"Another typical English market town......." Devizes by leics

Devizes Travel Guide: 18 reviews and 44 photos

Why 'Devizes'? Well, it comes form the Latin 'ad divisas' (on the boundaries) developing and getting its name during Norman times when its castle was first built.

It's a smallish, busy market town in Wiltshire. I stopped off on my way home from exploring a little more of the county, so only made a brief visit. There is more to explore in Devizes than I saw and unfortunately the very old church I wanted to visit was closed (St John the Baptist, dating from the 1100s).

Devizes' very large central square shows its origins as a market town. It's mainly busy now with traffic and people, rather than its original cattle/livestock and everything-else market. If there isn't a market on the space serves as a good central car park.

There are over 100 listed (that is, recognised historical) buildings in Devizes, and there's a castle as well. Built in 1080, it is still in private ownership and as far as I know it cannot be visited. You can read a lot about it here.

This memorial/market cross in the marketplace is really interesting. On it there is a plaque, erected by the Mayor and council to record the 'awful events' of 1753. One Ruth Pierce had agreed with three other women to buy a sack of wheat at the market, but when they came to count up the money required her portion was short. Ruth strongly protested her innocence, and said that God could strike her dead if she was lying.

She duly dropped down dead on the spot, stunning and horrifying everyone present (and the money was found in her hand!).

So the Council decided to create a detailed public warning about the folly of calling down the wrath of God when one is guilty!

Although there are one or two much earlier buildings (see photo below) the majority of the buildings around the market square date from Georgian times (roughly 1714 - 1830), when the town was particularly prosperous.

Whilst a walk around Devizes is well worthwhile...there is a a 'heritage trail' you can follow, visiting buildings of historical interest (particularly with regard to the English Civil War, when the town was besieged for a time)...it has (imo) one unmissable place to visit: the Wiltshire Heritage Museum The county is stuffed with prehistoric sites, and this museum has one of the best collections of prehistoric artefacts in the country, including finds from Avebury and Stonehenge.

There's a brewery too: Wadworth's. They still deliver around the town using horse-drawn carts (I was lucky enough to see one when I visited...lovely, huge Shire horses) and you can visit the to sample their wares....

And there's a town pond as well, with ducks and grass to sit upon, and the site of the 'Moonrakers' story. Legend has it that some Wiltshire smugglers were disturbed by an excise (tax) man, and rolled their barrels of (illegally obtained and tax-free) brandy into the pond. The excise man was suspicious and returned, to find the smugglers trying to regain their barrels using long rakes. their explanation? they were trying to 'rake the moon out of the pond' to get the cheese. The exciseman was so amused by this stupidity he rode off laughing at the stupidity of Wiltshire folk. And the smugglers got their brandy back. :-)

So...more to explore than you might expect, with a surprising number of independent shops in the town centre as well. If you're in the area, Devizes is definitely worth a morning or afternoon of exploration.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:More to explore than you might think
  • Cons:Parking in the centre can be difficult
  • In a nutshell:Typical English market town
  • Last visit to Devizes: Oct 2010
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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