A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 10. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1975.
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The history of the churches of St. John the Baptist and St. Mary the Virgin is so closely interwoven that for part of its course it must be told as a single narrative. In 1194–5 the churches are called ecclesie. (fn. 1) In 1226–8, (fn. 2) however, they are capelle and that word was still being applied to them in 1275. (fn. 3) But from 1233 (fn. 4) they are again called 'churches', and even before that, in 1227, the 'parish' of St. John, with its 'parson', is referred to. (fn. 5) 'Church' is the word that has tended to prevail for both, but in the 17th (fn. 6) and 18th (fn. 7) centuries St. Mary's is sometimes called a 'chapel' once again. In 13th-century inquisitions St. Mary's is usually named before St. John's (fn. 8) but from the 14th century the order is reversed. An expression, first used in 1400, (fn. 9) namely, 'the church of St. John with St. Mary annexed', very fairly represents the subsequent relationship and seems by 1839 to have become the official designation of the cure. (fn. 10) But whether called 'churches' or 'chapels' the two have always formed a single cure under a single rector, (fn. 11) rector ecclesiarum loci, as he was called in 1322. (fn. 12) By a similar usage St. Mary's and St. Giles's in Reading have always counted as one church. (fn. 13) This unity, however, has not prevented St. John's and St. Mary's from enjoying distinct revenues and being served by distinct sets of parish officers.
It is a fair presumption that St. John's was originally the castle chapel, and in very early times the garrison may well have been large enough to fill it. As the town encroached upon the castle and the inner bailey in which the church or chapel originally stood contracted, the church became less convenient for castle use; the inmates of the castle were fewer and some of them were royal. Accordingly it became necessary to provide the castle with domestic chapels. (fn. 14) Nevertheless the connexion between the castle and St. John's remained for a while; in 1268 John, chaplain of the king's chapel, held both churches. (fn. 15)
Some time before 1194–5 Count John presented to the living. (fn. 16) This was presumably by usurpation and need not qualify the assertion that since 1226–8 (fn. 17) the Crown has been the patron, except during the currency of limited grants of the castle and castle estate. Thus the queens consort exercised it in 1310–92, 1412–14, and 1468–1547, and Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, in 1420–33. It has for long been exercised by the Lord Chancellor. The situation in the middle years of the 17th century is not clear. In 1624 the corporation became perpetual lords of the borough in fee farm, and to them were assigned, in 1628, the 'advowson and possession' of the churches. (fn. 18) It is not known how far the corporation exercised its rights in practice. Between 1628 and 1681, when the Crown resumed presentation, four clerks held the cure: John Prestwich, Robert Byng, John Shephard, and Henry Johnson. The first was presented by an unstated patron in 1644, (fn. 19) Byng before 1646, when Shephard, instituted by order of the House of Lords in 1648, replaced him. (fn. 20) Johnson was presented in 1652, (fn. 21) it has been assumed by the corporation. (fn. 22) For unknown reasons the bishop presented in 1690. (fn. 23) It was said in 1839 that rectors had 'been usually appointed in accordance with the wishes and choice of the inhabitants', (fn. 24) a practice, if truly stated, which must have been due to the way in which the stipend was amassed.
The united rectory was valued at 3½ marks in 1194–5, (fn. 28) and between 1249 and 1281 at sums varying from 8 marks to £10. (fn. 29) In 1428 St. John's was valued at £9 and St. Mary's at £5. (fn. 30) The rectory, however, is not mentioned in the Taxation of Pope Nicholas, the Inquest of the Ninths, or the Valor. It has been suggested (fn. 31) that these silences imply that, at least for part of the time during which the castle was a royal residence, the rector was in effect a domestic chaplain and was paid out of the issues of the lordship. Devizes was, of course, a small area, and highly urbanized. There was, therefore, little land within it, apart from the parks, that could yield predial or mixed tithes. (fn. 32) Accordingly it would not be surprising if the owner or occupier of the lordship should make some direct contribution towards the support of the cure. This is the more probable since, at times, the tithability of the parks was in dispute.
In 1227 the constable was ordered to assign the tithe of the meadow to the rector (fn. 33) and in 1229 the tithes of hay. (fn. 34) In 1315 the rector claimed that this tithe arose in the park or parks, and that, owing to recent conversion of the meadow into pasture, he had been deprived of it, though he and his predecessors had once enjoyed it. (fn. 35) A jury found that no such tithe had been paid since Ralph de Sandwich's constableship (1275–?87). Nevertheless orders were issued that the queen, as tenant of the park, should pay tithe to the value of £12s. (fn. 36) Tithe arising in the park was certainly collected in 1483–4. (fn. 37) These instances seem enough to prove that the parks were tithable in the Middle Ages. What other sources of revenue the rector enjoyed in these earlier times is not exactly ascertainable, but 'church lands' (fn. 38) had already begun to accumulate. In 1502 and 1533 the churches were well enough supported for pensions to retiring rectors to be charged upon their revenues (fn. 39) and in 1573–4 the rector was receiving £8 out of St. Mary's parish stock. (fn. 40)
In return for the assignment of 1628 the corporation pledged itself to pay the rector's stipend, then £40, out of the town revenues. It did not keep its bond, but, acting like the impropriate feoffees, (fn. 41) paid the incumbent only a part of the stipend and reserved the rest for lecturers. (fn. 42) The foundation in 1642 of Pierce's charity (fn. 43) seems to suggest that the benefice was impoverished. In 1646 a yearly augmentation of £50 for each church was granted probably out of the proceeds of chapter lands sold, but of this only £70 was ever paid, and even that sum was eventually reduced. By 1655 this subvention had dried up and the living was said to be worth £9 10s.; the rest, it was added at the time, 'dependeth on good will of inhabitants'. (fn. 44) In 1661 the bishop was supplementing the stipend out of his own pocket. (fn. 45)
In 1662 the rector tried to secure for the benefice the tithes arising in the old park. (fn. 46) He failed, but in 1682 was receiving a yearly composition in lieu out of the Wyndham share of the park. (fn. 47) The corporation thereupon stepped in and by 1666 was making a supplementary yearly gift of £10, (fn. 48) made permanent for the rector's life in 1670. (fn. 49) In addition to augmenting the benefice the corporation in the 17th century sometimes contributed to repairing St. John's. (fn. 50).
In time the living acquired other assets. By 1704 rent arose from the site or the parsonage, which no longer existed. (fn. 51) By then St. John's was also entitled to tithes on land (2 a.) in Eastcroft hill and St. Mary's to two gardens, which, with the parsonage site, formed the glebe. The rector collected in each church 4d. from every woman churched. (fn. 52) In 1743 (Sir) George Lee, M.P. for the borough, gave the corporation £200, which was handed over to the churches in equal shares for the provision of ornaments. (fn. 53) In 1764 the benefice was augmented by £200 out of Queen Anne's Bounty. (fn. 54) In the next year Thurman's charity (fn. 55) was founded. The benefice was further augmented by £200 in 1802, (fn. 56) and was valued at £132 in 1809. (fn. 57) Some time after 1833 the rector succeeded in securing the park tithes. (fn. 58) It was probably this achievement which made it possible to commute the tithes for £213 10s. (fn. 59) The benefice was valued at £518 in 1837, (fn. 60) and at £242 about 1901. (fn. 61) The glebe measured 3½ a. in 1887, at which figure it had apparently stood in 1783. (fn. 62)
About the application of rates to church expenses little has been collected, but, as the next paragraph will show, St. Mary's at least had little need of them over a long period. In 1559 the mayor ordered a house-to-house collection for communion bread and wine (fn. 63) and in 1833 a like collection was ordered in St. John's parish so as to relieve the rates of the organist's salary. (fn. 64)
From the Middle Ages St. Mary's parish owned many plots of land (fn. 65) which eased financial difficulties. It is not certain whether St. John's did so too. By the early 17th century, however, both parishes possessed territorial estates, the income from which was used in each case partly for the church's direct benefit. So far as could then be known, it was shown c. 1834 that St. Mary's had always been supported out of charity lands and that no church rate had ever been levied. The fund, then called St. Mary's Church and Poor Lands, had also been used at times to support singers and ringers. (fn. 66) Its later history is told elsewhere as is that of the corresponding charity for St. John's. (fn. 67) The two parishes continue to benefit from the funds.
John Pierce, by will proved 1642, left £50 for the repair of St. John's. In 1834 the corporation, as trustees, held the capital and paid £3 a year into a poor fund. It was then recommended that the charity be applied to its proper use. (fn. 68) In 1900 it yielded £1 11s. and was distributed with the income of St. John's Church and Poor Lands. (fn. 69) Pierce also left £50 to augment the rector's stipend. (fn. 70) The later history of these two Pierce charities is told elsewhere. (fn. 71) By 1670 there was vested in the corporation in trust an eleemosinary charity, created under Robert Walter's will, out of which 6s. 8d. was deducted for the rector. (fn. 72) The deduction was apparently still being made c. 1900. (fn. 73) In 1765 Thomas Thurman gave a rent-charge of £8 to be paid to the rector to perform services in one of the churches twice weekly or in default to be applied to his clothing charity. It seems to have been normally applied to its primary purpose at St. John's, except in 1854–60, and was again so applied c. 1900. (fn. 74) In 1942 it was redeemed for £320 stock, (fn. 75) which yielded about £7 in 1971. (fn. 76)
There were also several sermon charities founded by the donors of larger ones expressly or presumptively to encourage further alms-giving. The donors were Anne, relict of Sir Henry Sharington of Lacock (1594), (fn. 77) Elizabeth Strangwidge (1634), (fn. 78) Mary Collier (1670), (fn. 79) and Eleanor Powell (1743). (fn. 80) The second, third, (fn. 81) and fourth were still being paid c. 1900. (fn. 82) The first, attached to a loan charity, is not mentioned after its foundation. By will dated 1774 Thomas Bancroft, of Bristol, among larger benefactions, (fn. 83) left money, invested as £333 stock, for sermons on his birth- (2 May) and death-days (23 Nov.) and for rewarding the ringers ringing on those days. In 1779 the charity was so regulated as to provide at each church for the distribution of £2 for each sermon and £2 severally to the ringers on the same occasions. (fn. 84) The payments were still made in 1971. (fn. 85)
A rectory-house existed by 1525. (fn. 86) It was damaged in the Civil War and its repair ordered in 1646. (fn. 87) The house had gone by 1704 and the site been converted into gardens, (fn. 88) now covered by the parish room. (fn. 89) The present house was bought by Queen Anne's Bounty in 1776. It was then said to include two parlours, one with a Venetian sashed window. (fn. 90) It has been subsequently altered.
In the Middle Ages both churches were furnished with chantries. In 1392 Richard Cardmaker then mayor, was authorized to settle lands in the borough to support a priest celebrating at St. Leonard's altar in St. John's. The foundation was for the benefit of the king and queen, other royalties including Henry 'some time King of England and Maud his queen', and the mayor and commons who were the trustees, and their kindred. By the Dissolution it had come to be imagined that Cardmaker was the sole beneficiary. The lands, all of which lay in the New Port, included a part of what was doubtless the town ditch, some 36 houses and plots, and three stalls. (fn. 91)
By 1489 St. John's had four altars. One was presumably St. Leonard's. Another was dedicated to St. Catherine, (fn. 92) and is mentioned again in 1502, in which year the high altar was said to be dedicated to Our Lady. (fn. 93) Other altars, mentioned later, were dedicated to the Trinity (1529) (fn. 94) and to Our Lady and St. George (1541). (fn. 95)
A chapel of St. Catherine in St. John's is mentioned in 1508 (fn. 96) and at sundry other times until 1529. (fn. 97) In the latter year it contained an 'image' of the Trinity. (fn. 98) This is perhaps the building, now called the Beauchamp but until the 1830s the Hungerford (fn. 99) chapel, whose erection has been attributed to Sir Roger Tocotes (d. 1492). (fn. 100) The Trinity altar, mentioned above, stood within it. Presumably the St. Catherine altar was also there.
