A LANDMARK deal that will save the crumbling Assize Court in Devizes was done this morning when the sale of the building was completed.

The newly formed Devizes Assize Court Trust has bought the historic building for £475,000 from elusive businessman Suleiman Dockrat.

A major fundraising campaign has now been launched to raise £10 million to transform the building into a new home for Wiltshire Museum.

Lord Lansdowne in his role as president of Wiltshire Historic Building Trust has been holding behind the scenes talks with Mr Dockrat and finally persuaded Mr Dockrat to sell.

He said: "I am delighted that the Devizes Assize Court Trust has secured the purchase of this important building for Devizes and Wiltshire. Through the generosity of both the Wiltshire Historic Building Trust and a local benefactor, together with the support of Wiltshire Council, we look forward to starting urgent work on the building which has been redundant for more than 30 years.

"Bringing it back into use will be a milestone in local history. Whilst the restoration will be a challenge it is one that the trust looks forward to and recognises the positive impact for the town the local community and Wiltshire."

It is expected to take ten years to complete the project. One of the trust's first jobs will be to appoint a professional fundraiser to come up with ways to raise the cash.

John Bush chairman for the Wiltshire Historic Buildings Trust said: "We are pleased to support the work of the Devizes Assize Court Trust to enable this magnificent building to be restored for not only Devizes but the wider community."

Wiltshire council leader Baroness Jane Scott said: "The Assize Court is an iconic and prominent building and it's an important part of Devizes history. Its preservation and restoration for future use will add so much value to Devizes and Wiltshire."

Martin Nye chairman of Wiltshire Museum said: "We are excited to be working to secure the long-term future of this historic building, which will provide a great location to share our nationally important collections with the widest possible range of audiences."

Go to www.devizesassizecourt.org.uk to find out how to support project.