The beautiful little UK market town that’s like stepping 500 years back in time | UK | Travel

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Britain is filled with historic towns and cities that have existed in some form or another for hundreds, sometimes thousands of years.

Many of these hail from the Roman era, when the Italian empire pushed north and laid claim to almost all of the UK. This is the case for Devizes, a tiny town in Wiltshire that was once the site of a Roman fortification Castrum Divisarum.

It is less known for its Roman history than for its medieval history, however. Devizes, Wiltshire, is at its heart a medieval settlement, a place whose Latin name — ‘ad devizas’ — derives from a time when Britain was unknowingly entering the Middle Ages.

Back then, the town was known for its castle. Devizes Castle was built by Osmond, Bishop of Salisbury, in 1080, though it failed to survive the ages after it burned down in 1113.

A great town must have a great castle, and in 1141, Roger of Salisbury stepped up to the task and built another fortification.

While the castle wouldn’t meet the same fate as its predecessor, it was besieged during the Anarchy in the 12th century, and again during the English Civil War in the 17th century. It was eventually destroyed in 1648 on the orders of Parliament.

Hundreds of years later, during the Victorian period, another castle was built over the top of the old Norman structure’s foundations, which still stands today.

All of that history might seem enough for one small English market town, but Devizes’ whirlwind past doesn’t end there.

It became known for its textiles from the 16th century, and by the early 18th century it held the largest corn market in the West Country, eventually constructing the Corn Exchange in 1857.

The establishment of brewing, tobacco curing, and snuff-making only further cemented the town as a sought-after destination and place to live.

A thriving marketplace at the centre of the town emerged, where people would come to sell their wares, buy their supplies, and conspire new business ventures.

More than 500 grade-listed buildings flow outwards from this focal point, many of them in the south, including some that have survived since Norman times.

Among them include The Bear Hotel, founded in 1559. A former coaching Inn, it later doubled up as a social centre for Devizes’ wealthy to gather. Walking up to its grand entrance today is like stepping 500 years back in time.

Then there’s Brownston House, a Grade I-listed building where MPs, generals, surgeons and spinsters have lived.

Devizes regularly comes in lists of Britain’s top 10 best market towns, and is home to three top spots: Wadworth Brewery, the 29 locks of the Caen Hill, and the award-winning Wiltshire Museum.

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