St. Mary's contained at least three chantries. The first, founded by John Coventry the elder, was endowed with 14 tenements in the New Port and 2½ a. in Wick field. (fn. 101) The second, founded by John Coventry the younger (d. ante 1475), (fn. 102) was a comparatively wealthy one, for it was endowed with 33 tenements in Devizes and Bishop's Cannings, and 37 a. of arable, 5 of them in Seend. (fn. 103) One or other of these endowments appears to have supported an altar on the south side of the church. (fn. 104) The third chantry, founded by William Coventry, was endowed with 24 tenements, nearly if not quite all of them in the town. (fn. 105) The gross income was charged, under the founder's will, with an annuity of £1 13s. 4d. to four poor women in the alms-house. (fn. 106) John Ocle or Okelegh, by will proved 1398, left a house in the town out of which 4d. was to be paid for his own and his wife's anniversary and 6d. to St. Catherine's light in the church. (fn. 107) The foundation is not heard of again, but in or before 1466 John Field gave to the wardens of the light land in the Old Port for masses at that altar for himself, his parents, and Edward and Joan Daniel. (fn. 108) The proctors of the light are mentioned again in 1469 (fn. 109) but neither they nor it thereafter.
Probably about the end of the 14th century (fn. 110) and certainly before 1461 Richard Gobett of Devizes endowed with land in the town an obit to be celebrated yearly on the Friday after Epiphany for the souls of himself, his wife, William Estmonde, a John Coventry and his wife, and their kin. A dole to priests and poor was to be distributed at the obit. William Smith (d. 1436) and Thomas, his son, the former presumably the rebuilder of the church, gave land for maintaining three sepulchre tapers and a font taper and for an obit for Thomas and his parents. (fn. 111) Smith's tapers still burnt in 1557, (fn. 112) and some of the lands that Gobett gave have been retained by the church. (fn. 113) Thomas Cardmaker's light and a light in Our Lady porch are mentioned in 1499–1500 (fn. 114) and a lamp before the high altar in 1525. (fn. 115) The fate of these chantry lands is considered elsewhere. (fn. 116)
The ecclesiastical policy of the two parishes after the Reformation can only be glimpsed sporadically. Through an exceptional run of early churchwardens' accounts (fn. 117) the progress of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation at St. Mary's may be traced. In 1550–1 the altars were pulled down and next year copies of the Prayer Book were bought. (fn. 118) 'The scriptures' and the Commandments were inscribed upon the walls at about the same time, and the organs and rood-loft removed. In 1553–6 the high altar, a side altar, and the organs were reerected, the rood-loft replaced and adorned with statues of the Virgin and St. John the Evangelist, and the mural inscriptions defaced. (fn. 119) Two more altars were built in 1557–8. (fn. 120) The restorations were themselves swept away under Elizabeth I. In 1561–2 the rood-loft went and next year the organ and the candlesticks, (fn. 121) and in 1575–6 the Commandments were reinscribed. (fn. 122) In 1573–4 bread and wine were bought for fourteen communicants, in 1575–6 for only five. (fn. 123)
The progress of the Reformation in St. Mary's suggests that the parish conformed to official tendencies. When the next century is entered such an impression is confirmed, for in 1637–8 the Communion table was railed in. (fn. 124) The use of lecturers and preachers (fn. 125) might indeed suggest a degree of Puritanism on the part of the corporation, patrons at this time, (fn. 126) and certainly one preacher became a noted Parliamentarian. (fn. 127) On the other hand, they may sometimes simply have stopped gaps during vacancies. Byng, at all events, rector c. 1646, was not a Puritan, for he joined the king's forces and his lands were sequestered. (fn. 128) The situation becomes clearer in 1661–2. A lecturer was then engaged, although a rector (Henry Johnson) was in office. (fn. 129) In 1662 certain members of the corporation were ordered to dine on each weekly lecture day with the lecturer. (fn. 130) Johnson left a reputation as a preacher (fn. 131) and was esteemed by Bishop Henchman a 'learned, prudent, and orthodox man', but the temper of the people was not altogether 'good' (fn. 132) and dissent was prevalent. (fn. 133)
In 1783 a morning and an evening service were held on alternate Sundays at the two churches, the same congregation going to both. There were also daily services at one church or the other. Communion was celebrated on six Sundays in the year and at St. John's on the great feasts. The average number communicating was 80–90 at St. John's and 60 at St. Mary's. (fn. 134) It was decided in 1800 that Sunday services should be held at both churches. (fn. 135) In 1810 there were two such services at each church, (fn. 136) the rector no doubt responding to Bishop Douglas's stipulation that every church in the county should be so provided for. (fn. 137) In 1833, when gas was installed, the second took place in the evening. (fn. 138) E. J. Phipps, rector 1833–53, introduced the practice of singing the doxology after each psalm. (fn. 139) In 1845 he aroused public protest by his ritualistic observances. A county meeting, summoned in December 1850 to protest against papal 'aggression', refused him audience. A memorial, criticizing his views, was lodged with the bishop next month. It split the congregation, part of which withdrew a year later. A sermon on the Real Presence preached in November 1852 by his assistant curate resulted in actions in the church courts and in the following August St. Mary's doors were locked against the rector, who left soon after for another cure. (fn. 140)
In 1864 there were two Sunday services at each church, morning prayer daily at St. John's, and evensong once a week at each church. Communion services were held monthly at each church on the great feasts, and at St. John's weekly in Lent and Advent. Average attendances were 70 at St. John's and 40 at St. Mary's. In general both churches were then well attended and St. John's was 'frequently crowded'. (fn. 141) In 1878 there was a monthly Sunday afternoon service for children at St. Mary's. (fn. 142) Evening services at that church do not seem to have started until 1883. (fn. 143) Dr. J. H. Burges, rector 1874– 99, was remembered for his energy as a parish priest, also as a promoter of Anglican education and church repair. (fn. 144)
St. John's church is remembered outside Devizes as the place to which Hubert de Burgh fled for refuge in September 1233. As already related, (fn. 145) he was dragged back to the castle soon after his escape, but restored to sanctuary again. On his restoration a stockade was ordered to be fixed upon the bank round the churchyard to keep him safe. (fn. 146) He was, however, rescued from the church. The churches also acquired a more than local prominence during the Civil War. The tower of St. John's was used as a powder magazine and lead for bullets was taken from the roofs of both churches. (fn. 147)
The church of ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST is built of ashlar and has a chancel with north and south chapels, a crossing tower, transepts, an aisled nave, and north and south porches. (fn. 148)
The later-12th-century cruciform church was of considerable size and quality. (fn. 149) The chancel was covered by a quadripartite vault of two bays and the walls were decorated internally by intersecting arcading. The oblong tower, more than 65 ft. high, was richly ornamented both inside and out and had a circular stair turret of still greater height at its north-west corner. Visible above the crossing arches on the inside there was a blind arcade with triple intersecting arches, perhaps the only example of this in England. (fn. 150) The transepts, like the chancel, had an eaves course decorated with carved corbels, and in each gable three windows arranged one over two.
Contrary to expectation in a church of this period, (fn. 151) the nave seems to have been unaisled; it terminated in a decorated west front. The evidence for changes in the next two centuries is slight but implies that the church was considerably enlarged. Parts of weathering courses on the east walls of both transepts imply that there were chapels or apses before those of the 15th century, and it is unlikely that they were original apses in a church of later12th-century design. The doorway and flanking buttresses of the north porch are 14th century and their position implies both a porch and an aisle at that time. Both the nave, except for the west front, and the aisle were removed when the western part of the church was rebuilt in the 15th century. The nave then had matching north and south aisles with arcades of five bays and at least a north porch of two storeys. At the same time the lower part of the tower staircase was rebuilt and a doorway was made above the respond of the north arcade to give access to a rood-loft. During the same century, and possibly a little earlier, there were also alterations in the eastern end. Battlements and pinnacles were added to the tower and tracery was placed in the lower tower windows. Single large windows were inserted into both transept gables and the chancel east wall, and new chapels were built in the angles between the chancel and transepts.
The chapel on the north is of only one bay, since there was at one time another building, probably a sacristy, between its east wall and the first bay of the chancel, from which it was approached by a doorway. On a moulding of the east window a chantry inscription to Richard Lamb, otherwise unknown, was formerly painted. (fn. 152) The south, or Beauchamp, chapel (fn. 153) is of two bays and richly ornamented especially in the panelling of the roof and on the battlements and pinnacles. In the centre of the east wall is a canopied niche, which may once, like the similar one at St. Mary's, have contained a statue of the Virgin. (fn. 154) Both within and without are carved figures of angels, those without holding shields. Within the moulding at the apex of the arch between the transept and the chantry are two carved rudders. The numerous secondary altars already mentioned (fn. 155) account for the construction of a profusion of squints from the chapels and transepts towards the high altar. At some date, probably either at the rebuilding of the nave in the 15th century or as a result of damage during the Rebellion, (fn. 156) the west wall of the tower was rebuilt following closely the original exterior design but omitting the internal decoration, perhaps implying that by this time the crossing was ceiled.
