Friday, 26 June 2015

A country town the way they used to be

Large and traditional town market is held every Thursday
Devizes is an utterly likeable country town. This is the way your local town used to be before out of town superstores, inner city 1970s wrecking balls and the rise of the commuter ran them through the urban architectural processor and turned them into bland lumps of mince.
Devizes has mercifully been spared the worst of that, probably by managing to hide itself in a corner of Wiltshire countyside that has no railway line and being a little too far from the nearest motorway.
Magnificent Corn Exchange flanked by the huge Bear Hotel
Yet, in the era before commuters and inter-city rail travel it was a significant market town with Georgian coaching inns, outdoor and indoor markets, a fine Corn Exchange, sizeable churches and even its own castle, albeit a Victorian replacement of the Norman original knocked down by Cromwell.

Land Army plaque on Corn Exchange
Fine detail on old house

 Today it has a lovable air of shabby gentility. It's not posh, like Bath, but rather like the farmers who still visit the weekly market, it hides what affluence it may have (and there certainly is some) behind worn shirt cuffs and patched jacket elbows.
St Mary's Church dates back to 12th century
There are fine buildings on every street and simple, homely ones too. Many were built in the soft local limestone which has worn and crumbled with age to the point where a richer town would have had them expensively restored. Not so Devizes and they look all the better for a few patches and a bit of stitching instead.
The Victorian castle – now luxury apartments
Tucked away, a former town mayor's house
We are here for the third time because as mountaineers say 'we've summited'. Eleven locks on Wednesday afternoon after a lunchtime reminisce with a couple of old motoring lags, the mighty Caen Hill flight in 2hrs 15min after an early-for-us 8.00 start yesterday morning then six more locks and now we are taking a breather in Devizes.
It hasn't changed much since we went down and back up the K&A two years ago. If we come back in another two, I doubt it will change any more. Probably not if we come back in another ten.
And it's all the better for it.

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