Thursday saw the end of 170 years of local justice in Spalding as the magistrates’ court sat for the final time.
The courthouse is “de-listed” – closed in all but name – and defendants and witnesses must now go to Boston or Grantham.
Spalding solicitor Anita Toal, managing partner of Maples, fears the building will be allowed to “fall into terminal decline”.
She said: “Unfortunately today marks the end in Spalding of local justice administered for local people, handed down by local magistrates.
“I only hope that the owners of the building will take care of it to ensure it can be put to good use for the benefit of the local area or that it is preserved for a time when the Government comes to its senses and appreciates the value of the local magisterial system.
“However I am not optimistic this will happen and I fear this fabulous building will be allowed to fall into terminal decline.”
As the last case in Court One ended at 3.32pm, presiding magistrate Richard Spinks said: “That concludes the business for the day and the year and possibly the future.
“We could say this ends a chapter in the history of this court building and a new chapter is about to open up and we don’t know what that is.”
Probation officer Angela Jones asked Mr Spinks where Spalding’s cases would be heard.
He replied: “Scattered to the winds, my dear, Boston and Grantham. It seems most unfortunate that the management of the courts are working to a different agenda.”
Solicitors raised the alarm in the spring, saying the court was likely to close, but press spokesmen for Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service said no decision had been taken – and any closure would need public consultation before it could go ahead. In the end the court was de-listed, which doesn’t need consultation.
MP John Hayes fought to save the court, taking the battle to the Lord Chancellor, and said there was no pressure from “the top” to close it – the decision was made locally, steered by the courts service. The MP, magistrates and solicitors won a fight to save the court from closure in 2010.
Spalding historian Michael Elsden said The Sessions House first opened for hearings known as the midsummer quarter sessions on June 30, 1843.