By 1759, if not by 1737–8, the south porch existed in its present form, perhaps following not very closely a late medieval predecessor, and at the earlier date there may also have been a porch to the west doorway. (fn. 157) During the 18th century the east window was blocked with brickwork to facilitate the fitting of a panelled reredos, the aisles ceiled, and the nave ceiled with a plaster barrel-vault and fitted with box-pews, a lofty pulpit, and a west gallery. (fn. 158) About 1800 a large Venetian window was placed in the west wall but only the side lights appear to have been open. (fn. 159)
The first major restoration was in 1844 when the reredos was removed, the east and south walls of the chancel covered with intersecting arcading in imitation of the 12th-century work, a window of Romanesque form put into the east wall, and the chancel and side chapels were cleaned. (fn. 160) Probably at the same time the nave ceiling was removed, three nave windows, blocked about ten years earlier, were reopened, and a stone spirelet, visible in 1759 (fn. 161) and 1807, (fn. 162) above the tower stair-turret was taken down. By the late fifties the nave arcades and aisle walls had acquired a serious outward list. This demanded attention and extra seating was needed. Accordingly a large-scale restoration, directed by a W. Slater of London with the advice of (Sir) Gilbert Scott, was carried out in 1862–3. (fn. 163) The nave was extended by one bay, this securing 154 free sittings, (fn. 164) and the west wall, which still bore many traces of 12thcentury work, rebuilt in 15th-century style. The piers of the nave were rebuilt in blocks of Box and Chilmark stone, set alternately. The nave roof was given a higher pitch, the aisle roofs reconstructed, and the aisle windows repaired. The interior walls of the aisles, transepts, and chapels were scraped. Those of the aisles seem to have retained up to that time their 15th-century plaster. The tracery in the chapel windows was renewed, and the door of the south chapel rebuilt and its floor repaved. The west gallery was demolished. (fn. 165)
In 1894 the gabled roof of the north chapel was replaced by a flat one, the floors of that chapel and of the transepts were removed, the aisles and south transepts unceiled, and the north transept opened to the roof. In 1897 colouring, which probably dated from the restoration of 1844, was removed from the east end. (fn. 166) Between 1900 and 1909 the tower was strengthened. In 1902 the south chapel was restored and fitted for service. Its eastern portion had been used as a vestry. The north chapel then became the vestry and the organ was moved into the north transept. (fn. 167) The tower was further repaired in 1922 and the south aisle in 1924. (fn. 168)
The pulpit incorporates 15th-century panels. The oak screen dividing the chancel from the chapels was presented in 1844 by T. H. S. Sotheron Estcourt. An organ was apparently being erected in 1743. (fn. 169) The upper part of the present organ case is of 17th-century date. The royal arms were repainted in 1606. (fn. 170) In 1855 James II's arms hung above the arch at the east end of the nave. (fn. 171) Two scratch-dials are cut upon the south wall. (fn. 172)
The corporation enjoyed the benefit of a special pew 'in church', probably in both churches, by 1730. (fn. 173) Corporation pews were still maintained in both churches in 1971. In 1806 after the town hall had been reconstructed the church acquired the clock that had hung in the turret of the old building since at least 1759. (fn. 174) This was replaced in 1901–2 by a new clock erected as a memorial to Queen Victoria. (fn. 175)
There is a brass to John Kent (d. 1630), town clerk. Sculptured monuments commemorate John Eyles (d. 1752) and his family (by Prince Hoare of Bath), George Willy (d. 1770), and Prince Sutton (d. 1779) (both by Richard Westmacott (d. 1808)), James Sutton (d. 1788), and Maria Heathcote (d. 1792) (both by T. King of Bath), James Sutton (d. 1801) (by Sir Richard Westmacott), and William Salmon (d. 1826) (by E. H. Baily). Other members of the Eyles, Heathcote, and Sutton families are also commemorated, as are members of the Bruges, Drew, Giddings, Jackson, Long, Merewether, Needham, Nott, Simpson, Tayler, Thurman, Trollope, and Wild families. In the churchyard is the tomb of five young people drowned in Drew's Pond on a Sunday in 1751. Its restored inscription extols sabbatarianism. (fn. 176)
Edward VI's commissioners left the church with a chalice weighing 14 oz. and took 5½ oz. of other plate. The chalice, however, seems to have been sold soon after. In 1783 there were 2 chalices, 2 patens, and a flagon. The last, of Britannia metal, was given by Sir Edward Ernle, Bt., in 1704. The rest seem to have been recast in 1839. There are three brass alms-dishes of 1846, (fn. 177) 1847, and 1967. (fn. 178) A Bible 'of the best and largest volume' was bequeathed in 1542. (fn. 179)
A bequest was made to the bells in 1515. (fn. 180) In 1553 there were 4 bells and a sanctus bell, but, like the chalice, all seem to have been sold soon after. There are now 8 bells: (iv) and (v) of 1610, (iii), (vii), and (viii) of 1677, by William Coney, (vi) of 1697, by William Cor of Aldbourne, (i) and (ii) of 1747, by James Burrough of Devizes. (fn. 181) A sanctus bell of 1807 by James Wells of Aldbourne was presented to Appleshaw church (Hants) in 1965 and stolen before hanging. (fn. 182) The tower is associated with some bell-ringing customs. It was decided in 1646–7 that the 'church' bell should be rung daily at 4 a.m. in the winter months. (fn. 183) This evidently applied to both churches. By 1875, when the practice ceased, the tolling occurred at 6 a.m. (fn. 184) A curfew was being rung at 8 p.m. in 1655, when the hour was changed to 9 p.m. (fn. 185) In 1934 it was decided that there should be no ringing in the three summer months. (fn. 186) Ringing continued until at least 1951. (fn. 187)
The registers date from 1559 and are complete except for the period 1648–53. (fn. 188)
The church of ST. MARY THE VIRGIN is built of ashlar and has a chancel, aisled and clerestoried nave, south porch, and west tower. (fn. 189)
There is a tradition that it is not the first church on the site, for a churchwarden told Dr. Burges (rector 1874–99) that foundations had been discovered leading north-east across the chancel through the churchyard. (fn. 190) There is, however, no further evidence of such a building. The present chancel, like that of St. John's, is of the later 12th century and is of two bays with quadripartite vaulting and intersecting arcading decorating the internal walls. There is no certain evidence for the plan of the western part of the original church. The position of the 13th-century south wall of the south porch suggests that by that time the nave had achieved its present length and had at least a south aisle, although probably not as wide as that which exists. The porch doorway has an inner order of the 13th century with four orders of reset 12th-century ornament in the arch, perhaps taken from the earlier south doorway. The footings of the east wall of the north aisle are thicker than those of the other aisle walls and may be 13th century or earlier.
No datable features of the later 13th and 14th centuries remain but both aisles were probably extended to their present dimensions during that period and much of the surviving walling, which incorporates many ashlar blocks of 12th-century character, may be of 14th-century construction. The appearance of the church, however, was radically altered in the 15th century. The first changes may have been in the south aisle where the walls were heightened and embattled and there was a new west window. Simultaneously the south porch was heightened to a full two storeys and provided with a stair-turret on the west. Perhaps even before that work was finished the nave arcades of five bays were rebuilt and a clerestorey, elaborately decorated on the outside, was added. The date of this work is recorded in a memorial inscription on the roof to the donor William Smith (d. 1436), a Devizes man of whom little is known. The next phase of the alterations was the refurbishing of the aisles with new windows, buttresses and roofs, the insertion of new windows into the chancel, and the enlargement of the chancel arch. Finally, but still before the end of the century, the west tower was built against the nave. The nave wall was then removed to reveal a tower arch of unusual height.
Changes made during the Reformation are described above; (fn. 191) the greatest structural loss was probably the removal, in 1561, of the rood-screen which had presumably been put up c. 1436. The porch was repaired in 1612 (fn. 192) and again in 1638–9. (fn. 193) The lower part of the west window was bricked up in 1637–8 (fn. 194) perhaps because it coincided with a gallery floor. Two doorways were cut in the tower, presumably those at gallery level and on the outside at the base of the stair in 1697–8, (fn. 195) and a new gallery was put in in 1706. (fn. 196) The spirited statue of the Virgin and Child in the earlier 15th-century niche on the east gable of the nave was probably put in during the 17th century. (fn. 197)
In 1852 the present Romanesque east window was inserted together with the arcading below it, modelled upon similar arcading in the chancel. (fn. 198) The church was repewed, a vestry built, and the restored church reopened in 1855. (fn. 199) Perhaps at this time the blocked windows of which there were at least five in the aisles and nine in the clerestorey, together with the east window, were reopened. (fn. 200) Extensive wall-paintings, then revealed, were almost invisible in 1878. (fn. 201) The church was again restored in 1876, when colouring was discovered on the canopied niches on each side of the chancel arch. A lath-and-plaster roof to the nave was then removed and the tie-beams and wall-plates consequently exposed. A little colour was then applied to them. The rood-loft door was opened up and the gallery blocking the west window removed. (fn. 202) In 1875 the chancel was paved with tiles at the cost of Thomas Badger. These works were crowned in 1897–8 by repairs to the tower which had begun to crack. (fn. 203) The tower was then underpinned and some of its battlements, pinnacles, and gargoyles were taken away, and the chancel reroofed. (fn. 204) Further repairs, particularly to the nave and tower roof, took place in 1923–4. (fn. 205)
Two 16th-century brasses to members of the Horton family existed in 1855 but have since disappeared, as have all but one of the matrices then surviving. There are also monuments to John Garth (d. 1764), M.P. and recorder, and to members of the Filkes and Hull families. A mural tablet commemorating Henry Johnson (d. 1681), rector, (fn. 206) is no longer visible, although noted in 1878. (fn. 207) Nor are the wall monuments to George Johnson (d. 1683) and Timothy Sacheverell (d. 1680), which were visible temp. Charles II. (fn. 208) There is a brass tablet to John Llewellin (d. 1913).
The church possessed a clock as early as 1498–9 (fn. 209) and organs by 1500–1. (fn. 210) The fate of the organs during the Reformation is traced above. (fn. 211) The royal arms, dating from 1797, (fn. 212) were re-erected above the chancel arch in 1963. (fn. 213) A weather 'cock', perhaps of late-17th-century date, stands inside the tower.
In 1436 the church owned 3 dishes, 2 flagons, and a gilt ring. (fn. 214) A 16th-century letter to the bishop enumerates the goods that some of the then recent churchwardens had alienated over the preceding decade. (fn. 215) They were a large cross with St. Mary and St. John, a pair of candlesticks, 5 chalices, 2 censers, a large pyx, 2 cruets, an oil vat, a 'shep' with spoon, and 2 paxes. The letter has been assigned to Mary's reign and could be of 1554. If so, the preReformation church must have been rich in plate, for even after these depradations the commissioners of 1553 found 13½ oz. They took only 3 oz. for the king. A silver plate for the communion table was bought in 1599–1600. (fn. 216) In 1607 (fn. 217) and 1634–5 (fn. 218) this plate survived together with a silver communion cup. This seems to have been lost soon after, for a new one was bought in 1654. In 1677–8 there was a silver cup and plate and a pewter flagon. The cup survived until 1783 by which time there was also a salver and flagon inscribed 1716–18. The church now possesses 2 chalices, 2 patens, and a flagon, all hall-marked 1789. There is also a brass alms-dish of c. 1848. (fn. 219)
At least 4 bells hung in the tower in 1498–1500. (fn. 220) The clapper of one of these, the 'great' bell, was repaired by John Smith of Bristol in the latter year. (fn. 221) The letter to the bishop above referred to (fn. 222) mentions the loss of 2 great bells, but in 1553 there were 4 bells and a sanctus bell. (fn. 223) Some of the then existing bells were recast by J. Wallis of Salisbury in 1606, and a bell was recast in 1616. (fn. 224) In 1641 there were 5 bells. (fn. 225) There are now six: (i), (ii), (v), and (vi) of 1663, all apparently by the Purdues, (iv) of 1640, recast 1696 by Robert and William Cor of Aldbourne, (iii) of 1701, recast 1879. (fn. 226) The bells were rehung in 1878, (fn. 227) 1897–8, (fn. 228) and 1915. (fn. 229)
A church-house was 'taken down' in 1529, but such a building still existed in 1701. (fn. 232) The graveyard was enlarged c. 1768. (fn. 233) In it, south of the chancel, stands a dole-table, perhaps of 15thcentury date.
A chapel of St. Thomas is mentioned in 1502, when money was left for its repair. (fn. 234) In 1527 it is said to have lain next door but one to the corn cross, (fn. 235) wherever that may then have been. It then disappears.
The church of St. James, Southbroom, first mentioned in 1461, (fn. 236) stands on the Green and from its location was sometimes called the church 'of the green' (fn. 237) or the Green Church. (fn. 238) It bore its dedication by 1505 (fn. 239) and perhaps occupies the site of the chapel of St. James and St. Denis belonging to the hospital which disappeared after 1338. (fn. 240) It was originally a chapel within the parish of Bishop's Cannings and the peculiar jurisdiction of Salisbury chapter. (fn. 241) It possessed, however, its own graveyard by 1505, (fn. 242) maintained its own registers from 1572, (fn. 243) and was appointing its own wardens by 1571 (fn. 244) and its own overseers of the poor by 1676–7. (fn. 245) A curate was 'admitted' to serve the cure in 1683. (fn. 246) The church became a perpetual curacy in 1832 (fn. 247) comprising the tithings of Bedborough, Nursteed, Roundway, and Wick, the first three of which are now within the civil parish of Roundway. (fn. 248) The area of the ecclesiastical parish was reduced in 1867, when the consolidated chapelry of St. Peters' was created. (fn. 249) The patron was the vicar of Bishop's Cannings (fn. 250) until 1967 when he transferred his rights to Salisbury chapter. (fn. 251)
In 1831 the benefice was endowed with £39 yearly out of the tithes of Bishop's Cannings. (fn. 252) This was augmented by a capital grant of £200 from Queen Anne's Bounty in 1832, an annuity of £33 from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in 1841, a share, amounting to £80 yearly, out of a rentcharge in 1858, a further annuity of £163 from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in 1886, and c. £50 gross out of the benefices of the two Orchestons after their union in 1925. (fn. 253) At various times, however, the stipend of the vicar was reduced by abatement either of the capital or the annuities, notably in 1894 on the removal of the Rotherstone area to St. Peter's parish. Consequently it has been calculated that the net stipend totalled c. £260 from 1873 to 1894 and c. £500 in 1936. As an endowment for parochial needs some land behind Church Walk was bought in 1918, (fn. 254) four houses in Brickley Lane and a house in Church Walk in 1923, and two more in Church Walk in 1931.
