ALLOA Sheriff Court lies in the heart of the town and has served as the only judicial court in Clackmannanshire for over 150 years. Yet it has not always been housed in the building on the corner of Drysdale Street.

In 1822 the court was held in old assembly rooms, which have been demolished, then moved to the former Tontine Hotel and inn in 1842, which later became Ochil House.

The hotel was re-modelled internally to accommodate the new justice offices but within 20 years it had become inadequate, so the burgh councillors initiated moves to have new, purpose-built sheriff offices constructed.

The Sheriff Court Houses (Scotland) Act 1860 paved the way for better court houses and there was an explosion of building in the country following the passing of the act. In Alloa, the Commissioners of Supply approved the construction of the new building on 13th April 1863.

Architects Brown and Wardrop won the contract that same year but it was mason John Mailer who undertook its construction. The sandstone used came from Dunmore Quarry at Cowie.

It was designed in the Franco-Gothic style with a clock tower on its north-east corner and was completed two years later at a cost of £8000. Ornate carvings were worked into the design which although weathered can still be seen.

It was formally opened on 8th December 1865. Inside, the court room on the first floor was designed at double height with a panelled judge’s bench, a witness box and a dock.

In 1910 the building was expanded to accommodate a new police station to a design by local architect William Kerr of John Melvin and Sons, with further expansion to this in 1937.

In 2012 Alloa Sheriff Court and Justice of the Peace Court were thought to have been earmarked by the Scottish Courts Service for closure which would mean that Clacks Council would have been the only local authority in Scotland not to have a sheriff court.

The annual running costs, amounting to around £37,000 plus a backlog of maintenance expected to be over £1m, were factors.

However, in April 2013 the court was reprieved due in part to SCS deciding not to list it for closure, and still serves the community today.

Over the years there have been several strange or unusual cases heard at Alloa Sheriff Court but none more so than the case of the violation of a grave in an Alloa churchyard, and the dream that led to a trial.

During the Victorian era the gravedigger for Alloa, Robert Blair, appeared before the sheriff on a charge of illegally exhuming a body.

The parents of James Quin had buried him in September 1863 in a grave Mr Quin had bought from William Donaldson, the kirk treasurer, with the purchase price being paid in instalments.

Around six months later, Blair, unbeknown to Donaldson, sold the plot to someone else and opened it up to bury their late relative.

The Quins only discovered the grave had another body buried there while making enquiries about erecting a headstone for their son.

In addition, one of their younger sons had spoken to Blair’s nephew who mentioned something of this on their way to Sunday school.

They confronted Blair, who vehemently denied it but due to their persistence, he threatened to exhume their son’s body from the grave site.

At the time it was not his intention to carry out the threat but to save his own skin for selling the plot. On the night of Thursday, March 23, 1864, Blair did indeed dig up the body of Mr Quin and re-buried him in another part of the churchyard.

That same March night, Mrs Quin had a dream that her son was standing next to her asking to be put back in his bed. She woke up and told her husband but fell asleep again only to have the dream repeated twice more but with Blair in the third version, with his spade touching the flesh of her son.

The next day the couple went to the grave and saw it had been newly dug. They found the sexton and she told him her dream, and frightened out of his wits, he eventually admitted what he had done and showed them where he had placed their son’s body.

The trial of Donaldson and Blair took place in 1865, the year the new sheriff court opened, but in the small debt court where the Quins sought compensation, and the whole story became public knowledge. Donaldson was absolved of any wrong doing, but Blair was found liable to pay the Quins compensation, which was set by the court at £5.

To date, this has been the only case where a dream has led to criminal proceedings at Alloa Sheriff Court.