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Devizes is a market town and civil parish in the Englishmarker county of Wiltshiremarker, in the southern United Kingdommarker. It has a population of about 15,000 in 2009. Devizes has the feel of a much larger town. It serves as a centre for banks, solicitors and shops, with a large open market place where a market is held once a week. It has over five hundred listed buildings, a large open Green at the heart of the town, splendid churches and an elegant Town Hall. Its development has grown around an 11th century Norman castle.


Devizes Castlemarker was built by Osmund, Bishop of Salisbury in 1080 but the town is not mentioned in the Domesday Book. Because the castle was located on the boundaries of the manors of Rowdemarker, Bishops Canningsmarker and Potternemarker it became known as the castrum ad divisas or "the castle at the boundaries", hence the name Devizes. The first castle on the site was of the motte and bailey form and was probably constructed from wood and earth, but this burnt down in 1113. A new castle was built in stone by Roger of Salisbury, Osmund's successor. Devizes received its first charter in 1141 permitting regular markets. The castle changed hands several times during the civil war between Stephen of Blois and Matilda in the 12th century. The castle held important prisoners, including Robert Curthose, eldest son of William the Conqueror in 1106. Robert was kept in Devizes for twenty years, before being moved to Cardiff Castlemarker.

The town has been well endowed with Churches since the early 11th century. The town has four Church of England parish churches. The oldest is dedicated to St John the Baptist and was founded in 1130. Pevsner describes it as the second best Norman church in Wiltshire, after Malmesbury Abbeymarker. It was the church intimately associated with the early Castle and its garrison. Three others are dedicated to St Mary the Virgin, associated in its early days with the growing town of Devizes, St James, part of Bishops Canningsmarker until the end of the 19th century, and St Peter'smarker, now an Anglo-Catholic church. A Roman Catholic church dedicated to St Joseph was built in 1865 and has a Church primary school associated with and adjacent to it. There are also Methodist, Quaker, Assemblies of God, and Baptist churches in Devizes.

Devizes has a record of early dissenting preachers and churches.. One church St. Mary's Chapel or the Congregational Church was founded on Northgate Street in 1776. It had two early charismatic preachers, the Reverend Robert Sloper and then the Reverend Richard Elliot, the anti-slavery campaigner. They regularly had congregations of over 500 in the early 19th century. This Church has now been converted into one house and six apartments, and the congregation has united with the Methodist church to form St Andrew's Methodist and United Reformed Church, on Long Street.

During the 12th and 13th centuries the town of Devizes developed outside the castle with craftsmen and traders setting up businesses to serve the residents of the castle. The first known market in Devizes was in 1228. The original market was in the large space outside St Mary’s Church, rather than in the current Market Place, which at that time would have been within the castle’s outer bailey. The chief products in the 16th and early 17th centuries were wheat, wool and yarn, with cheese, bacon and butter increasing in importance later.

In 1643, during the English Civil War Parliamentary forces under Sir William Waller besieged Royalist forces under Sir Ralph Hopton in Devizes. However the siege was lifted by a relief force from Oxfordmarker under Henry Wilmot, 1st Earl of Rochester and Waller's forces were almost totally destroyed at the Battle of Roundway Downmarker. Devizes remained under Royalist control until 1645 when Oliver Cromwell attacked and forced the Royalists to surrender. The castle was destroyed in 1648 on the orders of Parliament, a process known as slighting, and today little remains of it.

From the 16th century Devizes became known for its textiles, initially white woollen broadcloth but later the manufacture of serge, drugget, felt and cassimere or Zephyr cloth. In the early 18th century Devizes held the largest corn market in the West Country of England and also traded hops, cattle, horses and various cloth. Before the Corn Exchange was built in 1857 the trade in wheat and barley was conducted in the open, with sacks piled up around the market cross. Today's cross displays the salutary tale of Ruth Pierce, accused of cheating some buyers at the market: On Thursday, 25th January, 1753, Ruth Pierce of Potterne in this county, agreed with three other women to buy a sack of wheat in the Market, each paying her due proportion towards the same. One of these women, in collecting the several quotas of money, discovered a deficiency, and demanded of Ruth Pierce the sum which was wanting to make good the amount. Ruth Pierce protested that she had paid her share, and said: ' She wished she might drop down dead if she had not.'She rashly repeated this awful wish, when to the consternation and terror of the surrounding multitude, she instantly fell down and expired, having the money conƒealed in her hand. The coroner, John Clare, recorded that she had been "struck down dead by the vengeance of God."