Some of the incumbents have been locally notable. B. C. Dowding, 1838–70, largely helped to create St. Peter's parish and C. E. B. Barnwell, 1883–97, was remembered as an organizer and powerful preacher. (fn. 255) In 1864 there were morning and afternoon services on Sundays with average congregations of 400, daily prayers in Lent, and week-day services on litany and holy days. Holy Communion was celebrated once a month and on the great feasts, when attendance averaged 30–40. There were two assistant curates. (fn. 256) On the completion of the Le Marchant Barracks in Roundway parish in 1878, (fn. 257) St. James's became the garrison church of the Wiltshire Regiment.
The only ancient part of the church of ST. JAMES is the 15th-century tower, with stairturret, panelled parapet, and traceried two-light bell-openings. The tower still bears the marks of its battering during the Rebellion, when a cannon bell, discovered in 1780, lodged itself in the belfry. (fn. 258) In 1831, just before rebuilding, the church had a chancel and nave with continuous aisles, south porch, and west tower. (fn. 259) Within was a north arcade of three bays with square stone piers and a south arcade of four bays with moulded piers. The north aisle had grouped lancet windows of 13th-century character and may have been the original chapel. If so, the site, adjacent to the road, may have made a new axis to the south necessary when enlargement took place. The steep gable and window tracery of the chancel suggest an earlier 15th-century date which may also be the period when the lower stages of the tower were built. The south aisle, porch, and upper stage of the tower are to a more elaborate design, reminiscent of the Beauchamp chapel at St. Johns, (fn. 260) and were probably added towards the end of the 15th century. In 1789 there was a door at the east end of the south aisle but it had been blocked by 1831, as had another, visible in 1823, on the north-west side. A west gallery, there in 1831, was perhaps an 18th-century insertion.
In order to provide accommodation for a growing congregation the church, apart from the tower, was rebuilt in 1831–2 in a Perpendicular style to the designs of one Pennistone, presumably John Peniston. It has a chancel of one bay, aisled nave of three bays with west gallery, and the tower, the lower stage serving as a porch. Some materials from the old building were reused, possibly including some of the window tracery from the south aisle. Not long after the rebuilding the church was again closed but was reopened in 1849 after the 'embellishment' of the chancel. (fn. 261) Perhaps at this time the vestry was added on the south. The choir vestry on the north was built in 1934. (fn. 262) The gallery was rebuilt in 1939–40. (fn. 263)
The more notable monuments commemorate some Nicholases: Robert (d. 1722), Robert (d. 1725), and Oliffe Richmond (d. 1767); some Drews: Robert (d. 1671) and Robert (d. 1695); Robert Parry Nisbet (d. 1882); Bridget Keynes (d. 1752); Edward Colston (d. 1859), and several members of the Flower, Hayward, Paradise, and Read families (17th and 18th centuries) and Coward family (19th and 20th centuries). There are memorial windows to B. C. Dowding, the vicar, and his kin. (fn. 264)
In 1553 the king's commissioners found 11 oz. of plate of which they took 2½ oz. Among the plate in 1973 were a chalice and paten, and a pair of almsdishes, hall-marked 1849, and a flagon given in 1855. Twentieth-century additions include two chalices, one with a paten, and a pyx. (fn. 265)
In 1553 there were three bells. By the 18th century there were four. They were rehung in 1909 and two new ones, (i) and (ii), cast by J. Taylor of Loughborough (Leics.), added; (iii), formerly the treble, cast by William and Roger Purdue was recast by Taylor at the same time and is dated 1663; (iv) is dated 1742, and (v) and (vi) 1612. (fn. 266) The registers date from 1572 and are complete. (fn. 267)
The churchyard was enlarged c. 1844, at the expense of the Crammer, and was closed in 1876. (fn. 268) A parsonage-house stood on the Green in 1647, on the site of Heathcote House, (fn. 269) and with barn and glebe, amounting to a little over an acre, was still there in 1736–7. (fn. 270) By 1841 it had been rebuilt and was in lay ownership. (fn. 271) A new Vicarage, later enlarged, was built in 1846 on the north-west side of London Road. (fn. 272)
The church of St. Peter in Bath Road was built in 1866 through the efforts of B. C. Dowding, vicar of St. James's, to meet the spiritual needs of people living in the Nursery and Piccadilly. (fn. 275) A consolidated chapelry formed out of Rowde and Southbroom parishes was assigned in 1867 and enlarged in 1886. (fn. 276) The site was given by the county who foresaw that the church would serve the militiamen in the neighbouring barracks. (fn. 277) The church has had a ritualistic bias. In 1870 it was one of the few in the Wiltshire portion of the Salisbury diocese to have regular Communions on each Sunday and holy day, (fn. 278) and Canon F. Phipps, vicar 1901–34, was a high churchman. The bishop has the patronage.
The church of ST. PETER is of Bath and Ham stone and was designed by Messrs. Slater and Carpenter of London. It consisted at first of chancel with octagonal apse, nave of four bays with west bell-cote, and north porch. (fn. 279) A south aisle, now a Lady Chapel, and a vestry and organ-chamber were added in 1884. (fn. 280) The chancel screen was completed in 1902 in memory of A. C. Devas, vicar 1885–1901, and was crowned by three figures in 1938. (fn. 281) The glass in the west window, said to be one of the best examples of modern stained glass in Wiltshire, was inserted in 1934 in memory of the Dowdings. (fn. 282) In 1935 a new altar was erected in memory of Canon Phipps and the original one moved to the Lady Chapel. (fn. 283) There is one bell of 1865 by Warner & Sons. (fn. 284) A chalice (c. 1600 and foreign), paten, and spoon were presented by H. A. L. Grindle, the first vicar, in 1869–70. By c. 1890 there was also a plated chalice (fn. 285) and by the early 20th century a plated pyx. (fn. 286) In 1973 the plate consisted of two chalices, one of them the old one, two patens, the pyx, and three ciboria, one of which was given at the church's centenary. A First World War memorial in the churchyard was designed by (Sir) Ninian Comper. (fn. 287)
By will proved 1920 Martha Clark left £800 to be invested and a quarter of the income to be spent on church expenses. The residue was to be applied in thirds to the same purpose, to charities connected with the church, and to the maintenance of Anglican education. (fn. 288) In 1971 the income was divided into quarters, one spent on ordinary and one on extra-ordinary church expenses, one on St. Peter's school, and one on the poor. The fourth was not then being distributed. (fn. 289)
No Devizes papist is known before 1767. There were then three. (fn. 293) In 1780 there were four (fn. 294) and by 1861 about twenty, who worshipped at Chippenham. (fn. 295) The first Mass centre in Devizes was established by Fr. Larive, a Salesian missionary, in a disused warehouse in Monday Market Street, whose site is now occupied by Stringer's garage. (fn. 296) C. G. Dowell, formerly an army officer and later a Jesuit lay brother, whom Larive had helped to convert, partially financed the project. (fn. 297) The mission was served from Chippenham until 1864, when the present church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, in St. Joseph's Road, opened in 1865, was started. (fn. 298) At its restoration in 1887 (fn. 299) it was an aisleless rectangle of five bays with 'Decorated' windows on the north and two lancets at the west end. (fn. 300) In 1909 an apsidal chancel and sacristy with bellcote were added. (fn. 301) About 1956 its priests were serving four chapels of ease in adjacent villages. (fn. 302)
The church of St. Francis de Sales, Brickley Lane, was opened in 1960. (fn. 303) It is a rectangle of ten bays, with seven windows on the north and six on the south.
Devizes was early a place where unconventional religious opinions were professed. William Prior, a native, was executed for Lollardy in 1507 and there is other evidence of heresy in the neighbourhood before the Reformation. (fn. 304) During the Civil War a conventicle of doubtful legality was being held in the town (fn. 305) and Quakerism and Anabaptism began to flourish. (fn. 306) Bishop Henchman of Salisbury, after conducting a visitation of his diocese in 1661, found the people of Devizes 'not good', though owing to the excellence of the rector they were giving 'very little trouble'. (fn. 307) In 1662 41 parishioners of St. Mary's and 73 of St. John's were presented for not attending church, but the rector asked that no citation be issued against some of the latter who had repented and begun to conform. (fn. 308) After 1662, however, ejected ministers settled in the town and taught there, (fn. 309) and in 1670 Devizes enjoyed the reputation, perhaps not fully deserved, of being one of the two most notable seats in the diocese of 'great and outrageous meetings'. (fn. 310) By the end of the 17th century several leading Devizes families were nonconformist. (fn. 311)
Towards the end of that century the unorthodox began to group themselves into sects. The most ancient, perhaps, were the Baptists. As early as 1646 a community of Baptists was congregating in the house of John Freme, and in 1654 what appears to have been a baptismal service in progress beside the Crammer was broken up by a mob. (fn. 312) By 1669 the meeting in Freme's house had become Independent, (fn. 313) though it is thought eventually to have rejoined the Baptists. (fn. 314) Two other Baptist meetings are discernible at this time, one in Mary Fidsall's house, in St. Mary's parish, and the other, reckoned to be Fifth Monarchist, at the house of Thomas Okey, a woolbroker. (fn. 315) The second seems to have joined up with the first by 1672. (fn. 316) Thomas Hicks was a leading 'teacher' of the Fidsall meeting in the sixties and gathered round him a congregation of 60–80. (fn. 317) James Webb, a succeeding minister, took a leading part in the London General Assembly in 1689. (fn. 318)
Out of the followers of Hicks and Webb emerged the Old Baptist church or Strict and Particular Baptist church, as it has long been called. In its early days the congregation comprised a number of leading townsmen, (fn. 319) including Sir John Eyles, M.P. for the borough in 1679–81. The chapel consequently enjoyed a sober prosperity and attracted several benefactions in the earlier 18th century. These were mainly for the support of ministers, and, so far as can be learnt, there has been an almost unbroken succession of settled ministers from the time of John Filkes (c. 1709–23). (fn. 320) The congregation numbered 59 in 1704, 300 in 1717, (fn. 321) c. 50 in 1777, and 69 in 1797. During the 18th century the main events in its history were the erection of a proper chapel in 1780, the establishment of seven village stations between 1782 and 1797, and the secession of some worshippers to the Presbyterians c. 1796. (fn. 322) This secession led to a dispute over the title to the Merewether, Eyles, and Hancock charities, which the congregation at the New Baptist chapel claimed. The dispute was settled in Chancery in favour of the Old Baptists in 1816.
The chief subsequent events have been a secession in 1837 to found the Salem chapel, (fn. 323) the termination of that congregation in 1895, and the enlargement of the chapel in 1860 and 1928. Two notable pastors deserve a mention: C. H. Marston (1858–70), a physician renowned at the time for relieving cancer, who simultaneously conducted his spiritual and physical therapy, and J. P. Wiles (1907–27), author of Half-Hours with Isaiah (1915), an abridgement of Calvin's Institutes (1920), and other works, and a public denunciator of R. J. Campbell's 'new theology'. Just before the secession of 1837 the congregation numbered 109, probably in consequence of the zeal of Roger Hitchcock, minister 1830–3, a former Anglican clergyman who is said to have converted fifty. The numbers stood at 96 in 1842, but in 1851 the actual attendances were declared to be much higher. (fn. 324)
The congregation first met at no. 22 the Brittox. (fn. 325) The premises, two lower rooms and an upper one, appear to have been in two parts. One part was a converted factory leased by Samuel Fidsall in 1664. In 1673 the lease was bought by Sir John Eyles, who presented it to the church. It was renewed in 1772 (fn. 326) and was still held in the church's name in 1834. (fn. 327) By her will dated 1712 Sarah Wright devised in trust a ground-floor room, then used as a meeting-house, which formed part of her dwelling. The remains of the meeting-house could still be traced in 1970. There once appears to have been a graveyard close by.
In 1780 a new chapel, not conventionally orientated, was built in Maryport Street, a plain square box without porches or vestries. An east gallery was added in 1785 and in 1818 a vestry, schoolrooms, and side galleries were provided. In 1860–4 the chapel was furnished with new windows, two porches were added at the east end, and a pipe organ installed. After the closure of Salem chapel the Sunday schools were enlarged. In 1922 an apse was erected and the side galleries removed.
