A MAN with many family links to Devizes Assize Court was following family tradition when he stepped in to make a donation to help secure the historic building for the community.

Robert Hunt-Grubbe, who lives in Potterne, did not want to reveal exactly how much he paid towards the £475,000 needed to make the deal go through, but he has been praised by Lord Lansdowne as a benefactor.

Mr Hunt-Grubbe said this week that one of his ancestors, Ludlow Bruges, was instrumental in bringing the Assizes to Devizes after an Act of Parliament was passed in 1883 which empowered the Crown to decide the most suitable towns to house the courts.

He said: “Ludlow Bruges seized the opportunity and got 3,000 signatures. After that Devizes became the permanent home of Wiltshire Spring Assizes. Over £6,000 was raised to build the Assize Court.”

His ancestors have also been Mayor of Devizes, MPs and magistrates. His father was High Sheriff of Wiltshire after the Second World War.

He said: “I share the shame Wiltshire people feel about letting this wonderful building fall down before our eyes. It has proved a very hard fight.”

He said he went to the sale of the building by the former owner Suleiman Dockrat in London in 2006.

He said: “This was a farce. He had no intention of selling. The building had been the jewel in the crown of the owner’s property empire.”

But he praised Lord Lansdowne, who is president of the Wiltshire Historic Buildings Trust and chairman of the new Devizes Assize Court Trust, for completing the deal.

He said: “The credit for getting possession must go to Lord Lansdowne and Wiltshire Council for doggedly pursuing a path of compulsory purchase.

“This is a road fraught with problems so the next years saw no obvious progress. Then suddenly Lord Lansdowne got the owner to agree to sell but unfortunately his price was more than the Wiltshire Historic Buildings Trust could afford.”

He said he was determined the opportunity was seized before Mr Dockrat changed his mind.

He said: “I am proud to have been able to fill the gap so I no longer need to share the shame many local people feel as they pass the building and see it falling down before their eyes.

“There is a chance I will see the building fully restored in my lifetime.”