Ten Good Reasons to Visit... Devizes in Wiltshire

PUBLISHED: 13:03 26 April 2010 | UPDATED: 17:05 20 February 2013

Ten Good Reasons to Visit... Devizes in Wiltshire

Ten Good Reasons to Visit... Devizes in Wiltshire

John Hannavy visits the town in the heart of Wiltshire

Devizes is a delight! The little Georgian town just a few miles to the north of Salisbury Plain boasts over 500 Listed buildings, and can trace its history back to the time of the Normans. Its name is said to derive from its location at the boundaries of four ancient manors, and its great castle was once protected by four great ditches which embraced much of the present-day town. The castle was described as utterly ruinated and decayed by the end of the 16th century, and 50 years later it was all but demolished. Almost every trace of the castle has now been buried under the 19th-century Devizes Castle which stands today.

Devizes is a delight! The little Georgian town just a few miles to the north of Salisbury Plain boasts over 500 Listed buildings, and can trace its history back to the time of the Normans. Its name is said to derive from its location at the boundaries of four ancient manors, and its great castle was once protected by four great ditches which embraced much of the present-day town. The castle was described as utterly ruinated and decayed by the end of the 16th century, and 50 years later it was all but demolished. Almost every trace of the castle has now been buried under the 19th-century Devizes Castle which stands today.


1 Town Centre


The town centre is dominated by buildings predominantly from the 18th and early 19th centuries, the finest being in the Market Place and along Long Street, both of which have some elegant Georgian houses. In the middle of the Market Place, the Market Cross carries a cautionary tale. Have a look!


2 Eating, Drinking and Sleeping


With an assortment of lively pubs and restaurants, visitors to Devizes have an enviable choice of places to eat, from conventional pub food to top-quality restaurants. For overnight stays, the Bear Hotel in the Market Square is right in the heart of the town, while the Castle Hotel is just a couple of minutes walk away in New Park Street. For a good meal, Isola Bella in Long Street is well worth a visit, while for traditional Italian, Francos Ristorante in Old Swan Yard is excellent. For Chinese, Bambou in Southbroom Road on the edge of The Green always gets good reports. And for the sheer delight of a fresh and well-filled bacon roll, the little caf halfway up the Caen Hill Locks takes a lot of beating.


3 The Church of St John


The magnificent St Johns Church is the architectural gem of the town. Dating back in parts to the early 12th century, the church has been added to over successive centuries, the latest additions being as recent as the Victorian era.


4 St Marys Church and St Marys Walk


The chancel of St Marys Church is also Norman, but it is the graveyard rather than the church which is the source of some of the towns eeriest stories. Under St Marys Walk are, allegedly, the bodies of many Civil War casualties who were buried standing up to conserve space, and stories of ghosts abound, as do tales the peoples ankles being grabbed at night by the hands of long-dead souls! Go on we dare you to walk there at night!


5 Devizes Festival and Devizes Carnival


Running this year from 2-20 June, Devizes Festival offers a hugely varied three-week programme of music and arts. This years programme has not been published yet, but if it is as varied as recent festivals, there will be something to suit just about every artistic taste. Check out devizesfestival.co.uk.
The annual August Devizes Carnival includes a street festival and parade, plus many other events spanning the four days of the weekend before the Bank Holiday. More at devizescarnival.co.uk.


6 Wiltshire Heritage Museum


Located in Long Street, the Wiltshire Heritage Museum (operated by the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society) houses one of the finest Bronze Age archaeology collections in Britain, and has regular exhibitions and lectures on a wide range of historical and archaeological subjects. wiltshireheritage.org.uk


7 Wharf Theatre


Founded in 1947, the Wharf Theatre puts on a varied programme of plays and shows. Next up, running from 30 April 8 May is Gigi. wharftheatre.co.uk
8 Wadworths Brewery Tour
This is one reason for visiting Devizes for which you will have to book in advance, so great is the demand for the award-winning brewery tour. You get to see every stage of the beer being brewed, sample the end product and, most important as far as many visitors are concerned, you get to meet the magnificent Shire horses that pull the drays around the town. You also have the chance to see a master cooper at work and to watch the brewerys in-house team of sign painters produce great new pub signs using only traditional techniques.


9 Caen Hill Locks & the Kennet & Avon Canal


The Kennet and Avon Canal passes through the town and under the roadway just beyond Wadworths Brewery. At nearby Devizes Wharf, the Kennet & Avon Canal Museum, which is run by the Kennet & Avon Trust, is open most days. But the canals major attraction is the remarkable flight of locks at Caen Hill 29 of them! The main flight of 16 locks is just one of engineer John Rennie's masterpieces and should be on everyones must-see list. www.kattrust.org


10 Thursday Market


Every Thursday the Market Place is cleared of cars to make way for an excellent market, majoring on fruit, vegetable, meat and cheeses, with the addition of just about every other sort of stall you might imagine. The market continues a centuries-old tradition and is a colourful event, offering fresh seasonal food at very competitive prices. With the Market Place out of action, car parking in the town on market day can be a problem!

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