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Visiting London, Ontario and its Middlesex County Court House: historic, Gothic Revival building dating from the 1820s

Updated on October 15, 2012
Provincial flag of Ontario
Provincial flag of Ontario | Source
Middlesex County Court House, London, Ontario
Middlesex County Court House, London, Ontario | Source
Map location of London, Ontario
Map location of London, Ontario | Source

Remembering its official roles in the 19th century

Nearly two centuries old, this is an historic building both on account of its age and the notable associations of its site.

Some features and history

The Court House dates from a time in Upper Canada's history when London might have become Canada's capital. This, at least, was a preference entertained by Lieutenant-Governor General John Graves Simcoe, when he visited the immediate locality in 1793. The Court House overlooks the Thames River.

The style of the building is Gothic Revival. Substantially built by 1829, its architect was John Ewart (1788-1856), who was also one of the architects responsible for Osgoode Hall, headquarters of the Law Society of Upper Canada (1). Architect Ewart is believed to have modelled the Middlesex County Court House on Malahide Castle, Country Dublin, Ireland.

Mortar-covered brick walls give the appearance of a stone construction. A fortified look is suggested by crenellations and octagonal towers.

The Court House replaced an earlier wooden building. Subsequently, the latter was used as a school.

The building served, in fact, both in a judicial role, and as a jail, and as an administrative centre. In 1850 there occurred a local, administrative reorganization, whereby the former District of London was incorporated into the County of Middlesex.

In 1878, considerable alterations were made to the building.

The Middlesex County Court House is a National Historic Site of Canada, and has been designated under the Ontario Heritage Act.

The Court House and the 'Old Country'

What strikes me as remarkable is that, while many of Ontario's older buildings looked to the British Isles for stylistic guidance, this particular historic edifice is actually older than, for example, many of the 19th century College buildings in Oxford and Cambridge, England, which are themselves now deemed to be historic.

Biographical note

(1) Architect John Ewart's daughter, Lady Jane Mowat, was the wife of longserving Ontario Premier, and later Lieutenant-Governor, Sir Oliver Mowat).

Also worth seeing

In London , Ontario, itself, other noted buildings include nearby Eldon House, St Paul's Cathedral, and the Armouries.

Detroit , Michigan (distance: 201.6 kilometres) has an impressive riverfront skyline, and many visitor attractions.


How to get there: Air Canada flies to London International Airport, from Toronto Pearson Airport, from where there are wide North American and other connections. Car rental is available at London International Airport. VIA Rail serves London, connecting with Windsor and Toronto, and other cities. Some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. For up to date information, you are advised to check with the airline or your travel agent. Please refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada

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