Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
A Norman castle was built in Devizes in the 11th century by Osmund, Bishop of Salisbury. Because the castle was located on the boundaries of the manors of Rowde , Bishops Cannings and Potterne it became known as the castrum ad divisas or the castle at the boundaries, hence the name Devizes. The original castle was probably a wood and earth construction, but this was rebuilt in stone by Roger of Salisbury, Osmund’s successor. This castle changed hands several times during the civil war between Stephen of Blois and Matilda in the 12th century.
During the 12th and 13th centuries the town of Devizes developed outside the castle with craftsmen and traders setting up businesses to provide the residents of the castle with goods and services. The first known market in Devizes was in 1228. The original market place 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 corn, 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 beseiged Royalist forces under Sir Ralph Hopton in Devizes. However the seige was lifted by a relief force from Oxford under Lord Wilmot and Waller's forces were almost totally destroyed. 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 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 . 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 famous Wadworth Brewery, but the tobacco and snuff trades have now died out.
The Kennet and Avon Canal was constructed between 1794 and 1810 and served to link Devizes with Bristol and London. Near Devizes the canal rises 237 feet by means of 29 locks, 16 of them in a straight line at Caen Hill . The canal fell into disuse after the coming of the railway, but has been restored, and is now used for leisure purposes.
In 1857 the Somerset and Weymouth Railway opened a branch line from Holt Junction , on their line from Chippenham to Weymouth, to Devizes. In 1862 the Great Western Railway extended their Reading to Hungerford line to meet this line, providing a direct line from London to the West Country through Devizes. However the building of a by-pass line through Westbury removed most traffic from the Devizes line and it closed in 1966. Today the nearest railway stations are at Chippenham or Pewsey.
The town is currently experiencing quite rapid housing growth, especially on its eastern fringe towards Andover.
Devizes is a civil parish, with an elected town council. It is also the administrative centre for the much larger Kennet District Council, and falls within the area of the Wiltshire County Council. All three councils are responsible for different aspects of local government.
In the 2002 census, the town had a population of 11,296.
Each year at Easter the Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Marathon is held on a course between Devizes and Westminster in London, a total distance of 125 miles.
- Wiltshire County Council Website page on Devizes, retrieved 18:15 Oct 12, 2004 (UTC)
- Kennet District Council Website page on Devizes Town, retrieved 18:15 Oct 12, 2004 (UTC)
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