The Devizes Assize Court Trust is delighted to announce that after a keen competition, Purcell have been appointed to develop initial plans to restore the historic Devizes Assize Court and to bring it into community use and make it the prestigious new home for the Wiltshire Museum. It is intended that this triple purpose will lead the regeneration of Devizes as an important destination for tourists.
Purcell are a Bristol-based award-winning architectural practice whose recent projects include Aerospace Bristol (home of the Bristol Aircraft Collection and Concorde), Kresen Kernow (The Story of Cornwall & Cornwall Archives) and St Fagans Museum of Welsh Life in Cardiff.
Purcell will be developing ideas for the restoration and adaptation of the historic Assize Court as well as planning a new extension fronting onto the Kennet and Avon Canal. The brief for the architects outlines requirements for exhibition galleries, café, shop and museum storage as well as community spaces, including meeting rooms and a large event and lecture space.
Additional work will be undertaken to identify how the building will be used for education including school groups, as a venue for local people for functions and perhaps weddings, and for tourists who can learn about the history of Wiltshire and the Assize Court itself as they sit in the very place in which trials for the misdeeds of some of its citizens took place.
The first stages will be to work carefully through the requirements and to develop ideas about how the historic character of the building can be enhanced and modern facilities included. A number of options will be developed and it is planned to launch an open consultation on the plans on Saturday 19 September during the national Heritage Open Days festival, organised locally by the Trust for Devizes .
The Devizes Assize Court Trust is planning to apply to the National Lottery Heritage Fund for significant support for the project during the next 12 months. If the Stage 1 bid is successful, then more detailed preparatory work will be undertaken and applications for listed building consent and planning permission would be submitted. A major fund-raising programme will be developed to seek support from local people as well as trusts and foundations. A Stage 2 bid will then be submitted for funding that would enable restoration and building work to finally go ahead.
This will be a long and complex regeneration project that may take 10 years to complete and cost over £10 million. The work now getting under way will establish detailed costs for the project and an outline timetable – although actual timing depends upon successful fundraising and the support of the community.
Peter Troughton, Chair of the Devizes Assize Court Trust, said “Appointing Purcell to be the architects of this exciting project is a significant step in rescuing the Assize Court building and moving the world famous Wiltshire Museum to its new home. There is much to be done to realize this vision, but with the help of the people of Devizes and many others, I am confident that we can achieve it.”
Martin Nye, Chair of the Wiltshire Museum said “We are looking forward to working with DACT, Purcell and the wider Wiltshire community to start the journey to restore and enlarge a wonderful historic building that will be an exciting and uplifting place to visit, and a fitting home for our nationally-important collection.”
Niall Phllips, Partner at Purcell, said “Creating a new home for Wiltshire Museum at the Devizes Assize Court is a wonderful but challenging project that we will enjoy applying all our architectural and conservation skills to ensuring has an outstanding end result. Its success will reinvigorate the Museum and its collections making them more accessible to wider audiences, it will resolve the future of a prominent but derelict historic building in the heart of the town and act as a flagship for its regeneration, Working collaboratively with DACT and Wiltshire Museum, stakeholders and the local community we look forward to helping you achieve something to be very proud of, that will enrich your lives and will make an exciting and special contribution to the future of both town and county for all to treasure.”
Support for the Assize Court Project has been received from a wide range of people and organisations, including:-
Architectural model of one of a number of initial ideas for the Assize Court
Notes for editors
Purcell were appointed following an open competition following OJEU procedures. A total of 67 architectural practices submitted an initial expression of interest, 9 submitted formal proposals and 3 gave formal presentations to DACT Trustees and advisors.
Devizes Assize Court Trust
The Devizes Assize Court is a Grade II* Listed Building on the Historic England Heritage at Risk Register. It has been unused for over 30 years. Following a long campaign ably lead by Lord Lansdowne it has recently been purchased with support from the Wiltshire Historic Buildings Trust and a further donation from Robert Hunt-Grubbe of Potterne whose ancestor William Ludlow-Bruges raised funds for its original construction in1835. The newly established Devizes Assize Court Trust (DACT) was then formed with the intention of restoring the building and making it the new home of the Wiltshire Museum. The building has now been rescued from futher decay and made safe with the support of Historic England, the Architectural Heritage Fund and the Pilgrim Trust.
For more details of the building and of the project, please see www.devizesassizecourt.org.uk.
Purcell Architecture, founded in 1947 by Donavan Purcell and with over 250 staff, is one of the country’s largest and most respected conservation and architectural practices. Its work spans from scholarly but creative conservation to sensitive, contextual contemporary new design with a focus on significant heritage and cultural projects. The practice is committed to achieving quality and excellence in all that is does and has dedicated and highly motivated staff with exceptional skills. Currently the practice is working on projects ranging from the repairs to Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster to Hull Maritime Museum and Manchester Town Hall. Purcell’s Bristol office will be leading the Devizes Assize Courts project and has recently completed projects such as the Aerospace Bristol Museum, the Story Museum in Oxford and Kresen Kernow (The Story of Cornwall) which relocated the County’s archives. In recent years the office’s work on Cromford Mills and Yr Ysgwrn in North Wales have both won the prestigious European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage, its St Fagans project won the 2019 Museum of the Year Award and its other projects have recently won national Civic Trust, RIBA and RICS Awards.
Purcell’s design team for the Assize Court project includes Buro Happold providing services and environmental design, Mann Williams providing structural engineering and Burke Hunter Adams providing cost consultancy. Each of them are leading consultancies in their respective fields and are all based in the region. For more details, please see www.purcelluk.com
Visualisation of initial ideas for the Assize Court
Find out how we selected the architects through an open competitive tender following OJEU procurement rules. We had 67 initial expressions of interest and 9 architectural practices submitted full proposals.
Read the brief for the architects outlining the project requirements.
Saving the Assize Court! Read about the background of the project in the press release announcing the purchase of the Assize Court in November 2018
Examples of projects that will inform the development of the Assize Court project.