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History of the Northumberland County Law Association

From the first meeting at Wilon’s Hotel in Newark on 17 July 1797, right up until today, Law Associations have known they need libraries. In April 1800 the private collection of law books belonging to the first Law Society Treasurer and Attorney General of Upper Canada John White was acquired after his death, and the Law Society of Upper Canada officially formed its first law library. The collection itself continued to expand; Henry John Boulton (relative of Cobourg’s D’Arcy Boulton), traveled to London on business in 1827 and stayed to purchase approximately $800 in books for the collection. Originally this collection was stored in the Court House in Court House Square, one block north of King Street. Over time the collection expanded, wars broke out and the library was required for billeting space, and the collection was moved, again and again before settling into its current day home, in the Great Library. 

By 1879 it was apparent (in Ontario) that lawyers and students needed library services and support within their own local bars associations, and a special committee was formed to combat this issue, which resulted in law association libraries. As it was known then, the United Counties of Northumberland County and Durham Law Association was quick to establish a library. To assist these libraries the Law Society passed a new rule in 1889 to provide a basic grant to the association to assist with collections development, a librarian’s salary, and “telephone service”. 

This system has only expanded over the years; collections have evolved to include better research services, inter library loan services, and various digital tools are now offered in these association libraries, making them one of the most valuable resources a law association can offer.

Photo of county and district lawyers

Law Association of the United Counties of Northumberland and Durham was formed in 1924. Its purpose was to provide and maintain a county law library, and to promote the general welfare and interest of the legal profession across the counties it served. In 1976 the association’s name was changed to the Northumberland County Law Association.


Currently the NCLA Library is housed in the Northumberland County Court house, which was built in 1956, and in the recent past has undergone some dramatic renovations to bring the facility up-to-date.

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