A court and police precinct, built in 1880 at Moss Vale near the railway station, became the district's judicial headquarters, replacing Berrima. The precinct had to be demolished, however, in 1914 to make way for the Southern Railway's line duplication works.
In anticipation, the Justice Department had obtained a new site in 1912, at the corner of Valetta and Elizabeth Streets. Building works remained on hold during war-time, but delays continued after 1918 as apparently townspeople did not favour the non-central site.
From 1914 police operated out of leased weatherboard premises on Argyle Street (the site is now a tobacconist store) across from the Post Office, with holding cells built at the rear. A cottage was rented as the sergeant's residence.
The District Court and Moss Vale local court were held in the Oddfellows Hall on Argyle Street (where a seafood restaurant now stands). When the building was sold in 1921, the Court then occupied upstairs offices at the Theatre Royal (now an arcade) on Argyle Street near the railway station. Major cases were held in the theatre hall. This served while plans were finalised for a new court house to be built on land purchased alongside the theatre.
The leased police station was described by the Scrutineer in 1918 as a freezing, wretched and miserable hole, not fit for human beings. The paper noted in October 1922 that the authorities were still delaying "pending a determination as to the site".
That December, a vacant site fronting Elizabeth Street was agreed upon. Across its rear lane (now Clarence Street) was the designated court house land. Of nine submitted tenders, that of Bowral's Alf Stephens & Sons was the lowest, so won the contract.
The station building was erected to a Police Department 'cottage-like' design, including charge room, offices and lock-up cells. It opened in September 1923.
The contract also required a sergeant's residence to be built on the Valetta Street land. It was completed in May 1923 and remained a police residence until the 1990s.
The foundation stone of Moss Vale Court House was laid by the Minister for Justice, Mr Ley, in June 1923.
In September that year the Scrutineer noted that the almost completed court house would be a handsome structure. Together with the new police station, sergeant's residence and several other private buildings, it showed "that Moss Vale is progressing at least as well, if not better, than many other country towns in the State".
This might be inferred as a jibe at Bowral residents who for many years lobbied the Government to make their town the district's law and order centre. Once moved from Berrima, however, the main district court remained at Moss Vale.
Moss Vale Court House was completed by mid-January 1924. The Robertson Mail noted that "while otherwise his work is worthy of all praise, the designer of the new Court House cannot be congratulated upon the provision made for the Clerk of Petty Session, whose many records crowd the small room provided for them." Not long after, improvement works were carried out.
HANDSOME: Moss Vale Court House on Argyle St opened in 1924.
Today, other than minor renovations and a glassed-in entrance, the building remains essentially the same and is Wingecarribee Shire's only still-functioning Court House. Bowral's Court House ceased handling legal matters in 2005 and the building was sold.
Bowral Police Station, which had occupied the building behind the Court since 1895, continued in service. It was renovated in 1931 and capacity extended with a new separate building. In 1945 the strength was one sergeant 3rd class and three constables 1st class. Major repairs and further additions were made in 1955.
By the 1980s Bowral Police Station was recognised as central and the entire Wingecarribee Shire was named the Bowral Police Division.
At Moss Vale, the old police station has recently been demolished. On the site a Police Centre is now being built to serve the community as part of Hume Local Area Command.
- Berrima District Historical & Family History Society - compiled by PD Morton. Part 4 of a 4-part series.
We depend on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe here. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.