions House Management Committees), Lord Raglan (whose grandfather had been one of the original Trustees), Sir Roland Jackson (the current Baronet) and Dr Susan Sloman, (a great-great granddaughter of the 2nd Baronet).
After the inaugural meeting of the new Trustees, Tony Fleming expressed his pleasure that more active management of the collection could now take place. The Trust has also been very appreciative of the sterling work being undertaken by trained Heritage Volunteers from the Monmouthshire Decorative and Fine Arts Association (affiliated to NADFAS) in the cleaning and undertaking of minor repairs to the books. It is, however, still necessary for fund-raising to be undertaken, to enable more complex re-bindings, where necessary, to be commissioned professionally and donations will always be most appreciated, either generally to the work of the Trustees, or to sponsor repairs to a particular volume – which would be suitably credited to the donor. “At last, I feel the Library is in good hands and can be safeguarded in this delightful building for the future, as Sir Henry intended”, he said.
Access to the Library is available to lawyers, researchers and other interested parties, by appointment, through the Town Clerk at the Sessions House (01291) 673011.
The ongoing programme of repair to the books does cost money! Donations are always appreciated and, as the Mather-Jackson Library Trust is recognised as having charitable status by H.M. Revenue and Customs, donations may be gift-Aided to the considerable financial advantage of the Trust. Forms for this purpose are available from the Honorary Curator, contact details below.
Further information, if required, is available from the Honorary Curator:
At the first meeting of the new Trustees of the Mather-Jackson Library in March 2007, left to right – Cllr Alec Leathwood, Dr Susan Sloman, Sir Roland Jackson, Lord Raglan,
Cllr Kay Peacock, Cllr Roger Galletley and Tony Fleming.
At the ‘unveiling’ on 12th December 2008 of the portrait of the 2nd Baronet in the Library of the Sessions House. The portrait, kindly loaned by Dr Sloman, is by the noted artist W.W Ouless RA. Left to right Dr Susan Sloman, Cllr Tony Kear and Tony Fleming.
Usk Town Council is very proud of the Sessions House, which can now be visited by tourists and used regularly by the townspeople. However, in order to preserve the fabric of this beautiful Victorian building for posterity, the Council has set up a ‘ring-fenced’ Fund to contribute towards its maintenance. All monies donated to this fund will be devoted exclusively to the preservation and ongoing restoration of the building.
If you would like to make a donation to this Fund, please place contributions in the collection box, or post to the Clerk to the Council, at the Sessions House, Maryport Street, Usk NP15 1AD with any cheques payable to:
Usk Town Council – Sessions House Fund