Wool merchants were able to build prosperous town houses in St. John's and Long Street and around the market place. From the end of the 18th century the manufacture of textiles declined, but other trades in the town included clock making, a bell foundry, booksellers, milliners, grocers and silversmiths. In the 18th century brewing, curing of tobacco and the manufacture of snuff were established in the town. Brewing still survives in the Wadworth Brewery, but the tobacco and snuff trades have now died out.

A new Devizes Prison, or 'County House of Corrections', opened in 1817. This replaced the [Old Bridewell] [53588]that had been built on Bridewell Street in 1579. The new prison was built of brick and stone, it was designed by Richard Ingleman as a two-storey polygon surrounding a central governor's house and reflected the panopticon principle. It had an operational life of over ninety years and was closed in 1922. It stood on the north side of the Castle's Old Park, across the Kennet and Avon canal by way of a bridge still called the Prison Bridge. The House of Corrections was demolished by 1928.

Devizes has over 500 listed buildings - a very large number for such a small town. The Trust for Devizes has an excellent Town Map which provides a guide to many of them [53589]. Brownston House is a grade 1 listed building on New Park Street. It has been a home to four MPs, two Army Generals from 1700 and a ladies boarding school from 1859 to 1901. It was conserved in 1976 by Wiltshire Council and is now a business head office.[53590]. Heathcote House on the Green in Devizes is a grade 2 * listed building; it has an interesting history with the Church and education [53591]. No 8 Long Street was the house of the clothier Samuel Powell, as well as Admiral Joseph Needham Tayler, one of the inspirations for C. S. Forester's}} fictional hero Horatio Hornblower . Southbroom House[53592] was originally built in 1501 close to the Green in Devizes. It burnt down and was rebuilt by the Eyles family in 1772. Southbroom House is now at the heart of Devizes School, a large comprehensive School in Devizes.

The town was a coaching stop for Mail coaches and stagecoaches on the road from Londonmarker to Bristolmarker, as evidenced by the number of coaching inns in the town, especially the Bear Hotel [53593].

The Kennet and Avon Canalmarker was constructed under the direction of John Rennie between 1794 and 1810 to link Devizes with Bristolmarker and Londonmarker. Near Devizes the canal rises 237 feet (72 m) by means of 29 locks, 16 of them in a straight line at Caen Hillmarker. In the early days the canal was lit by gas lighting at night, enabling boats to negotiate the locks at any time of day. The canal fell into disuse after the coming of the railway in the 1850s, but has been restored for leisure uses. There is a canal museum at Devizes Wharf.

In 1853, the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society was founded in the town, and later opened a museum in Long Street. Now called the Wiltshire Heritage Museummarker, the collections are designated as being of national significance. The Museum has Bronze Age collections and include finds from the World Heritage Site of Stonehengemarker and Aveburymarker, including West Kennet Long Barrowmarker and Bush Barrow.

In 1857 the Wilts, Somerset and Weymouth Railway opened a branch line from Holt Junction, on their line from Chippenhammarker to Weymouthmarker, to Devizes. In 1862 the Great Western Railway extended their Readingmarker to Hungerfordmarker line to meet this line, providing a direct line from Londonmarker to the West Country through Devizes. However the building of a by-pass line through Westburymarker removed most traffic from the Devizes line and it closed in 1966. Today the nearest railway stations are at Chippenhammarker and Pewseymarker.

The town is experiencing rapid housing growth, especially on its eastern fringe towards Andovermarker.

Local government

Devizes is a civil parish, with an elected town council. It also falls within the area of the Wiltshire Councilmarker, on which all three elected members for Devizes belong to a local political party, the Devizes Guardians, led by Nigel Carter. Both councils are responsible for different aspects of local government. Prior to the Local Government Act coming into force in 1974, Devizes was a municipal borough. It then became the administrative centre for the much larger Kennet District Councilmarker until the district was abolished as part of the 2009 structural changes to local government in England.

