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Report - The Assize Courts, Devizes, Wiltshire - January 2016

Discussion in 'Other Sites' started by Bertie Bollockbrains, Jan 26, 2016.

  1. Bertie Bollockbrains

    Bertie Bollockbrains 28DL Regular User
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    Putting this report up in the hope that somebody with influence sees this report and forces some action on this long-neglected building.

    A festering sore smack bang in the middle of my home town on a main street and in prime location, and frankly an embarrassment to the area. This fine Grade II* listed neo-classical building has been standing empty since the 1980s! The owners have submitted many planning applications over the years, with several approved, but no work has ever been done.

    For the purpose of naming and shaming, the owner is an elusive South African gentleman called Sulieman Dockrot, said to be now living in Dubai. His UK agent is one Kamarran Mahmoud of Urban Spectrum Property Management Ltd (part of the Gatewell group) based in London. It has been said by the council and the Wiltshire Historic Buildings Trust that it is near impossible to contact Mr Dockrot.

    HISTORY

    Originally the Assize court for Wiltshire was held in Salisbury, however after a petition in 1834, Devizes managed to secure its own. In 1835 the Architect Thomas Wyatt (responsible for many churches in the area as well as the old Roundway Hospital, also situated in Devizes) was chosen to design and build an impressive neo-classical building that would be the new Assize Courts.

    The building was well used right up until the abolition of the Assize court system in 1971. From 1971 until 1975 the Crown Court took over and used the building, then from 1975 until 1982 the Magistrates took over use of the court.

    1982 was perhaps the deciding point for the building when a case of dry-rot caused to Magistrates to abandon it, although the dry-rot was cured the building would not be used again.

    The Assize Courts has been derelict and neglected since the 1980s. Many planning permissions have been applied for and given the go ahead. However all planning permissions have expired with no work done. The most recent granted panning permission was in 2011 to convert the building into flats.

    Recently the Wiltshire Historic Buildings Trust have offered to buy the building off the owners stating that they would do something useful with the building, but the owners refused to sell at the offered price of £350000.

    In recent years, the local council has been getting a bit miffed over this derelict building and have been talking of a compulsory purchase order. About this time last year, the council imposed an Urgent Works Notice on the building. Essential repairs were done on the property said to have costed £40000. A petition was organised just before Christmas and signed by 400 people calling for an appeal to save the courts.

    Anyways right now there’s yet another planning notice application on the gate outside the building, but it looks as if this building will remain a blot on the landscape for a long time to come.

    A few recent local newpaper reports: Call for Action over ‘festering sore’ dated 2013, Urgent Repairs Notice dated 2014, Council says it can’t do anything dated 2015 and Charity wants to buy Assize Courts dated 2015

    BREAKING NEWS: Since exploring this site and composing this report, an interesting article has appeared in the local rag stating that the owner is visiting the UK within a couple of weeks and there may (my emphasis) be an opportunity for progress. Wiltshire Council are cautiously optimistic though. The new planning permission application that I saw on the gate has been granted and allows for part of the old courts to be remodelled and for new upper floors to be added to the jury and court rooms and used as residential accommodation. The lobby would become a community space with new windows and stairs added. We wait and see with fingers crossed.


    REPORT

    Anyone who has ever explored with me will have noticed that I use a tripod-mounted compact camera for my photos. On this explore, for the first time ever, I experimented with a SLR/ wide angle lens combination. Not very happy with the results and I think I have a lot of learning to do. Not easy using a wide angle lens! Apologies for the rubbish photos and I promise I will seek expert help at the local camera club soonest.

    Anyways so much potential here, but nothing is being done. That blue plaque by the way was put up by the Trust for Devizes and says “Assize Courts, T. H. Wyatt Architect, Grecian Style, 1835”

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    Central entrance lobby, with two courtrooms to either side

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    First courtroom

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    And the second courtroom, with public gallery at the top

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    Looking towards the jury box

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    Steps leading down to the holding cells

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    Long basement level tunnel to those cells

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    One of two holding cells

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    Boiler found in one of the basement rooms

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    Then it was time to leave. As I emerged into the daylight I heard a shout of "there he is!" Only had two of Wiltshire Constabulary's finest waiting for me outside :( Well if truth be told, they were very pleasant and nice as they walked me off site and we had a nice long chat about the sad history of this fine building and we all agreed that it's a bloody disgrace that the owners have done nothing with their planning permissions. So a big thumbs up from me to Wiltshire Police for being so nice :thumb Looking forward to meeting you again another day another place.
     
    girtrood, FaZy_UK, Budice and 2 others like this.

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  2. Bugsuperstar

    Bugsuperstar Irresponsible & Reckless
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    Grand looking place. I really hope it can be redeveloped and given a new lease of life.
     
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