General introduction to Four Courts history Under English rule there had been two legal systems in Ireland; English law within the Pale and Brehon law beyond it. This latter, indigenous system continued until the early 17th century by which time English law prevailed. In 1775 it was deemed that the location of the old Four Courts, then in and around the environs of Christ Church cathedral, was so dilapidated, dispersed and inadequate that an entirely new structure should be built on what is the present site. Work began on Thomas Cooley’s designs for the Public Records Office (now part of the west courtyard) in 1776. Upon Cooley’s death in 1784, James Gandon, architect of the Custom House, essentially designed what we recognise as the Four Courts today (the courts, hall, dome and quadrangles were all added to Cooley’s building). Like many of Dublin’s finest buildings, the structure was almost completely destroyed during the civil war of 1922. (See Heritage Home page on Courts Website for more information).
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