Plea to open Wisbech courthouse to the public for Heritage Open Days

The Friends of Wisbech Courthouse have made a request for the historic building to be opened to the public next month.

The group is determined to ensure that the courthouse remains as a public building and would like to see the big wooden doors of the magistrate court flung open for the Heritage Open Days from September 8 to 11.

The four-day event celebrates England's fantastic architecture and culture by offering free access to properties that are usually closed to the public or normally charge for admission.

The courthouse was closed earlier this year due to government cuts.

John Clarke, group member, said: 'We've made the request to the Ministry of Justice because it's a weekend celebrating our history and heritage and it's a brilliant historic building.

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'It was one of the biggest magistrates court to have been closed and we think the public to have a look round it through curiosity more than anything else.'

Mr Clarke said before the 19th century, magistrates used to sit in the Rose and Crown Hotel, which is currently being renovated.

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Magistrates then sat at the original Shire Hall, which was a half-timbered building to the east end of the town's market place but became run down.

A new Shire Hall including a court was then built in 1808 and continued right up until 1957 and is still in existence as a building today.

When the courthouse in Wisbech was opened in 1957 it was described as a 'worthy addition' to the town.

And when it was the proposed closure was announced by the Ministry of Justice, Fenland magistrates had put up a spirited fight to save the court.

But magistrates bade a fond farewell to a 'much-loved friend' as the Fenland courthouse closed its doors for the last time on March 23.

In an emotional ceremony before the day's business began, magistrates, judges and various dignitaries gathered to mark the historic occasion.

The Lord Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire, Hugh Duberly, the High Sheriff of Cambridge in nomination, Richard Barnwell, and Judge Jonathan Howarth sat on the court dais with senior magistrates as town mayors and former magistrates packed into the jury box to watch the proceedings.

Then the final day of the courthouse kicked off with a plethora of driving offence cases, which included failing to stop at a red light and driving without insurance.

Magistrates also heard cases of shoplifting, theft from a person and assault before the close of play at the courthouse.

The court was officially opened in April 1957 by the Master of the Rolls, Rt Hon Lord Evershed, and it cost �108,000 to build. At the time, a local newspaper said: 'This fine new edifice is a worthy addition to the town.'

In the short time the building was open it was used as a Magistrates' Court, Crown Court, Coroner's Court and Youth Court.

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