Place:Devizes, Wiltshire, England

Alt namesDunkirksource: settlement in parish
Hartmoorsource: now a suburb of Devizes
Jump Farmsource: now a suburb of Devizes
Nursteedsource: now a suburb of Devizes
Southbroomsource: now a suburb of Devizes
Wicksource: now a suburb of Devizes
Devizes St. John the Baptistsource: ecclesiastical parish and 19th century civil parish
Devizes St. Mary the Virginsource: ecclesiastical parish and 19th century civil parish
Devizes St. Jamessource: ecclesiastical parish and 19th century civil parish
Devizes St. Petersource: ecclesiastical parish
TypeChapelry, Civil parish, Borough (municipal)
Coordinates51.35°N 1.983°W
Located inWiltshire, England
See alsoPotterne and Cannings Hundred, Wiltshire, Englandhundred in which it was located
Kennet District, Wiltshire, England1974-2009
Wiltshire District, Wiltshire, England2009--
source: Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names
source: Family History Library Catalog
source: Family History Library Catalog

the text in this section is based on an article in Wikipedia

Devizes is a market town and civil parish in the heart of Wiltshire, England. Standing at the west edge of the Vale of Pewsey, the town is about 10.5 miles (16.9 km) southeast of Chippenham and 11 miles (18 km) east-north-east of the county town of Trowbridge.

Devizes serves as a centre for banks, solicitors and shops and has an open market place where a market is held once a week. It has nearly five hundred listed buildings, some notable churches, a Town Hall and a green at the heart of the town. Its development has grown around the 11th century Norman castle.

The parish includes the small settlement of Dunkirk, on the northeastern slopes of the hill, which was transferred from Rowde parish in 1835. Much of the built-up area of the town, to the north, east, and south, is within the neighbouring civil parish of Roundway, while a smaller part is in Bishops Cannings parish. Each of these has its own parish council.

Before the Local Government Act took effect in 1974, Devizes was a :municipal borough from 1835. It then became the administrative centre for the much larger District of Kennet, until that was abolished as part of the 2009 structural changes. Devizes had a population of just under 12,500 at the UK census of 2011. Other towns close to Devizes include Melksham, Pewsey and Westbury. It includes the suburbs of Hartmoor, Jump Farm, Nursteed, Southbroom (the location of the church of Devizes St. James), and Wick, as well as Dunkirk mentioned above.


the text in this section is copied from an article in Wikipedia

Devizes Castle was built by Osmund, Bishop of Salisbury in 1080, but the town is not mentioned in the Domesday Book. Because the castle was on the boundaries of the manors of Rowde, Bishops Cannings and Potterne it became known as the castrum ad divisas ("the castle at the boundaries"), hence the name Devizes. On John Speed's map of Wiltshire (1611), the town's name is recorded as The Devyses. The first castle on the site was of the motte and bailey form and was probably made of 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 Anarchy, a civil war between Stephen of Blois and Matilda in the 12th century. The castle held important prisoners, including (from 1106) Robert Curthose, eldest son of William the Conqueror.

The town has had churches since the 12th century and today has four Church of England parish churches.

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 Oxford under Henry Wilmot, 1st Earl of Rochester and Waller's forces were almost totally destroyed at the Battle of Roundway Down. 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 types of cloth. Before the Corn Exchange was built in 1857, the trade in wheat and barley was conducted in the open, with sacks piled around the market cross.[1] Today's cross displays the tale of a woman, Ruth Pierce, who dropped dead suddenly after being discovered cheating.

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 snuff-making were established in the town. Brewing still survives in the Wadworth Brewery, but the tobacco and snuff trades have now died out.

The pond known as The Crammer, east of the town centre, is claimed to be site of the 18th-century Moonrakers story which led to a colloquial name for Wiltshire people.

In 1794 it was decided in the Bear Hotel to raise a body of ten independent troops of yeomanry in the county of Wiltshire. These would later be brought together to form the Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry, the senior yeomanry regiment. In 1810 the county Militia, quartered at Devizes, mutinied and the Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry were called out to quell the disturbances. The mutiny came to a head when the two forces faced off against each other with loaded firearms in the Market Square, at which point the Militia ringleaders surrendered. The Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry went on to serve at home and abroad, including in the Boer War, World War I and World War II, and live on as B (RWY) Squadron and Y (RWY) Squadron of the Royal Wessex Yeomanry, based in Old Sarum and Swindon respectively.

A new Devizes Prison, or "County House of Corrections", was opened in 1817. This replaced the Old Bridewell that had been built in 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 more than 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 Prison Bridge. The House of Corrections was demolished by 1928.

Devizes has more than 500 listed buildings, a large number for a town of its size. The Trust for Devizes has a Town Trail map which provides a guide to many of them. 17 Market Place is a substantial Grade I listed house from the early 18th century. In the centre of the Market Place is the Market Cross, rebuilt in 1814 to designs of James Wyatt. Brownston House is another Grade I house, on New Park Street; it has been home to four MPs, two Army Generals from 1700, and a young ladies' boarding school from 1859 to 1901. It was conserved in 1976 by Wiltshire Council and is now a business head office. Heathcote House on the Green in Devizes is a Grade II* listed building; its history is associated with the church and education. No 8 Long Street was the house of the clothier Samuel Powell, as well as Admiral Joseph Tayler, one of the inspirations for C.S. Forester's fictional hero Horatio Hornblower. Southbroom House, close to the Green, was built in 1501, then burnt down and was rebuilt by the Eyles family in 1772; it is now at the heart of Devizes School.

The town was a coaching stop for Mail coaches and stagecoaches on the road from London to Bristol, as evidenced by the number of coaching inns in the town. The Kennet and Avon Canal, fully open by 1810, passes through Devizes. The town gained a railway station in 1857 but the line was closed in 1966.

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 Museum, its collections are designated as being of national significance. The museum has extensive Bronze Age collections and includes finds from the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site, including West Kennet Long Barrow, Marden Henge and Bush Barrow.

There was a military presence in the town at Le Marchant Barracks, from 1878 until the 1980s.

In 1999, a hill figure of a white horse was cut onto a hill close to Roundway Hill. Known as the Devizes White Horse, it replaced an earlier one which was cut in 1845.

In 2014, the town celebrated the 200th anniversary of the Market Cross, marked by Viscount Sidmouth and his cousin, High Sheriff of Wiltshire Peter Addington.

Research Tips

  • From this Ancestry page you can browse the Wiltshire parishes which have parish register transcripts online, quite often from very early dates. However, reading the early ones requires skill and patience. Transcriptions should also be in FamilySearch.
  • A further collection of online source references will be found on the county page for Wiltshire.
This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original content was at Devizes. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with WeRelate, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.