Devizes Town Defences

Has been described as a Certain Urban Defence

There are no visible remains

NameDevizes Town Defences
Alternative NamesVyes
Historic CountryWiltshire
Modern AuthorityWiltshire
1974 AuthorityWiltshire
Civil ParishDevizes

Site of Devizes town ditch, which consisted originally of a rampart with outer ditch, the latter having been filled in 1538. Three gates are known to have existed. None of these features are extant. (PastScape)

The course of the two town ditches has aroused some local speculation. (The argument about the course of these ditches advanced by H. G. Barry in Devizes and Wilts. Gaz. 21 Mar., 4 Apr. 1895 is in general here accepted. The inner one was visible in the late 19th cent. from the N. arm of Station Rd.: ibid. 29 Nov. 1894. It was also visible behind no. 40 Mrkt. Pl. in 1955 (Ruth Pierce Panels, n.d. priv. print.) but not behind Lloyds Bank, close by, in 1970 (ex inf. Mr. R. E. Sandell). Its course beside Hillworth Rd. was observed during excavations in 1944: W.A.M. li. 40.) The inner one originally bounded the outer bailey of the castle. Beside it there was in places a pathway, called Perambulation Walk in 1808 and Procession Walk in 1836. On the inner side of the outer ditch within the urban area, there is said to have been a bank, formed of soil dug from the ditch and surmounted by a stockade, doubtless the 'town walls' as they were grandiloquently called in 1642. Beneath the bank was a pathway, similar to the foregoing, which had been formed by 1724, if not by 1563. Some vestiges remained in 1832 when a broad elm-flanked promenade, running between St. Mary's churchyard and Commercial Road, enabled walkers to breathe the 'pure air' from Roundway Hill. The stretch from Sidmouth Street to Hare and Hounds Court was called Procession Walk in 1779 and 1792. Further to the south-east it was called Keeper's Walk in 1832. At the point where the ditch passed through the gasworks it was 7 ft. deep, 25 ft. wide at the top, and 4 ft. wide at the bottom.

The road pattern implies that the original entrances to the town were from the north and south only

The eastern approach by Sidmouth Street is irregular and narrow and the properties, compared with those on the north-south roads, have little depth. Access to the town was gained by a north gate, mentioned in 1416 and still in being in 1451. Of other gates there is no evidence. The region called Southgate is probably named after an entrance to the park, made in 1494–5.

The narrow space between the outer and inner town ditches was the site of the original urban area, equipped with a market-place. (VCH 1975)

Two records of sections through the town defences survive. Cunnington in 1945-7 measured the ditch at the gasworks on the northern side at 25feet wide by 7 ft deep (7.6m x 2.1m). In 1974 the Wiltshire Archaeological Society recorded an excavated section south of Hare and Hounds Street (Haslam 1980). Here the ditch had a wide V-shaped profile with a rounded base, was at least 3.1m deep and over 7m wide at the top. Only slight traces of the inner rampart remained beneath the gardens inside the ditch. Neither the construction nor the infilling of the ditch is dated, although it had clearly occurred by the early 18th century, and whilst Haslam postulates a 16th or 17th century date, with a Civil War recut, there is little positive evidence for this. (Urban Survey Devizes)

Gatehouse Comments

The defences formed two circuits, the position of which is still clear in town layout.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSU000615
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink

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  • Salter, Mike, 2013, Medieval Walled Towns (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 60
  • Creighton, O.H. and Higham, R.A., 2005, Medieval Town Walls (Stroud: Tempus) p. 24, 30, 39, 67, 158, 214, 257
  • Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of Wessex (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 90
  • Bond, C.J., 1987, 'Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Defences' in Schofield, J. and Leech, R. (eds) Urban Archaeology in Britain (CBA Research Report 61) p. 92-116 online copy
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 503
  • Barley, M.W., 1975, 'Town Defences in England and Wales after 1066' in Barley (ed) The plans and topography of medieval towns in England and Wales (CBA Research Report 14) p. 57-71 download/view online
  • Pugh, R.B., 1975, 'The borough of Devizes' in Crittall, E. (ed.), VCH Wiltshire Vol. 10 p. 225- online copy
  • Stone, E.H., 1920, Devizes Castle: its History and Romance (Devizes) esp p. 32-4, 158-60
  • Stukeley, W., 1776 edn, Itinerarium Curiosum Cent.Vol. 1 p. 145


  • Creighton, Oliver, 2006, ''Castles of Communities': Medieval Town Defences in England; Wales and Gascony' Château Gaillard Vol. 22 p. 75-86
  • Hughes, Quentin, 1987, 'English Civil War fortifications' Fort Vol. 15 p. 59
  • Haslam, J., 1980, 'The excavation of the defences of Devizes, Wilts, 1974' Wiltshire Archaeological Magazine Vol. 72-3 p. 59-65 online copy
  • Cunnington, B.H., 1945-7, 'Devizes "Courts" and the old town ditch' Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine Vol. 51 p. 39-40 online copy
  • Barry, H.G., 1895 March 21, April 4, Devizes and Wiltshire Gazette


  • 2004, The Archaeology of Wiltshire's Towns An Extensive Urban Survey Devizes (Wiltshire County Archaeology Service) online copy