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26 November 2018

Assize Court, Devizes - saved at last!

The Assize Court is an iconic and prominent building and it's an important part of the history of Devizes. Its preservation and restoration for future use will add so much value to Devizes and Wiltshire

Baroness Scott of Bybrook and leader of Wiltshire Counci

Following years of decay in the hands of various owners, a bright future now beckons for the iconic Assize Court building that is so familiar to visitors to Devizes.

Thanks to support from the Wiltshire Historic Buildings Trust and a generous local benefactor, ownership has been secured by the recently formed Devizes Assize Court Trust. 

A major fund-raising campaign will be launched with the aim of restoring the building and refurbishing it to become the new home for Wiltshire Museum. The refurbishment will include purpose-built galleries, a café, a lecture theatre and the provision of community space.

The longer-term ambition is to link the Assize Court to the Wharf re-development, which forms an important part of Wiltshire Council's Core Strategy.

The benefit to Devizes and the county will be substantial. 

As high streets struggle, it is hoped that this splendid building in its new incarnation will act as a catalyst to significantly increase tourism in Devizes. 

Boasting the decisive battle of the Civil War, the canal with its famous flight of locks, a historic castle site, two Grade 1 churches and one of the finest market places in the south of England, Devizes will have a great offer. 

Originally funded by public subscription, the Assize Court building with its imposing Grecian style facade was built in 1836 by T.H. Wyatt, who also designed Roundway Hospital and many Wiltshire churches.  Following closure of the court in the 1980's, planning applications for offices and residential use were approved, but none could be economically delivered and the condition of the building has deteriorated badly.

A professional survey of the building has been recently commissioned which advises that the Assize Court can be saved, despite the neglect.  A programme of urgent works has been proposed to prevent further serious deterioration.  The Devizes Assize Court Trust has secured funding for these immediate works, and will also lead a major fund-raising campaign to deliver this major project.

Lord Lansdowne, Chairman of Devizes Assize Court Trust said: "I am delighted that the Devizes Assize Court Trust has secured the purchase of this important building for Devizes and Wiltshire.  Through the generosity of both the Wiltshire Historic Buildings Trust and a local benefactor, together with the support of Wiltshire Council, we look forward to starting urgent work on the building which has been redundant for more than 30 years. Bringing it back into use will be a milestone in local history. Whilst the restoration will be a challenge it is one that the Trust looks forward to; recognising the positive impact for the town, the local community and Wiltshire."

John Bush, Chairman of the Wiltshire Historic Buildings Trust said: "The trust was established to promote the long term and sustainable future for the county's historic buildings.  It has been aware of the appalling condition of this magnificent building for more than ten years. It has long been an ambition to purchase it, restore it and reuse it for the benefit of Wiltshire. 

We are pleased to be able to support the work of the Devizes Assize Court Trust to enable this magnificent building to be restored for not only Devizes but also the wider community."

Baroness Scott of Bybrook and leader of Wiltshire Council said: "The council has supported the Wiltshire Historic Buildings Trust in its quest to achieve this extremely positive outcome. The Assize Court is an iconic and prominent building and it's an important part of the history of Devizes. Its preservation and restoration for future use will add so much value to Devizes and Wiltshire."

Martin Nye, Chairman of Wiltshire Museum said: "We are excited to be working to secure the long-term future of this historic building, which will provide a great location to share our nationally important collections with the widest possible range of audiences. This is the beginning of a major project that will rely on the energy, enthusiasm and support of the local community."

To get involved you can sign up at www.devizesassizecourt.org.uk to register your interest and find out more about how you can support this project.

Last updated: 26 November 2018 | Last reviewed: 26 November 2018

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