I've always thought of Devizes (a town I'm very fond of, having lived there for seventeen years) as being in the middle of nowhere.
To the south is Salisbury which looks towards Dorset and the South Coast; to the north, Swindon, Oxford and the start of the Midlands; To the west, Bristol and the West Country, and to the east Newbury, Reading and the outskirts of London.
It is very much its own place; more West Country than anything, but keeping its options open.
The handsome Market Cross in Devizes, erected in 1814, is famous for its plaque recounting the salutary tale of Ruth Pierce:
The current metal plaque was installed in the 1970s. This replaced the original incised stone tablet, inscribed (as I recall) in gold painted lettering on a black background. It was badly worn and almost illegible in places. Shame they did not reproduce the lovely Georgian script though.
The inscription reads:
The Mayor and Corporation of Devizes avail themselves of the stability of this building to transmit to future times the record of an awful event which occurred in the Market Place in the year 1753. A salutary warning against the danger of impiously invoking divine vengeance or of calling on the Holy Name of God to conceal the devices of falsehood and fraud.
On Thursday the 25th of 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 concealed in her hand
Well off the tourist trail along Hillworth Road is Hillworth Park. In 1945 when there was an acute housing shortage the local council bought the Hillworth Estate, first mentioned as a field name in a deed of 1668, and built social housing on most of the land.
Hillworth House, built in 1832 and remodelled in 1841, they turned into flats (which were subsequently sold).
Interestingly the current house is some 100 yards to the west of the original Hillworth House, which was built sometime before 1737. The charming little Garden Pavilion is all that is left from this earlier incarnation.
The park, which remains the property of the local council, has been through a £1.9 million development project, aided by the Heritage Lottery Fund, and wass looking very smart with its new play equipment at the time of my visit.
It seems unbelievable looking back that in the early 1970s, the authorities were actively planning to knock down the early fifteenth century Great Porch House and build the new relief road, now known as Commercial Road, in its place.
Fortunately, following protests, they eventually saw sense, and the adjoining redundant cinema was demolished instead.
There is a small display on the history of the building inside the porch which dates from this time.
Despite later fourteenth and fifteenth century additions and some heavy handed Victorian 'restoration', St John's Church is, at its core, still the early 12th Century Norman church built by the Bishops of Salisbury as a church or chapel for the castle, its governor and garrison.
It has always been linked to the nearby St Mary's church, originally the town church, and they share a rector to this day.
In the churchyard, look out for the Millennium Cross. This was carved by local sculptor Eric Stanford to celebrate the Millennium and the town's 1000 year history.The Celtic-style cross is made up of over twenty relief panels depicting Devizes life, the seasons of the year, the four elements and the four ages of man.
Now known as just Devizes Wharf, this is the last survivor of several wharves in Devizes on the Kennet and Avon. It was originally known as the Corporation Wharf, as it was built on a site leased by the corporation, and later became known simply as the Town Wharf.
It was built in 1809-10 but later enlarged. The only buildings to survive are a bonded warehouse which closed in 1946, and is now home to the amateur Wharf Theatre,
and the stables, which house a small Museum and Café.
Boat trips are available on the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust's Kenavon Venture