At an unknown date a Mrs. Read, of Devizes, left £100 for the benefit of the Baptist church, Southampton, or, if that should cease, of the church in Devizes. The Southampton church closed c. 1820. The capital was then paid to Devizes, and, with interest arising from some other charities, was invested in the purchase of land near the meetinghouse, apparently to secure the approach to the chapel and to serve as a graveyard. By will dated 1699 John Rede left £100. This was lost c. 1720.
Joseph Wright, by will dated 1711, left £500, the interest on £200 of which was to be applied to the minister's stipend, on £100 to be distributed in sixmonthly doles to poor worshippers, and on £200 in training a man for the ministry. In 1712 Sarah, Joseph's relict, left the same sum, the interest to be distributed in the same way. Elizabeth Filkes, by will proved 1789, left £950, £5 of the interest upon which was to be distributed to poor worshippers and the rest to the minister. She also made a bequest to the Congregationalists. (fn. 328) In 1825 the capital (£527) of these three funds, which in the case of the Filkes charities had been reduced by the fall in South Sea stock, was spent upon the purchase of 21 a. at Broughton Gifford. In 1834 this yielded £46 rent, of which two-thirds was appropriated to Filkes's charity and a third to Wrights'. The share of Filkes's charity was divided according to the terms of the foundress's will. Two-fifths of the share of the Wrights' went to the minister, two-fifths to education, and a fifth to the poor. The poor's doles amounted to 2s. 6d. to 5s. a head. In 1901 the land was let at £50 and the rent applied in the same way.
Hannah Merewether, by will dated 1730, left £500, to be invested in land, the proceeds to be paid to the minister. By will proved 1703 Sir John Eyles left £50 to be invested in land for the unspecified benefit of the congregation. The money was settled in trust in 1706. At an unknown date Sarah Hancock left £20 to be invested for the benefit of the minister. The money was paid over in 1747, in which year the capital of all three charities was sunk in the purchase of 30 a. at Seend, reduced in 1804 to 25 a. In 1834 the land was let at £60 and the rent paid to the minister.
John Cooper, by will proved 1805, left £200, subject to a life interest, for preaching the Gospel in Potterne. This seems to have been used by the Strict Baptist village station there so long as it lasted. Some time before 1907 the capital with accumulated interest (£252) was transferred to the Maryport Street chapel. T. B. Sloper, by will proved 1932, left in trust a house in Maryport Street. The land was sold as the Mortmain Act, 1891, required. With the £343 thus raised the house was apparently repurchased as a home for the chapelkeeper.
In 1901 the gross income of the six charities then existing was £98 10s., all of which was paid to the minister, apart from £7 to the poor and £5 13s. to the Sunday school. In 1973 the total income of the then eight charities was £321. Most was spent on the maintenance of the minister, the chapel building, and the manse. The poor doles and the charity for training a minister were devoted to missionary work. (fn. 329)
Salem chapel, New Park Street, was founded in 1837 by George Wessley, who had been appointed pastor of the Maryport Street chapel in 1836, but left because of divisions in the congregation. The schismatics first worshipped in an old tobacco factory, but built the present chapel in 1838. In 1851 the average congregation was 175. (fn. 330) The congregation rejoined the parent body in 1895. (fn. 331) After this their chapel was used by the 'open' Brethren, (fn. 332) and was sold to them in 1929. (fn. 333)
Another Baptist chapel is said to have been opened in High Street before 1815. It existed in 1851, when the average congregation was 120. (fn. 334)
The Presbyterian church seems to have originated in the congregation that adhered to William Gough, Timothy Sacheverell, and Benjamin Flower, all ejected ministers, who preached in Devizes in the 1670s and 1680s. (fn. 335) By c. 1717 there was a distinct Presbyterian meeting of 500, which followed Nathaniel Chauncey, who had been Flower's assistant. (fn. 336) Perhaps it was for them that Edward Pierce registered his house for worship in 1713. (fn. 337) They were presumably the 'paedobaptist' congregation of 1773, which, apart from the Friends and the Baptists, was then the only nonconformist congregation. (fn. 338) Their chapel, erected by 1734, stood behind some houses at the south end of Long Street. (fn. 339) It fell into decay and the worshippers moved to a site on the east side of High Street. (fn. 340) J. H. Fenner, minister of 1788 and also the principal of a school, (fn. 341) used c. 1788 to give a feast every Whit Monday to tradesmen, servants, and weavers, for which they paid, and to 'hold a club' every six weeks for poor townsmen. (fn. 342)
In 1791 a new chapel was opened in Sheep Street next to the present Baptist chapel. (fn. 343) Shortly after 1796, when James Biggs (d. 1830), (fn. 344) a Calvinistic Baptist, became pastor, the seceders from the Old Baptist chapel (q.v.) partially fused with the Presbyterians for worship. (fn. 345) It is from Biggs's pastorate that the establishment of the New Baptist chapel is conventionally dated. (fn. 346) About ten years after the partial fusion the two communities agreed to communicate together, and by 1823 the congregation had apparently assumed the name of the United Society (fn. 347) although its home continued to be called 'the Presbyterian Chapel' until the rebuilding of 1858. (fn. 348) During the pastorate of J. S. Bunce (sole pastor 1830–46), (fn. 349) new schoolrooms and vestries were added to the meeting-house and two galleries. In 1848 the two bodies formally united. Since the beginning of the century the Baptists had been gaining in numbers on the Presbyterians, and in 1851 they resolved to build a new chapel 'with the understanding that it is a Baptist Church' and to invite the Presbyterians to occupy it with them. That chapel, seating 700, was opened in 1852. The rebuilding was the chief event in the pastorate of Charles Stanford, (fn. 350) subsequently a national Baptist leader and 'the Chrysostom of this generation'. He drew large congregations, which included some prosperous and sophisticated worshippers, to his chapel, and he evangelized the neighbourhood by such devices as 'cottage preaching'. In 1851 the average congregation at the Sheep Street chapel was 260. (fn. 351) After 1852 it doubled in size, and two regular week-night services were conducted in the chapel. In 1858 the old meeting-house was sold and demolished and the site added to the burial ground. A new chapel was built southwards of the old. There are vestries at the north-east and south-east corners. Schoolrooms, enlarged in 1894, lie to the east. The church was restored in 1901 and 1926. (fn. 352)
The church enjoys several charities. The largest of these was founded by Thomas Bancroft, of Bristol, who, by will dated 1774, left £500 in trust. Half of the invested interest was to be distributed to 20 poor men of the congregation in cash in April, and the other half in blue coats in October. Bancroft also left £2 yearly to the minister for preaching two sermons, but how this was secured is not apparent. His educational charity is dealt with elsewhere. (fn. 353) In 1834 the clothing charity was distributed every second year to about 18 men. About 1777 the capital amounted to £589. William Temple, by will proved 1716, and Sarah Handcock or Hancock, by will dated 1740, left rent-charges of £2 and £3 respectively for the minister. Mary Russell (1756), Mrs. Waite or Wright (1759), Sarah George (1783), Mrs. Gough (at an unknown date), and Mrs. Maye or Mayo (at an unknown date) left £300, £100, £100, £20, and £20 respectively for the minister, and further small sums amounting to £21 had also been accumulated for his benefit by the mid 19th century. Of these small benefactors Betty Sloper, who is named in Schemes of 1925 and 1957, may have been one. In 1859 the trustees of the New Chapel applied to the Charity Commission for the transfer to them of these endowments. They claimed that, though the endowments were nominally for the benefit of Presbyterians, the worshippers at the New Baptist chapel were the Presbyterians' lineal successors. After prolonged argument the charities were adjudged to belong to the New Baptist chapel by Chancery order of 1871 and a Scheme was prepared. The effect of this was to divide the charities into Minister's, Poor, and School Funds and to leave in the first two £852 and £772 respectively, after deducting the costs of the Chancery suit. Since 1888 the figures have been £854 and £774. The rent-charges were still unredeemed in 1973. Herbert Sainsbury, by will proved 1939, left £250 and Rosalie Emily Guy in 1949 gave a house, both in trust for the chapel. The house was sold in 1955 and the capital valued at £274 in 1973. The revenue due from all charitable sources in 1972 was £55. Of this £19 was distributed to 20 poor men in doles of 95p, £21 to the minister, and £8 to the school fund. (fn. 354)
Congregationalism in Devizes goes back to 1669 when John Freme's house was registered and John Frayling licensed as minister. Frayling's congregation numbered about thirty. Freme's house was registered again in 1672, and the house of Edward Hope (or Hopes), the younger, added. Frayling, whose licence was then renewed, served both houses and Obadiah Wills was licensed as an additional teacher. Both Frayling and Wills were ejected ministers. (fn. 355) After this no more is heard of Congregationalism for some time; as has been shown, the Freme meeting seems to have become Baptist. (fn. 356)
The present Congregational chapel in Northgate Street, often called St. Mary's chapel from the parish in which it lies or 'Bottom Town Chapel', (fn. 357) has an unusual origin. From 1763 a group of churchmen living in the town were in the habit of receiving pastoral epistles and visits from Richard Baddely, then rector of Hilperton. Baddely's efforts were supplemented, somewhat later, by other clergymen living in the neighbourhood who were tinged with Methodist ideas, and finally by Rowland Hill, who visited Devizes twice in 1771 and preached in the open air. (fn. 358) The second meeting was broken up by a 'mob' instigated thereto by Edward Innes, the assistant curate who some years before had stirred up opposition to Wesley. (fn. 359) In the same year in which these meetings occurred Baddely's followers came together as a congregation, allied neither with any branch of Methodism nor with any of the existing dissenting connexions, and certified a house for worship. (fn. 360) Other houses were certified in 1772 (fn. 361) and 1773, (fn. 362) one in St. Mary's and the other in St. John's parish. It has been claimed that one or other of these early buildings was a house at the corner of New Park Street and Couch Lane, later used by the 'exclusive' Brethren. (fn. 363) In 1776 the the nucleus of the present chapel was built. (fn. 364) By the foundation deed, to which the countess of Huntingdon, Rowland Hill, and Cornelius Winter were parties, the chapel, already called St. Mary's chapel, was assigned to Calvinistic Methodist worship. The trustees, however, might choose a minister of any denomination provided that he did not preach against such of the Articles as Independent ministers usually subscribed to. Both Anglican and nonconformist ministers might administer the sacraments. The former might do so in surplices, and, when they celebrated Holy Communion, might withdraw behind a rail. At some later date, probably within the 18th century, the worshippers discarded their Anglican and Methodist affiliations and became Congregationalists. (fn. 365)
In its earlier years the chapel was served voluntarily by the Revd. Robert Sloper (d. 1818), whom the Revd. Richard Elliott (d. 1854), succeeded as the first settled minister. (fn. 366) Elliott raised the chapel to its peak of popularity and attracted many of the leading townsmen. (fn. 367) Towards the end of his pastorate congregations averaged 525 people. (fn. 368) Elliott was an important figure in Congregationalism, and for 28 years was secretary of the Wilts. and East Somerset Congregational Union. In his time Devizes became (1842) the head of a district in the Union and so remained for 50 years. (fn. 369) In youth vigorous and eloquent, Elliott later became a champion of the anti-slavery movement and an opponent of papal 'aggression'. (fn. 370) His successor, William Kingsland (1852–62), was less popular and during his time a secession to the New Baptist chapel took place. Robert Dawson, the next minister, restored its fortunes by increasing the attendances. (fn. 371)
The chapel enjoys four charitable endowments. John Filkes, by will dated 1780, left £100 in trust, the interest to be paid in doles to needy members of the congregation. Elizabeth Filkes, John's sister, by will proved 1789, settled about £969 in trust, £5 of the interest on which was to be paid to poor persons attending the sermons at the chapel and the rest to the minister. She also made a bequest to the Strict Baptists. (fn. 372) The capital was subsequently a little reduced but rose again, and in 1834 £1,058 stock was purchased. Thomas Chandler, by will proved 1879, left £100 the proceeds to be applied to the support of the Sunday school. W. A. Waylen, by will proved 1938, left £300 for chapel maintenance.
