Buildings of Newport (16)
The Mansion House
The present grounds of the Mansion House were bought in four lots by John Liscombe, leather merchant and sadler of Commercial Street, Newport, between 1886 and 1889. He built the House in the early 1890s and used it as his personal residence until his death in November 1914. John Liscombe was Mayor of Newport in 1905 and his portrait can be seen at the bottom of the stairs in the hall. The portrait was given to the Mansion House by the original leather merchants and sadlers firm which still operates in Newport.
After a period of ownership by Sir Garrod Thomas of Clytha Park, the House was bought by Newport Corporation in March 1939 for £3,250 for use as Judge's Lodgings. Until 1940 the Monmouthshire Assizes were held at Monmouth, some 25 miles from Newport via a slow winding road. The Quarter Sessions were held at the Sessions House, Usk some 11 miles from Newport. As most of the business for Assizes and Quarter Sessions was provided by the inhabitants of Newport, there was much complaint about the inconvenience to witnesses and the legal profession of the Courts being located at Monmouth and Usk.
In 1936 Newport Corporation decided to build a new Civic Centre. At the time Newport had its own police force and was also responsible for providing Magistrates' Courts. It was therefore decided to add two Crown Courts to the Clytha Park Road wing of the new building in order to enable the Assizes and Quarter Sessions to be held in Newport.
A condition of the consent of the Lord Chancellor to this proposal was that Newport should provide Judges' Lodgings, and this was the reason for the purchase of the Mansion House. Arrangements were made at the time of the purchase of the Mansion House for it to be used by the Mayor during the times in which it was not required by the Judges.
The Courts Act 1971 abolished Assizes and Quarter Sessions and introduced the present scheme of Crown Courts. The Government included a clause in one of the Schedules to the Courts Act to the effect that local authorities would cease to be under obligation to provide Judges' Lodgings after January 1975.
Newport Council therefore gave the Lord Chancellor's Department notice that the Mansion House would not be available for the Judges after January 1975. From 1975 until 2009, it was used exclusively by the Council as the official residence of the Mayor. It was refurbished in 2011 and re-opened as the City's Register office in July of that year.