Iain worked as a Technical Assistant for Devizes Borough Council in the offices opposite the Assize Court from 1969-1970.
Trumpton or Camberwick Green?
- How much did you know about the Assize Court before you started working there?
- Not a lot, I hadn’t appreciated that, what it was, it was the other people, my colleagues in the office which had seen what was going on at every, sort of, quarter session and they were obviously highly amused by the sort of ‘Trumpton’ or Camberwick Green’ type of things that were happening [laughs]. But it was entertaining, I must say, and sad that we’ve lost it all.
Trumpeters off to the pub
I was told roughly what time things would start to unfold, and we were in the office by half past eight, it was before the days of flexible working and we were there, we knew it was going to come and the first thing that happened, was obviously people arrived and disappeared and kept things up and running. But the, really it was the arrival of the state trumpeters which was the first thing. They came in a minibus, I can’t remember now, I thought there were six, but looking at the photographs it looked like that, on the occasion I photographed there were only four. It might have been that they had six when they had a really important judge came [laughs], I don’t know, but they would arrive, and they’d unload suitcases and boxes with their instruments and disappear inside and get changed. Then about half an hour later the convicts or future convicts would arrive in a bus with a whole load of district warders, prison officers as there now called. But they looked like, as I said in what I wrote, they really did look like they’d slept in their uniforms [laughs]. They were very sort of like the Third World police force [laughs] they would sort of escort the convicts in through like a back door. Then things would then sort of start, somebody would come out and sweep the front steps and other people would arrive with sort of better class suites on and things, and then it all sort of happened from there. They would all line up on the steps. The trumpeters would be there already, and then, I think it was about 10 o’clock, his lordship would arrive, and of course in all his robes and wigs and that, and various clerks would sort of come and stand in line on the steps to welcome him. The state trumpeters would start up and they’d be sorted of escorted into the place, and then that’s when it sort of started to turn into a farce really, because as soon as he’d gone inside, they just shot into the White Lion [laughs] not to be seen for a couple of hours and that was it really. We didn’t see much else then until they actually came out, came out of the White Lion to escort his lordship down the steps and into his car away for lunch.
Recorded with Linda Redden, Bath Spa University.