In 1834 the John Filkes charity was paid out in small doles. Of the Elizabeth Filkes charity £5 was then paid to the poor and the residue to the minister. By 1901 these two charities were being administered together. Their income amounted to £32 and they were similarly divided, except that the poor's share was then £7. 14s. In 1973 about a quarter of the Filkes charities was paid to sick and needy worshippers and the residue to general chapel funds. The Chandler and Waylen charities were paid according to the foundation trusts. (fn. 373)
The original chapel was a small oblong building entered from the east. In 1790 it was enlarged and made square by an eastward extension. (fn. 374) A beam running through the chapel indicates the line of the old east wall. Later, probably in 1810–11, schoolrooms and an assembly room were added on the south. (fn. 375) Recertifications of 1835 (fn. 376) and 1855 (fn. 377) may represent other changes, and certain improvements were made in 1859. (fn. 378) In 1868–9 a lecture hall and schoolroom, designed by Benoni Mullens, were built on the north in 'Early English'. (fn. 379) Henceforth the chapel was entered from that side. Substantial internal improvements, designed by J. A. Randell, were carried out in 1876 and in 1892 the windows were remodelled. (fn. 380) Further changes were completed in 1925. (fn. 381)
The history of Quakerism in Devizes has been traced from 1647, (fn. 382) but it is doubtful whether a meeting could have existed so early. By the middle of the next decade, however, there were Quakers in the neighbourhood, and in 1658 Samuel Noyes, a leader of the town Quakers, (fn. 383) was prosecuted for brawling in church. (fn. 384) In 1669 the Devizes Friends were meeting in John May's house (fn. 385) and in 1682 in John Clark's, whence they were on one occasion ejected by the constables. (fn. 386) In 1702 the house of William Coole and John Bartlett was certified for worship and at the same time a house 'newly erected' by the Friends for their meetings. (fn. 387) The freehold of the second of these, no. 23 High Street, occupied in 1971 by the 'exclusive' Brethren, (fn. 388) had been acquired in 1701. (fn. 389) It became the sole Quaker place of worship. Anglicans and other Nonconformists 'assisted' in its erection. It remained in use until 1826. The meeting then lapsed, (fn. 390) and the meeting-house was sold in 1840. (fn. 391) Quakerism was revived in Devizes in 1853–4. (fn. 392) The old meetinghouse was repurchased in 1858, (fn. 393) and was again in use for Quaker worship in 1872–3. (fn. 394) The meeting was discontinued in 1879. (fn. 395) In 1884 the Friends sold the building. (fn. 396) They reoccupied it in 1903–7, (fn. 397) but apparently not afterwards. The Devizes meeting numbered 80–100 in 1669, (fn. 398) about 30 in the 1790s, (fn. 399) and seven in 1904. (fn. 400) During the 18th century several members of leading local families were adherents, including John Beaven or Bevan, who helped to found the first Devizes bank in 1775, and William Powell of Nursteed Lodge, and on the eve of its first closure it was attended regularly by some nonQuakers, including Anglicans. (fn. 401) A burial ground was acquired in 1665, (fn. 402) probably the same as that which now (1973) forms part of Hillworth Park. A graveyard existed on that site by 1759, then accessible by a lane connecting Gallows Ditch (now Hillworth Road) with the Lavington road. (fn. 403)
John Wesley first visited Devizes in January 1747 to preach at the house of a Mr. Clark. Before his coming the inhabitants had been roused against him by Innes, the assistant curate. (fn. 404) The town was in an uproar 'as if the French were just entering' and Wesley heard an 'abundance of swelling words, oaths, curses and threatenings'. Many of the 'mob' came to Clark's house, at which Innes had announced that 'an obnubilative, pantomime entertainment' would be 'exhibited'. Once there, however, they 'listened a little and stood still'. On a return visit later in the month similar efforts were made to obstruct Wesley, but met with very little success; in fact he preached thrice. (fn. 405) Charles Wesley, however, coming in February next in his friend Meriton's company, was blockaded by the mob in a house west of St. Mary's church and barely escaped alive. (fn. 406) The reception meted out no doubt explains the reluctance of the Wesleys to revisit Devizes for some time to come. There was indeed no further visit from John until 1764 (fn. 407) and there is no evidence that he preached again until 1772, (fn. 408) by which time the old prejudice had gone. Between that year and 1790 he paid thirteen visits and preached eleven times, in 1778 with Charles in a 'commodious room'. (fn. 409)
A house in St. Mary's parish, probably that in which Charles Wesley had stayed, was certified for Methodist worship in 1777. (fn. 410) In 1783 the rector thought its congregation was declining and that it included few 'of better rank'. (fn. 411) Other certifications were made by ministers in 1807 (fn. 412) and 1809 (fn. 413) and one or other of these was no doubt the weaving-room behind what was once no. 20 Sheep Street, occupied by the weaver and lay-preacher John Cheeter at the turn of the century. (fn. 414) Finally, in 1818, a Methodist chapel in New Park Street was certified, and apparently opened next year. (fn. 415) That building, which had 316 sittings, (fn. 416) laster until 1898 when it was replaced by the present red-brick chapel in Long Street. (fn. 417) The old chapel was later taken over by the Salvation Army. (fn. 418) It was derelict in 1971 and had been pulled down by 1972.
Devizes, formerly a mission attached to Melksham, became the head of a circuit in 1828. (fn. 419) It so remained until 1894 when the Wiltshire Mission was formed. (fn. 420) Between 1832 and 1886 its own church membership averaged 42 rising to 54 in 1837 and falling to 31 in 1852. (fn. 421) The minister formerly derived part of his stipend from the charity (£10) of Amelia Holloway of Horton in Bishop's Cannings (will proved 1851). (fn. 422) In 1973 the interest was wholly paid to the Horton Methodist church. (fn. 423)
Other forms of Methodism have not flourished in the town. A building on the Green, occupied by George Franklin, was certified for Primitive Methodist worship in 1853. (fn. 424) Its certificate was cancelled in 1895 and it had probably been closed by 1882 at the latest. (fn. 425) A Wesleyan Reform chapel, in New Park Street, is mentioned between 1855 and 1865. (fn. 426)
The Church of Latter Day Saints certified a building in Bridewell Street in 1853. The certification had been cancelled by 1876. (fn. 427) A congregation of 'exclusive' Brethren certified a room in Couch Lane in 1873. (fn. 428) In 1929 they removed to no. 23 High Street (High Street hall), (fn. 429) which since 1908 had been in secular use. (fn. 430) At no. 6 High Street a group of 'open' Brethren, sometimes described as Baptist Brethren, certified two rooms, in 1879 and 1890. (fn. 431) In 1895 they moved to Salem chapel, New Park Street, (fn. 432) where they still met in 1971. Since 1970 Salem has enjoyed the interest on the proceeds of the sale of the former Brethren's meeting-house in Urchfont and upon a fund established in 1896 for the maintenance of that building. (fn. 433) The Salvation Army opened fire in 1881, (fn. 434) and first met in the Warehouse Barracks, Couch Lane, where they certified a meeting-place in 1887. (fn. 435) They had removed to Commercial Road by 1894. (fn. 436) Thence they went to Monday Market Street in 1898 (fn. 437) and in 1900 to their halls in New Park Street, formerly the Wesleyan Methodist chapel. (fn. 438) They left the halls in 1967 and after occupying temporary accommodation opened a centre in the former Civil Defence headquarters, Station Road, in 1971. (fn. 439) Between 1891 and 1908 High Street hall was used for undenominational worship by the Y.M.C.A. (fn. 440) An undenominational mission room behind Estcourt Street was certified in 1949. (fn. 441) 'Premises' in Back (presumably New Park) Street were certified by Thomas Billett in 1851, (fn. 442) and a building in St. Mary's parish by Maurice Britton, 'minister', (fn. 443) or alternatively by John Weston in the same year. (fn. 444) These buildings have defied identification.
Social and Cultural Activities.
A theatre, designed by Messrs. Gamble and Whichcord, was erected on the Island on the Green c. 1792. (fn. 445) It hardly seems to have succeeded. A spectacle of George IV's coronation was staged in 1822, (fn. 446) and in 1833 there was a brief autumn season. (fn. 447) There are no other recorded uses. The building, much altered, was felled in 1957. (fn. 448) The Palace cinema in the Market Place was opened in 1912, (fn. 449) the Regal cinema, New Park Street, in 1939. (fn. 450) The latter was closed in 1960. (fn. 451)
A Literary and Scientific Institute was formed in 1833 and housed in no. 6 High Street. Capt. C. N. Tayler was a leading founder. In its first year the Institute arranged 34 lectures and had started a library and museum. (fn. 452) It moved soon after to premises near St. Mary's church. Those premises were burnt in 1843 and the society migrated to the Chequer and thence to the 'old' Town Hall. (fn. 453) In 1851 the society had over 200 members, a library of over 800 volumes, and between 12 and 14 lectures annually. (fn. 454) In 1863 it was reconstructed (fn. 455) and ten years later gave some of its scientific objects to Devizes museum. (fn. 456) By 1907 it had acquired the building of the former British School, Northgate Street, which still housed it in 1971. In 1907 it had about 350 members, a library of 6,000 books, and recreation rooms. (fn. 457) Its flourishing condition owed much to C. H. Lowe (d. 1909), a merchant trading to Brazil. (fn. 458)
The Devizes Church Library was founded in 1830. It consisted partly of Dr. Charles Bray's clerical library (fn. 459) of 200 volumes on loan from London, to which the neighbouring clergy had free access, and partly of church subscription and 'missionary' libraries. The last two, it seems, were open to both clergy and laymen. The library first occupied the building in which the Free School and Bear Club School were housed successively (fn. 460) and there remained until at least 1897; next it was in St. John's Street; and finally in Station Road, until it closed in 1915. It furnished a meeting-place for the clergy of the district but its usefulness for that purpose declined after Bishop Moberly had established the diocesan synod in Salisbury in 1871. (fn. 461)
A branch of the county library was opened in 1927–8 in co-operation with the Literary and Scientific Institute. It moved to St. John's Street in 1936 and thence in 1968 to purpose-built premises in Sheep Street. (fn. 462)
The Devizes Club existed by 1823 (fn. 463) and was perhaps the same as the Brittox Club, which owned a cup and ladle now among the borough insignia. (fn. 464) By 1879 it had become the Devizes and North Wilts Club, no. 27 St. John's Street, (fn. 465) and had perhaps been reconstituted in 1868. (fn. 466) It was dissolved in 1931 and immediately resurrected as the Devizes and District Club. (fn. 467) The Liberal Club, no. 22 St. John's Street, was founded in 1890 and enlarged in 1898. (fn. 468) Both survive. The Bateson Reading Rooms, New Park Street, were founded in 1879 by Sir Thomas Bateson (cr. Baron Deramore, 1885), M.P. for the borough, for people of all creeds and opinions. The basement of the Rooms was used as a branch National infants' school until 1886, when the children were ejected and the building converted into a Conservative club. (fn. 469) In 1961 the club was called the Bateson Conservative Club and was moved to Wilsford House, Long Street. It has since been called the Devizes and District Conservative Club. (fn. 470)
A benefit society for Congregationalists existed in 1780. (fn. 471) The Independent lodge of the Odd Fellows was founded in 1820, followed in 1842 by the Providential Dolphin lodge. (fn. 472) In 1859 there were four friendly society lodges besides these. (fn. 473) In 1844 the Independent Odd Fellows met at the Rising Sun, and did so still in 1859. In the earlier year the Providential Dolphin met at the Castle inn. (fn. 474) In 1873 an Odd Fellows hall was opened in Maryport Street (fn. 475) and there both lodges met from at least 1886 until c. 1948, when the Dolphin, which continues, ingested the other lodge. (fn. 476) The hall, which was given up on fusion, had contained a concert room and orchestral gallery, and by 1882 was sheltering the Workingmen's Club, (fn. 477) founded in 1863 (fn. 478) and occupying no. 6 High Street in 1866–9. (fn. 479) The club remained in Odd Fellows hall until 1900 (fn. 480) if not longer.
