Division Town

Devizes! The very name conjures up the sussuration of contented yeomanry, passing a hot summer day in congenial West Country conversation over bowls of scrumpy - the quintessence of Ye Olde Englishe Towne, older than time itself.

'Fraid not. There was no town here before the Norman Conquest. It grew up around a Norman castle, built by the Bishop of Salisbury on the border between his land and the King's. The name is French - de vise, meaning "Division".

Devizes is Division Town.

Mind you, the divisions themselves are probably very old. The Normans didn't bother to re-apportion land - they just took it. The same sort of thing happened when the Anglo-Saxons came - and the Romans before them. In fact, many English parish boundaries may have been in place since the Bronze Age, even though their owners or the uses to which they have been put may have changed many times.

The boundaries near Devizes are particularly clear. The Marlborough Downs come to an abrupt end, forming a precipitous scarp (known as Oliver's Castle) hanging over the North end of town. To the East is the Vale of Pewsey; to the West is the lush valley of the Avon. To the South lies Salisbury Plain.

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