Unusually for the small townships of West Donegal, Glenties has both a Market House and a Court House. The former seems to have been built about 1840 for the Marquis of Conyngham. It is a long low gabled two-storey building with two separate outside stairways giving access to the upper floor: today used as youth club, recreation room, stores and garage. In the lower storey, there is a single wide segmental arc and on either side an arched doorway: windows have been added rather miscellaneously from time to time. The quoins and dressings are of cut stone, as are the chimneys, otherwise the building is of random rubble harled over. Rather oddly, but endearingly, the upper walls are set back all round on the base furnished by the lower storey and stringcourse. The eaves of the Sables have cheerful little carved wooden brackets.
The courthouse is surprisingly sophisticated. It is a variant on William Caldbeck’s standard design, of five bays and two storeys, with hipped roof, built over a basement containing the bride well cells. The two end bays project, and the roof over sails the central bays. In the upper storey are five large round-headed windows, set in recesses and plain round-headed architraves, with their original glazing; the doors are set between simplified pilasters supporting pediment-shaped heads. The eaves have square modillions; the imposing chimneys form an integral part of the composition. The quality of the stonework is uncommonly high throughout. The original courtroom furnishings, including high box-pews, remain quite unaltered.
This building was the cause of acrimony between the Grand Jury and the Lord Lieutenant. The Grand Jury considered it “unnecessary and inexpedient” in view of the propinquity of the new courthouse at Donegal; His Excellency differed, and directed them to build it, at a cost of £900. This sum they resolutely refused to vote, on the advice of their Surveyor, who suggested that £650 would be more than adequate. After an exchange of stiff memoranda and resolutions the Grand Jury was constrained, with very poor grace, to give way. The building was in fact completed in 1843.
The Grand Jurymen of Co. Donegal were as parsimonious as they were stiff- necked. At the height of the Great Famine, they noted that Lifford Gaol (built for 113) was overcrowded by an additional 87 prisoners; to remedy this inconvenience and to discourage those who might commit offences in order to be fed in prison, they solemnly recommended to Government that the statutory minimum diet in the prison be reduced to accord with the current diet outside.