Descriptive Gazetteer Entry for DEVIZES

DEVIZES, a town, two parishes, a sub-district, and a district in Wilts. The town stands on an eminence, amid the central downs of the county, with elevation of about 500 feet above sea-level, at the entrance of the vale of Pewsey, on the Kennet and Avon canal, and on the Wilts, Somerset, and Weymouth branch of the Great Western railway, 11¼ miles ENE of Trowbridge. It was called by early writers De Vies, or Divisio; is now popularly called the Vies; and is said to have got its name from having been divided between Henry I. and Bishop Roger of Salisbury. It has been assigned variously a British, a Roman, and a Saxon origin; and it has yielded some Roman coins and penates; but is not mentioned in Domesday book, and must therefore have been then either very obscure or not in existence. A strong castle was built at it, on a site now behind the Bear hotel, by Bishop Roger; taken, in 1139, by Stephen; seized, in 1141, by Robert Fitz-Hubert; dismantled, in the time of Henry VII.; restored sufficiently to sustain a siege by Cromwell; but now represented only by a ditch, a lofty mound, and the walls of one of the dungeons. The parliamentarians, under Sir William Waller, besieged the place in 1643; and sustained a signal defeat by the royalists, under Lord Wilmot, on the neighbouring height-Roundaway-hill. That height commands an extensive and most interesting view; and is near the Roman camp of Oliver's castle, on the north-west of it, and 2½ miles from the remarkable ancient Wansdyke on the north. The town comprises a spacious main street, a large triangular market-place, several singularly-aligned diverging-streets, and a curious almost-semicircular back street. The market cross was erected in 1814, by Viscount Sidmouth, after designs by Wyatt; and is a structure of Bath stone, with plain square base, pinnacled corner buttresses, and an ornate octangular spire. The town hall was designed by Baldwin; is a large oblong edifice, with semicircular rear; and has a rustic base and four Ionic columns. The council-house was built in 1835; consists of centre and wings; and has a tetrastyle Ionic portico, resting on an elevated base. The corn exchange was built in 1857; is 46 feet wide and 142 feet long; and presents a facade ornamented with carving and a statue. The county house of correction is modern and substantial; and has capacity for 185 male and 32 female prisoners. The Wilts county asylum, on a fine spot in the vicinity of the town, was built in 1851, and is a structure of Bath stone, in the Italian style. St. John s church is Norman and cruciform; has a central tower 73 feet high; and contains monuments of the Heathcotes and the Suttons. St. Mary's church is variously Norman, early English, and later English; and has a western pinnacled tower, 91 feet high. St. Peter's church was built in 1867; serves for a chapelry constituted in that year; stands at Cane Hill; is in the early English style; and consists of nave, apsidal chancel, and north porch. There are two chapels for Baptists, two for Independents and Wesleyans, a literary and scientific institution, two museums, a free school with £33, alms-houses with £88, and other charities with £599. There were anciently two hospitals; one of them for lepers. The town has a head-post office, † a railway station with telegraph, three banking offices, and three chief inns; is a polling-place, the head quarters of the Wiltshire militia, and the seat of January and July quarter sessions, and summer assizes; and publishes three weekly newspapers. Markets are held on Thursdays; and fairs on 14 Feb., 20 April, Holy Thursday, the Thursday after 14 July, and 20 Oct. Woollen manufactures were once extensive, but have nearly disappeared; silk-throwing, snuff-making, malting, and brewing are now carried on; and a great corn trade exists. The town sent two members to parliament from the time of Edward I. till 1867, but now sends only one; and is governed by a mayor, six aldermen, and eighteen councillors. The borough boundaries are the same parliamentarily as municipally; comprise the entire parishes of St. John and St. Mary, part of the parish of Rowde, and part of the chapelry of Southbroom; and include a space about two miles long and one mile broad. Direct taxes in 1857, £4, 385. Electors in 1868, 369. Pop. in 1841, 6, 156; in 1861, 6, 638. Houses, 1, 336. Richard of Devizes, the historian, Joseph Allein, the eminent noncon-formist minister, and Stephens, the physician and author, were natives; and Sir Thomas Lawrence, the artist, was the son of the landlord of the Bear hotel.

The parishes of St. John and St. Mary jointly comprise 639 acres. Real property of St. J., £9, 799; of St. M., £5, 915. Pop. of St. J., 1, 906; of St. M., 2, 685. St. John is a rectory, united with St. Mary curacy, and St. Peter is a vicarage in the dio. of Salisbury. Value of St. J. with St. M., £510;* of St. P. £50. Patron of the former, the Lord Chancellor; of the latter, the Bishop. The sub-district includes also the chapelry of Southbroom. Pop., 7, 364. The district comprehends also the sub-district of Bromham, containing the parishes of Bromham, Rowde, Poulshot, Potterne, and a tything of Bishops-Cannings; the sub-district of Lavington, containing the parishes of Market-Lavington, Bishops-Lavington. Little Cheverell, Great Cheverell, Earl-Stoke, and the greater part of Urchfont; and the sub-district of Bishops-Cannings, containing the parishes of Alton-Barnes, Stanton-St. Bernard, Beeching-Stoke, Marden, Chirton, Patney, All-Cannings, fully two-thirds of Bishops-Cannings, and a tything of Urchfont. Acres, 16, 491. Poor-rates in 1862, £12, 376. Pop. in 1841, 22, 129; in 1861, 21, 680. Houses, 4, 650. Marriages in 1860, 123; births, 573, -of which 32 were illegitimate; deaths, 468, -of. which 104 were at ages under 5 years, and 12 at ages above 85. Marriages in the ten years 1851-60, 1, 393; births, 6, 506; deaths, 4, 582. The places of worship in 1851 were 24 of the Church of England, with 8, 335 sittings; 3 of Independents, with 1, 215 s.; 10 of Baptists, with 1,870 s.; 7 of Wesleyan Methodists, with 1, 104 s.; 4 of Primitive Methodists, with 387 s.; 1 of Brethren, with 120 s.; and 2 undefined, with 479 s. The schools were 30 public days, with 2, 471 scholars; 25 private day schools, with 584 s.; and 33 Sunday schools, with 2, 337 s The workhouse is in Southbroom.

(John Marius Wilson, Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales (1870-72))

Linked entities:
Feature Description: "a town, two parishes, a sub-district, and a district"   (ADL Feature Type: "cities")
Administrative units: Devizes CP       Devizes SubD       Devizes PLU/RegD       Wiltshire AncC
Place: Devizes

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