Letting off Steam: Heating Problems in Court 2, 1860

From the Irish Times, 17 January 1860:


Previous to the commencement of the business of the court, Mr Serjeant Fitzgibbon complained of the constant steam that was coming up from the pipes underneath the table close to which the gentlemen of the inner bar were obliged to stand. He declared it was equal to a warm bath, and was likely to be attended with the worst consequences to Queen’s Counsel, who sometimes had to remain under the influence of the steam for hours. He asked… Chief Justice [Monahan] if he were a member of the building committee of the benchers, and, if so, to represent the matter to them, in the hope of having the nuisance abated.

The Chief Justice quite agreed with Mr Serjeant Fitzgibbon, and said he would represent the matter to the Board of Works. Mr Serjeant Fitzgibbon said that Gandon, the architect of the building, had designed fireplaces for the sides and corners of the building, which was the only proper means of heating the court.

Judge Ball said he hoped that improvement would be carried out such that his corner, which was exceedingly cold, would be taken into consideration. (Laughter)

The Chief Justice said that if Mr Serjeant Fitzgibbon sent in any suggestions on the subject they should be attended to.”

Steam heating was very popular in the mid-19th century but, as the above account shows, it had its drawbacks! Thankfully, the only steam which now rises from the bench reserved for Senior Counsel in the former Court of Common Pleas (now Court 2), is due to injured feelings in the cut and thrust of litigation.

Judge Ball (appointed in the 1830s) must have been sitting in that cold corner for quite a while. He doesn’t seem to have lost his sense of humour. Let’s hope he got to enjoy at least a couple of years of workplace warmth before his death in 1865!

Image Credit: (top and bottom left) (bottom right)

Author: Ruth Cannon BL

Irish barrister sharing the history of the Four Courts, Dublin, Ireland, and other Irish courts.

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