In the 2001 census, the town had a population of 11,296 (2006 est. 13,300).

Devizes is part of the Devizes parliamentary constituencymarker, which is held by Conservative Michael Ancram.


Devizes is home to a single comprehensive school, called Devizes Schoolmarker, which has achieved specialist Sports College status. It is situated in the grounds of the Southbroom Housemarker estate and the grade 2 listed house forms its administrative core.

The town's primary schools include Wansdyke, Nursteed,Southbroom, St Peter's and St Joseph's Roman Catholic School.

The town has a significant history of private schools. Long Street has had a substantial number of private schools, beginning in the 18th century and proliferating in the 19th. Brownston House, a Grade I listed building, was the home of Miss Bidwell's Ladies Boarding School from 1859 to 1901. A private Devizes Grammmar School was established in Heathcote House in 1874 by the Reverend S. S. Pugh and carried on until 1919 by his twin sons.


Position: .

Devizes lies almost 2° west of the Greenwich Meridian, with the two-degree line running through the western edge of the town, just a few hundred yards west of the castle. As this is the centre of the east-west extent of the Ordnance Surveymarker mapping grid, True North and Grid north align exactly in Devizes.

Nearby towns and cities:
Calnemarker, Chippenhammarker, Marlboroughmarker, Swindonmarker, Melkshammarker, Warminstermarker, Salisburymarker, Andovermarker, Tidworthmarker.

Nearby villages:
Potternemarker, Roundway, Bishops Canningsmarker, Hortonmarker, Coatemarker, Bromham, Etchilhamptonmarker, Eastertonmarker, Wedhamptonmarker, Stert, Potternemarker, Poulshot, Seendmarker, Sells Green, Rowdemarker, Rowdefield, All Canningsmarker, Great Cheverellmarker, Littleton Panell, West Lavington, Market Lavingtonmarker, Worton,Urchfont

Nursteed, Roundway, Hartmoor, Jump Farm.


Each year at Easter the 125 mile Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Marathon is held on a course between Devizes and Westminstermarker in Londonmarker. First contested in 1948, the event was one of the first to be included on the international race calendar when marathon canoeing gained worldwide popularity in the 1960s.

The local football team is Devizes Town F.C. who play in the Western Football League.

The local rugby union team is Devizes R.F.C., founded in 1876, known as the 'Saddlebacks' (after the Wessex Saddleback) who play in the Southern Counties (South) League.

Devizes Cricket Club was established in 1850.

Devizes is also the home of Devizes Hockey Club who play in the prem 1 Hockey League . Under the chairmanship of Toby Gilliat Brown - grandson of Sidney Gilliat - the club has played its way up the hockey league winning successive promotions over nine seasons.

Devizes Netball Club was formed in 1979. They have six teams in the Moonraker Netball Leagues. The A Team were champions of the Premier Division in 2007/8.

The local Athletics team is Team Devizes - Moonrakers AC, based at Devizes School. Coaching in throws, sprints, long distance and jumps is provided

Twin towns

See also

External links


  1. The Green and Crammer at
  2. Castle at
  3. Charles Wendell David, Robert Curthose, Duke of Normandy (1920)
  4. 'The borough of Devizes: Religious and cultural history', in A History of the County of Wiltshire Volume 10 (1975), pp. 285-314 online
  5. N. Pesvner, The buildings of England - Wiltshire, Yale University Press, 2002 edition
  6. St John the Baptist, Devizes at
  7. St James's Church at
  8. St Peter's Church at
  9. St Joseph's Church at
  10. St Joseph's Roman Catholic School at
  11. Congregational Church, Devizes, at
  12. Robert Sloper at
  13. Haycock (2000: 48)
  14. Devizes Prison the County House of Corrections at
  15. Trust for Devizes newsletter
  16. Kennet and Avon Canal at
  17. Railway at
  18. Devizes School profile at
  19. St Peter's School at
  20. St Joseph's Roman Catholic School at
  21. Private Schools at 41 Long Street Devizes – now the home of the Wiltshire Heritage Museum at
  22. Bidwell Ladies School at
  23. Devizes Grammmar school at


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