T. Burroughs or Burrough, bookseller and printer, who occurs from 1734, (fn. 481) published or distributed a Devizes edition of the Salisbury Journal, known between 1752 and 1774 as the Salisbury Journal and Devizes Mercury. (fn. 482) Its connexion with Devizes was probably remote. The story of Devizes newspapers really begins in 1819 (fn. 483) when George Simpson (d. 1871) transferred Simpson's Salisbury Journal, founded 1816, from Salisbury and renamed it the Devizes and Wiltshire Gazette. The title was changed to The Wiltshire Gazette in 1909 and so continued. It remained in the hands of George Simpson—founder, son, and grandson all bearing the same name. Until 1914 the Simpsons were also editors. A management company, Geo. Simpson & Co. Ltd., was then formed and by them the paper was sold in 1956 to Wiltshire Newspapers, Ltd., of Swindon, a member of the Westminster Press group. (fn. 484) The paper was then united with the Wiltshire Herald and Advertiser and subsequently published in Swindon as the Wiltshire Gazette and Herald. In 1836 it had become officially Conservative. In 1872 a cheaper version, designed for working men, was started under the name of The Wiltshire Telegraph. It continued until 1933 when it was amalgamated with the Advertiser and became The Wiltshire Telegraph and Advertiser. In 1942 it was absorbed by the Gazette. The Gazette offices have stood continuously in the Market Place though not always in the same position.
The Wiltshire Independent, mouthpiece of Liberalism in north Wiltshire, was founded in 1836. Edited by Charles Hooton (1836–9), William Burrows (1839–40), and J. R. Fox (1840–76), it was published in Wine Street until 1840, when it moved to no. 36 Market Place. In 1876 it fused with the Wiltshire Times, published by Henry Barrass at no. 39 Market Place. Four years later Barrass moved it to Trowbridge, (fn. 485) where it has since remained.
The Devizes Advertiser was founded by Charles Gillman (d. 1898) in 1858. It was likewise a paper of Liberal inclinations and was originally financed in part by Simon Watson-Taylor of Erlestoke, M.P. for Devizes. It became openly Liberal after 1877, probably upon the disappearance of the Independent. It changed its name to The Devizes and Wilts Advertiser in 1877 and to The Devizes and Wiltshire Advertiser in 1896. It was owned and edited by the Gillmans throughout its course: R. D. Gillman (1894– 1910), his nephew W. H. Gillman (1910–14), and his niece Mrs. R. Rogers (1914–?17 et post). In 1933 it was incorporated with The Wiltshire Telegraph. The works were first at no. 28 the Brittox and a little later at no. 19 in the same street. In 1880 they were enlarged by the purchase of nos. 29–30 Maryport St. and in 1902 transferred wholly to that street. The printing press, purchased in 1877, was operated by a gas engine, one of the first in the district. A linotype machine was bought in 1915. Almost from the beginning the firm published annual almanacs, under titles slightly differing from period to period, and a street directory.
In 1619, in ambiguous circumstances, the corporation paid a Mr. Davis for allowing a schoolmaster to teach in the town (fn. 486) and at the same time paid rent for a school-house which they repaired and equipped. (fn. 487) Perhaps there had been a town schoolmaster for a long time, for a 'master of the schools' is mentioned in 1322. (fn. 488) Nothing, however, suggests that in the early 17th century there was any means of paying such a person a regular salary.
By will proved 1642 John Pierce left among other charities £50 in trust to the corporation the interest to be applied to a schoolmaster's salary until a school site could be bought or a 'right' schoolmaster found. (fn. 489) The old school building had, therefore, either been abandoned or was unfit. By 1649 Pierce was dead and the corporation decided to use the interest to pay the existing schoolmaster to teach four children of their own choosing. (fn. 490) References to a schoolmaster recur in 1658–9, (fn. 491) 1672–3, (fn. 492) 1682, (fn. 493) and 1689–90. (fn. 494) In the first year he was using Pierce's charity, in the second he was called 'schoolmaster of this borough', and in the third two men are named and there is mention of 'the free schools' in the plural. In 1678–80 the corporation was again maintaining a school house. (fn. 495) About 1664 William Woodruff devised a rent-charge of £5 to keep ten Devizes boys at school, (fn. 496) but there are no references to its use until 1696, when the income was three years in arrear. (fn. 497) The charity was eventually recovered but how soon is unknown. In 1697 the corporation arranged to pay £10 out of the chamber for the next seven years to a schoolmaster to keep a Latin school for five boys nominated by themselves. The interest (£3) on Pierce's charity was to be paid to the teacher as well. (fn. 498) No appointment, however, seems to have been made until 1699. (fn. 499) In 1704 a rent of £8 charged on the Elm Tree, then the Salutation inn, was settled in trust by Mary Eyles, widow, for charitable purposes. (fn. 500) One of these was the teaching of six children, on whom £3 was to be spent annually. The residue of the charity (16s.) which was left to augment the foundress's other charities was also spent on teaching c. 1834. (fn. 501) It thus seems that by the early 18th century there was provision for a school building and a schoolmaster and that there were charitable exhibitions for children. A schoolmaster was actually being employed in 1719. (fn. 502)
Shortly after this there was a more important endowment. About 1725, by which year he had died, John Smith gave £300 for a new school building. With that sum a school was put up on corporation land in Maryport Street, (fn. 503) on a site later covered by the National schools. Under the name of the Free School it still existed in 1791 (fn. 504) and for some time afterwards. The older school, however, seems to have remained open for a while. In 1725 the upper room of the New Alms-house was being occupied by 'the schoolmaster' who was ordered to pay his rent or else to quit. (fn. 505) No more is heard of it as a school and apparently by 1732 its former furniture was in a carpenter's hands. (fn. 506)
About 1733 a schoolmaster was occupying Smith's school and was receiving the interest on Pierce's and Wild's charities in return for teaching nine boys nominated by the corporation. (fn. 507) The second of these foundations was due to Thomas Wild who, apparently c. 1731, had given or bequeathed £100 for the education of five boys. (fn. 508) In 1737 the corporation appointed a schoolmaster, but whether to succeed or complement the man of 1733 is not clear. They also seem to have aimed at enlarging the school building. (fn. 509) After 1733 Pierce's teaching charity disappears, possibly confused with his other charities.
During the century and a half from James I's accession more had been done for primary, though not for secondary education in Devizes than for many another town of comparable size and wealth. The satisfaction which the S.P.C.K. expressed in 1709 at the progress made was consequently not unjustified. (fn. 510) Nothing, however, had occurred to make the existence of a charity school for 70 boys, 50 of them clothed, such as Thomas Cox declares to have existed c. 1738, credible. (fn. 511)
Five further charitable provisions were made for primary education in the 18th century. First in 1756 the Bear Club, a social gathering at the inn of that name, was founded. Its rules imposed a fine on absentees, and these fines, supplemented later by subscriptions and donations, created a fund for teaching the elements to six boys and partially clothing them. (fn. 512) The number of boys rose to ten and by 1775 to sixteen, by which year some of the income was devoted to apprenticing. (fn. 513) The charity was augmented by the bequest of £100 from James Maynard (will proved 1786). (fn. 514) The later history of the charity is resumed below. (fn. 515)
The other educational charities of the 18th century were Powell's, Bancroft's, and Imber's. By will dated 1743 Eleanor Powell (née Phillips) left £500 the income on the bulk of which was to be used for clothing and educating six poor unrelieved girls. By 1790 the capital had risen to £600 and yielded £18 of which £17 was used for education and clothing. A schoolmistress then received a guinea for each girl and taught them reading, writing, and needlework. (fn. 516) Thomas Bancroft, by will dated 1774, bequeathed £500 the interest to be applied to teaching 20 boys of the two parishes and also of the Presbyterian congregation English and writing. The choice of pupils was to be made by the rector and Presbyterian minister and as far as possible the three congregations were to share equally. By 1783 the capital amounted to £731. (fn. 517) In 1788 Elizabeth Imber, of Winchester, had given money to purchase £1,333 stock, two-fifths of the interest to be applied to teaching reading and needlework to seven girls of St. John's parish and to clothe them. The girls were to stay three years in school. (fn. 518) Finally, though he endowed no educational charity, Thomas Thurman (d. 1777), a notable Devizes benefactor, left £732 for clothing, teaching, and apprenticing 30 boys and £295 for the like benefit to 15 girls, each of whom was to stay three years in school. (fn. 519)
Thus by the end of the 18th century there was a town school and fairly abundant provision for exhibitions. The situation, if muddled, was favourable to education and it can well have been true, as was said in 1783, that 'most of the children of the town go to the schools'. (fn. 520)
With the opening of the 19th century Devizes began to acquire a complex of elementary schools of the usual type. A girls' school was founded in 1813 and united with the National Society next year. (fn. 521) From the outset it taught handicrafts (fn. 522) and in 1818 contained 80 girls. (fn. 523) It is not known where it stood but in 1819 John Pearse, a borough M.P., built a schoolroom, which since 1882 has been the Masonic Hall in Morris's Lane. (fn. 524) In 1822 a subscription was raised to provide other schools both for the town and Southbroom, though Southbroom later withdrew from the joint scheme, taking a share of the capital. (fn. 525) With the residue a town infants' school was built on the west side of Sheep Street in 1825. (fn. 526)
In 1833 the girls numbered 100 and the infants 60, (fn. 527) and Imber's charity was being spent upon them. (fn. 528) By 1846–7 there was a teacher for each school and a house provided for the girls' teacher. (fn. 529) In 1858 the girls were additionally benefiting from Powell's and 'Nicholas's' charities. (fn. 530) The second of these is puzzling; though different members of the Nicholas family had founded charities, (fn. 531) none was expressly educational. Soon after this the girls began to enjoy the charity of Sarah Wadsworth who, by will proved 1854, left £50 in trust for their benefit. (fn. 532)
The old Free School, called the Blue Coat School in 1844, (fn. 533) continued as the place where the boys were taught. It was said c. 1834 to be under the rector's management and to possess a dilapidated building and a 'large and lofty' school-house. (fn. 534) In 1838 the corporation as trustees of Smith's charity settled the building in trust as a place for teaching the elements. (fn. 535) The school enjoyed Wild's, Woodruff's, Mary Eyles's, and Bancroft's charities, and the master taught those boys who were financed by the Bear Club charities and also fee-payers. (fn. 536) In all there were then 106 boys (fn. 537) and 126 by 1846– 7. (fn. 538) By 1848 the school seems to have moved out of Smith's old building into Sheep Street (fn. 539) and therefore into the same building as the National infants occupied, which was probably enlarged for the purpose. By the same year the Bear Club trustees had formed their own school and taken over for its use the Free School building thus vacated. (fn. 540)
From that time onwards there were three Anglican schools within the ancient borough known until closure as the Town Schools. It is not clear when the boys' school was united with the National Society but in 1854 a trust was declared which 'imported the provisions' of the society's trust deed. (fn. 541) In 1858 the teachers in the boys' and girls' schools were certificated and the mistress in the infants' school trained. All three schools were well reported on, especially the infants'. (fn. 542) The boys' school was enlarged in 1857 and acquired the 'Angel rent' as extra income in 1858. (fn. 543) By the same year it had lost Wild's charity. (fn. 544) The building was again enlarged in 1876, (fn. 545) no doubt in part to provide space for the Bear Club boys, whose school had ceased. (fn. 546) In 1882 the girls moved into the boys' building and the boys were transferred to an entirely new one built on the site of the old Free School. (fn. 547) Meanwhile a branch infants' school was opened in 1879 in Bateson's Reading Rooms, New Park Street, but had to be given up in 1886. (fn. 548) Average attendance in the three schools was 230 in 1893, although nominally there was space for twice that number. (fn. 549)
