The Voices from the Assizes Project

An oral history project to record memories of Devizes Assize Court.

An imposing stone building on the road into Devizes from Bath housed one of Wiltshire’s courts of justice until 1971. The building – the Devizes Assize Court – has been empty since the 1980s, but plans are being developed – and funds raised – to bring the building back into use as a new home for Wiltshire Museum. This is a slow process as the building is in a poor state, but in the meantime we are taking the opportunity to record memories of the former Assize Court, the part it played in the town’s history and in people’s lives, preserving these for future generations.

Our friendly team of interviewers are recording memories which will then be written up into a booklet, website and a small special exhibition. Most importantly, these crucial memories will be recorded for future generations and will help tell the story of the building, when it can be restored. We will, of course, respect the confidentiality of all who give us their stories.

Do you have memories of the building?

  • Do you remember the Assize Courts?
  • Were you on a jury - or even in the dock?
  • Did you or a member of your family work in the building?
  • Were you a clerk, police officer, solicitor or cleaner?
  • Were you in the canteen or the records room?
  • Did you buy a dog licence from the Police Station?
  • Do you have other memories of the Assize Court?

If the answer is 'yes', then we want to hear from you!

Voices from the Assize Court

The Assizes were usually in January here, in the days when we had severe snowstorms. There was one day when two trials were going on and two judges sitting: one in number one court and one in number two. They were sitting late, it was a very dark afternoon, there was a terrific snow fall and the lights failed. They wondered what they would do, so they sent out for candles and holders, and these were brought in, and the trials went ahead. So, you had a rather macabre Mr Justice Hallett, who wore two pairs of spectacles, reflecting in the candlelight!

Quote from an interview with Terry Gaylard by Lisa Brown, Curator in 2019.  Terry, a former Gazette and Herald reporter, often covered Assize Court proceedings and his testimony is full of fascinating insights into how the courts ran and its impact on Devizes.

How to share your memories

Contact us:

  • By letter - Voices from the Assizes, Wiltshire Museum, 41 Long Street, Devizes, SN10 1NS
  • email - assizes.voices@wiltshiremuseum.org.uk
  • Talking to us – our friendly team of interviewers are waiting to hear from you: contact Jane Schon (Collections Officer: Archive & Library) to arrange an appointment for your interview.

How we will share your story:

  • Memories recorded may feature in a booklet and mini exhibition.
  • Via our website.
  • All stories will be added to the Museum’s archives for future researchers.

Don't delay - please contact us as soon as you can ...

We look forward to hearing your stories.

Hear more stories

Hear more stories about the Assize Court on this page!

Acknowledgements and Thanks

This exciting oral history project to record memories of Devizes Assize Court is supported by the Arts Council England National Lottery Projects Fund.

The Museum is working with two students from the Bath Spa Heritage Management Postgraduate course, who with volunteers, will be training to develop their skills in oral history.

Project Updates

What happens in an oral history interview ...

Read more


Exciting future for the Assize Court

Restoring the Assize Court is a long-term project. Good progress has been made, with imaginative plans developed by our Architects - Purcell. We have carried out a wide-ranging community consultation and developed our ideas for how the building can be used.

The next step is to raise funding to develop the project. The Devizes Assize Court Trust and Wiltshire Museum are talking to potential funders and a major fund-raising campaign will be launched when these initial stages take place. Fundraising is likely to take 4 years to raise the £12.7m needed and it will take a similar amount of time to restore the building. Find out more about the plans from this video.

View of the front of the Grecian columns of the Devizes Assize Court

We are working with the Devizes Assize Court Trust, which now owns the building. They are working to safeguard the building and to secure its future as a community hub and the new home of the Wiltshire Museum.

Copyright: Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society