the williamsburg courthouse was built on market square in 1771. this interesting colonial building was designed in a geometrical scheme. atop the octagonal cupola is a weather vane whose height from the ground equals the length of the building. during the battle of williamsburg in the civil war the courthouse was used as a confederate hospital. the williamsburg courthouse was in constant use from 1771 to 1932. the williamsburg courthouse is one of the oldest existant buildings in colonial williamsburg.
illiamsburg's citizens assembled at their courthouse at 1 p.m. on Thursday, May 1, 1783, to celebrate at last the end of the war with England-just as they had gathered seven years earlier to hear lawyer Benjamin Waller proclaim from its steps the Declaration of Independence.
The wide double doors opened directly on the courtroom, where the James City County Court and the Williamsburg Hustings Court pulled the levers and oiled the wheels of the machines of local justice and government.
The Courthouse now is a forum for the interpretation of the relationship of the legal system to the lives of ordinary colonials. Guests participate in mock trials—as plaintiffs, defendants, jurors, and audience—based on cases taken from historical records.
Today, guests of all ages enjoy the Stocks and Pillory located adjacent to the Courthouse. Place your neck, hands, and feet in them:).
This building was built between 1770- 71 in the centre of the village on Market Square. It was here on the steps that the people of Colonial Williamsburg gathered to celebrate the end of the war with the British. That was on 1st May 1783.
The courthouse was used for 160 years.
During the civil war it was used as a hospital by the confederates, after the battle of Williamsburg. In 1911 there was a fire and only the wales were left. In 4 months the building had been rebuilt. Today you can attend and hear 'real cases' and watch 'mock trials' which have been recorded in the archives.
An intriguing window on colonial life, criminal justice division, is offered in the courthouse, which dominates Market Square. An original building, the courthouse was the scene of proceedings ranging from criminal trials to the issuance of licenses. Wife beating, pig stealing, and debtor and creditor disputes were among the cases tried here. Visitors can participate in the administration of colonial justice at the courthouse by sitting on a jury or acting as a defendant. In colonial times, convicted offenders were usually punished immediately after the verdict. Punishments included public flogging at the whipping post (conveniently located just outside the courthouse) or being locked in the stocks or pillory, where they were subjected to public ridicule. Jail sentences were very unusual--punishment was swift and drastic, and the offenders then returned to the community, often bearing lifelong evidence of their conviction.
Learn how the colonial legal system affected the lives of ordinary citizens. During presentations of " Order in the Court!" you may become the defendant, a witness, or one of the justices in a reenactment of a real trial from the 18th century.
This presentation can be a lot of fun, and of course educational, for adults and kids alike.
The courthouse at Williamsburg once tried misdemeanor trials of white men. The court itself is rather small, but some afternoons, mock trials are held there. These trials are very interesting, sometimes amusing, and show the faults of the society of Colonial Williamsburg, including the lack of the freedoms of speech and religion. A more Draconian law code was used in their society; for committing a felony, you would be branded; for committing another felony, you would be executed.
Be sure to check out one of the "Order In The Court" presentations if you can. It is very well done and gives you a good idea of what the process was like in colonial times. Performers were excellent and very informative. Audience participation!