Though plain, this handsome building asserts the importance of the law in Akaroa. Built in a simplified Italianate style, with bracketed eaves, prominent round-headed windows and an attractive side porch, the building has appropriate dignity and presence. It is typical of several small-town courthouses of its era and was almost certainly designed by the Colonial Architect, William Clayton, just before his death in 1877.
When the Courthouse opened on 9 March 1880, the Akaroa Mail welcomed the provision by the Government of a large and suitable building as a replacement for the “wretched little shanty” that had been serving up till then as Akaroa’s courthouse. The town had a resident magistrate only until 1885, but court sittings were held in the building until 1979. A magistrate travelled over from Christchurch when he was needed.
When it ceased to be used as courthouse, the building became the local premises of the Department of Lands and Survey, then part of the Akaroa Museum. The interior is still furnished as a court room, with a magistrate’s bench, witness box and dock.