The British School closed in 1893 (fn. 550) and church education at the primary level was given a sudden jolt. The Anglican managers were forced to find more accommodation quickly or else submit to the establishment of a school board. Bishop Wordsworth guaranteed £1,000 if the town would double it. The town did so and a 'Devizes Day Schools Association' was formed to foster the cause. (fn. 551) The boys' and infants' schools were under enlargement in the same year and so were the other schools. (fn. 552) But it was putting new wine into old bottles. The Town School buildings either were incorrigibly bad or the L.E.A. and the inspectors were determined to deem them so. In addition, unlike Southbroom parochial school, they do not seem to have been pedagogically efficient. (fn. 553) Plans for a single new church school for Devizes began to be formulated in 1914 (fn. 554) but naturally could not then be realized. Meanwhile the accommodation figures had been reduced in 1908–9 from 546 to 471. The average attendance was then 351. (fn. 555)
Early in 1925 the county council began to cast longing eyes on Southbroom House, (fn. 556) which with much surrounding land had been bought by the firm of W. E. Chivers. (fn. 557) They felt that the house itself with its park would serve as a base for a new council school and 'would give us a school of a novel and attractive type'. The property was bought the same year and had been adapted as a senior school by August 1926. In the interval it had been sententiously described as a 'new departure in Primary Schools'. (fn. 558) Thereupon all the old Town Schools were closed. Under a Scheme of 1928 the Maryport Street building was sold and under the name Maryport Street chambers used as offices. The Sheep Street building, however, was reserved for instruction. (fn. 559) The two buildings were demolished respectively in 1969 (fn. 560) and 1958. (fn. 561)
The new Southbroom school rapidly won approval. By 1930 it had a 'housecraft centre' near by and a large school garden. In 1949 it became 'secondary modern' under the name Southbroom Secondary School and had an average attendance of 452 in 1950. (fn. 562) It was enlarged in 1956 (fn. 563) and 1964. (fn. 564)
Southbroom National schools, north of the church, were built in 1833. A state building grant became payable in 1834. The school consisted of two rooms one above the other and was of stone with a thatched roof. (fn. 565) It was said to be capable of holding 128 boys and 105 girls. (fn. 566) Two teachers, male and female, existed by 1846–7 and there was a teacher's house. (fn. 567) In 1859, when both teachers were declared to be of 'high respectability', only 50 of each sex attended. (fn. 568) The school was enlarged in 1872 by the addition of an infants' school on a separate but adjacent site and two years later had an attendance of 238. (fn. 569) It was again enlarged in 1879 by providing room for more infants. (fn. 570) To meet Board of Education requirements it was substantially rebuilt in 1894–5 (fn. 571) and thereafter had approved accommodation for 165 boys, 134 girls, and 168 infants. (fn. 572) In 1893, on the eve of the last enlargement, average attendance had been 311. (fn. 573) It was 382 in 1908–9 and 304 in 1937–8. (fn. 574) On the reorganization of the Devizes schools in 1926 it became under the name of Southbroom Parochial School a school for standard I children and infants only and was enlarged in 1928. (fn. 575) It was granted controlled status in 1949 and in 1950 average attendance was 452. (fn. 576) In the earlier 20th century the school was much praised by the inspectors in three separate annual reports. (fn. 577)
Heathcote House, the former seat of a proprietory school, (fn. 578) became the home of the headmaster of Southbroom Senior School in 1926, and was still partly used as a school residence in 1972. In the 1930s it was also used for other purposes connected with teaching. In 1954 classrooms were there provided to rehouse a part of Southbroom Parochial school. In 1957 it was decided to split that school into two: Southbroom Church of England Controlled Infants' school to remain at Heathcote House and a Southbroom Church of England Controlled Junior school, to be purpose-built, in Nursteed Road. (fn. 579) The second of these was opened in 1961. (fn. 580) The first was afterwards enlarged. In January 1973 there were respectively 451 and 668 pupils on the roll. (fn. 581) In 1971 the old Southbroom parochial schoolrooms were being used as a youth centre. (fn. 582)
A British school for girls was built in 1822 in Northgate Street on land given by Robert Waylen. An evening school for boys was subsequently started, but by 1833 there was still no British day school for boys. (fn. 583) In 1834, however, a state building grant was received, (fn. 584) and by 1836 a boys' school had been opened. At the annual examination in that year it was stated that 'the interrogative system' had been 'fully developed'. (fn. 585) In 1869 an infants' school was being conducted in or near the Congregational chapel, (fn. 586) and in 1872 a new schoolroom for infants, presumably forming part of the main school buildings, was opened. (fn. 587) The schools were closed at very short notice in 1893, in the belief, which proved mistaken, that a board would soon be formed, (fn. 588) or, according to the Anglican contention, to force its formation. (fn. 589) The average attendance was then 422. (fn. 590) The children were fitted into other schools in the town or into parish rooms. (fn. 591) In 1895 the buildings were handed over to the borough for a technical school and sold in 1906. (fn. 592)
St. Peter's National school, with buildings south of the church, was opened in 1870 (fn. 593) with the help of a state building grant. (fn. 594) Average attendance was 66 in 1893 (fn. 595) but the school was then enlarged (fn. 596) so that by 1899 it had risen to nearly 200. (fn. 597) By 1910 the school had been organized in two departments, mixed and infants, with respective average attendances during 1908–9 of 129 and 88. (fn. 598) The buildings were again enlarged in 1911–12. (fn. 599) The departmental structure was the same in 1950 when average attendance was 208. (fn. 600) Aided status was granted in 1951. (fn. 601) After the closure of the former Grammar School in 1969 (see below) St. Peter's Church of England Aided School (its present designation) had used part of the buildings. In January 1973 there were 233 pupils on the roll. (fn. 602)
Sisters of the teaching order of St. Joseph of Annecy reached the town in 1864 and at once opened a Roman Catholic 'poor school' in the improvised Roman Catholic chapel in Monday Market Street. (fn. 603) Early in 1865 the school, then numbering 14, was moved to the new church in St. Joseph's Place and conducted in that church until in 1868 it was provided with a one-room schoolroom, consecrated for worship, west of the church. (fn. 604) That building survives. The school has been called St. Joseph's School since at least 1886. (fn. 605) Average attendance was 96 in 1893. (fn. 606) In 1901 an infants' room was built, (fn. 607) and since 1904 there has been a separate infants' department under a separate head teacher. (fn. 608) In 1908–9 the respective average attendances were 101 and 59. (fn. 609) A new school building was put up in 1930 beside the existing one. (fn. 610) The accommodation was fixed at 240. (fn. 611) In 1950 average attendance for junior children was 183 and for infants 92. (fn. 612) Aided status was granted in 1952, (fn. 613) and the buildings again enlarged in 1970. (fn. 614) In January 1973 there were 122 children on the roll of the junior school and 96 on that of the infants' school. (fn. 615) The sisters of St. Joseph have for long lived close to the school.
About 1848 the Bear Club trustees acquired the old Free School building and with it the man who had hitherto taught the boys. (fn. 616) Henceforth under that master they carried on an independent boys' school. (fn. 617) By the same time the funds, originally meant for Devizes boys alone, were put at the disposal of all boys in Wiltshire. (fn. 618) In 1858 the school was being called the Bear Club School, and had acquired Wild's charity, formerly attached to the Free School, though the boys' Town School kept the other endowments. The master was then teaching 30 boys. The results of his labours, however, were said to bear 'no adequate proportion to the expenditure'. (fn. 619) By 1874 the school, which earlier in the century had been deemed 'a very superior' one 'in the education and preparation of boys for the practical duties of an active life' and capable of providing a 'plain English education', had fallen in repute and numbers. It was closed in 1875 and the boys transferred to the Town School. (fn. 620) Thereafter the charity moneys seem to have been held for a while in suspense, (fn. 621) but in 1901, when the capital was £725, a scheme was framed for distributing the income in exhibitions payable to Wiltshire and preferably Devizes boys who sought professional, industrial, or pedagogic training. In 1922 Maynard's charity, then worth £253, was so regulated that the income should be applied to augment the substantive charity. In 1964 the trusts were further broadened to include university education and the purchase of books and educational equipment. (fn. 622)
In 1833 there were two private infant or dame schools with 56 children between them. (fn. 623) In 1859 there were five in the old town with 100 and one in Southbroom with 20–30 children. (fn. 624) In 1833 there were also five Sunday schools. (fn. 625) In 1869 there were five other schools besides those named above. They included St. Bartholomew's Home and Industrial School, facing the entrance to Old Park, (fn. 626) which in 1874 was a place for training girls for domestic service. (fn. 627)
Devizes Secondary (later Grammar) school, for both sexes, was opened in Bath Road in 1906. (fn. 628) The building, designed by R. E. Brinkworth, is of Bath stone faced with Newbury bricks. Initially it provided space for 120 children and was furnished with a laboratory and art room. (fn. 629) By 1919 the school had outgrown these premises and in 1920 a house on the opposite side of the road, renamed Braeside in 1921, was acquired as an extension. In this extension the headmaster lived until 1932, and a preparatory school was maintained until 1938. Congestion continued and minor enlargements were made to meet it. These proving insufficient, plans for a school in Southbroom Park had been drawn by 1945. (fn. 630) In 1969 the school was fused with Southbroom Secondary school, the buildings of which were consequently enlarged. Together they have since formed a comprehensive school on the Southbroom site under the name of the Devizes School. In January 1973 there were 1,373 pupils on the roll. (fn. 631)
One new educational charity was founded in the later 19th century. Ann Sophia Slade, widow, of Bath, by will proved 1887, left £50, the surplus income of which was to be paid to the Town Schools. (fn. 632) The history of the older charities in that century and the next is as follows. One-third of Bancroft's until the Education Act, 1891, was applied to the week-day education of boys who were members of the New Baptist chapel Sunday school, all of whom in practice attended the British School. By Scheme of 1893 this third was applied to prizes for such children attending any of the Devizes schools (fn. 633) and was so used in 1971. (fn. 634) Between 1888 and 1896 three-sevenths of Mary Eyles's charity were applied to educating six children at the Town Schools. (fn. 635) After that its educational element seems temporarily to have ceased. (fn. 636) Eleanor Powell's charity, which until 1891 had been paid over to the Town Schools, was afterwards spent on clothing 13 girls. (fn. 637) In 1901 the income of the non-Baptist share of Bancroft's (fn. 638) charity and Imber's, (fn. 639) Wadsworth's, (fn. 640) Wild's, (fn. 641) and Woodruff's (fn. 642) charities and the Angel rent (fn. 643) were paid to the Town Schools. It is uncertain whether this was then true of Slade's. In 1949 all these eight charities, excluding Wild's but including the site of the old Sheep Street school and the profits on the sale of the Maryport Street school, were vested in the Salisbury Diocesan Council of Education, (fn. 644) who apply the income to the council's general purposes, mainly the provision of better church schools throughout the diocese. (fn. 645) The Angel rent was redeemed in 1972. (fn. 646) Wild's charity remained separate. In 1970 and for many years before it was distributed in rotation to the schools in the town. (fn. 647)
A part of Mary Eyles's charity seems to have been again put to school use by 1905 and was so applied in 1915. (fn. 648) In 1966 the managers of St. Peter's School were made trustees of what was then named the Mary Eyles educational charity (fn. 649) and were administering it in 1971, when it was of the approximate capital value of £334. The income was then distributed equally between St. Peter's, Southbroom junior, and Southbroom infants' schools. (fn. 650)
Devizes has had numerous private schools. 'Perhaps no town of its size', said a writer in 1920, 'has . . . been better provided for in this respect'. Fifty separate establishments could then be listed as well as sixteen houses in Long Street which had once been schools. (fn. 651)
The first schoolkeeper to be noticed is Timothy Sacheverell, an ejected Presbyterian and sometime vicar of Enford. After settling in Devizes in 1672 he conducted a girls' boarding school there until his death in 1680. (fn. 652) About 1770 the Revd. J. L. Fenner (d. 1795), Independent minister, set up a school at no. 40 Long Street. Among its pupils were Fenner's nephew, the diarist Crabb Robinson, (fn. 653) