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You are in: Wiltshire > History > Archive Films > Day Out: Devizes

'Day Out' opening titles

'Day Out' opening titles

Day Out: Devizes

Watch a BBC West programme made in 1977 of a day spent exploring the Wiltshire market town of Devizes and its history.

'Day Out' was a BBC West region television programme which ran for a number of series between 1977-1988.

Each half-hour episode saw one of the presenters - Derek Jones, Gwyn Richards or Barry Paine pay a visit to a different town in the South West - explore parts of interest, and reflect upon the area's history.

In terms of historical research, each programme is as valid today as when it was made. And it's fascinating to see how the many Wiltshire locations they visited then looked in the mid 70s to early 80s.

Broadcast on 29th September 1977 was an edition of the programme which centred on the Wiltshire market town of Devizes, which dates back to Norman times.

Presenter Gwyn Richards begins his day out in the town in the Market Square. It's Thursday, and for over 300 years that day has always been designated market day.

Gwyn Richards in Devizes Market Place

Gwyn Richards in Devizes Market Place

Richards walks among the bustling market stalls in the square noting the myriad goods - food, clothing, textiles and trinkets - on offer from stallholders who every week travel from as far away as Bristol and London to trade in Devizes.

As Richards explains, one important commodity that was marketed at one time in Devizes was corn, and the harvest was bought and sold in the Corn Exchange which overlooks the market.

Possibly the most well-know man in Devizes at the time was Sidney Dowse. He'd been town crier, mayor's secretary, official ale-taster, keeper of the town's treasured regalia and swimming baths manager.

Devizes Castle as seen in the programme

Devizes Castle as seen in the programme

By 1977 he was the market superintendent, and is shown talking at length to Richards as he goes about his business amongst the stalls and tradespeople.

Richards also visits the cattle market at the back of the Black Swan hotel and the covered market in The Shambles.

Devizes was once the location of the biggest castle in Europe. It was built in the 12th century under the auspices of Bishop Roger of Salisbury.

Its status may have been superseded by larger castles in later years but the castle still stood proudly in 1977 as it does today and as Richards explains, the streets of Devizes are arranged in a 'feudal fan' around the castle. The medieval street plan has survived almost intact.

Wadworth Breweries deliver by horsepower

Wadworth Breweries deliver by horsepower

The Wadworth Brewery is another landmark visited by Richards who explains how as the town is so compact the brewery opts to deliver its barrels of ale to the local public houses by way of a horse-drawn cart.

Later in the programme, Richards visits the Wiltshire Heritage Museum in Long Street and reflects on its history.

Eighteenth century antiquarian William Cunnington founded the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society and endowed the museum with the discoveries made by his family over 100 years of surveys.

The final stop on Richards' day out in Devizes is The Bear Hotel. It was once the home to innkeeper's son Thomas Lawrence, who was one of the greatest portrait artists the country had ever produced.

The Bear Hotel

The Bear Hotel

He was given a knighthood in 1815 and became the president of the Royal Academy of Art shortly after. Some of his childhood pencil drawings are still on display in the hotel.

The programme finally ends with Richards back on the Market Square talking to London grocer Vic Fuller as he dismantles his stall and loads up his lorry at the end of the day.  

'Day Out: Devizes' offers a fascinating snapshot of life in Devizes in the 1970s, and will appeal to anyone who has ever lived in the town, or is interested in its history.

last updated: 23/08/2008 at 10:18
created: 13/08/2008

Have Your Say

Leave your comments about the film below

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David Young
Wonderful to see how little the main buildings have changed,although thankfully the fashion for flares and sideburns has moved on!!

John Loveridge
Wonderful memories come flooding back as my mother Alice Loveridge is in the film in her Pie Shop

Joe Walker
This film brought back memories of the year I spent living in Devizes in 1977. Thank you

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