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Purcell wins contest for £10m Wiltshire Museum in decaying listed gem

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Purcell has won a competition to create a £10 million home for the Wiltshire Museum inside a former Assize Court in Devizes

The practice defeated shortlisted rivals John McAslan + Partners and ZMMA to win the contest, which was launched by the Devizes Assize Court Trust (DACT) more than a year ago and delayed due to the ‘quality of the submissions’ received.

The architect-led team will repair, conserve and extend the Grade II*-listed former Assize Court on Northgate Street, which has been abandoned for more than three decades and is now on Historic England’s Buildings at Risk register.

The 1,346m² project will transform the Neoclassical landmark into a ‘world-class’ venue for the Wiltshire Museum.

Peter Troughton, DACT chair 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.’

The museum, founded in 1853, is currently based in a former grammar school and two Georgian houses on Devizes’ Long Street but the venue has limited access and has run out of storage space.

Major landmarks close to the TH Wyatt-designed 1835 Assize Court include the Kennet and Avon Canal, connecting Reading to Bristol, the Grade II-listed Wadworth Brewery, and the former White Lion Pub.

Purcell will restore and adapt the historic Assize Court and draw up plans for a new extension fronting onto the canal. The brief includes requirements for exhibition galleries, café, shop and museum storage as well as community spaces, including meeting rooms and a large event and lecture space.

A total of 67 architectural practices submitted an initial expression of interest, nine submitted formal proposals and three gave formal presentations to DACT Trustees and advisers. A Stage 1 National Lottery Heritage Fund bid is expected to be lodged in the next 12 months.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Let's hope that a future owner of the adjoining brick cottage can improve on the naff windows - obviously not a conservation area, or is it?

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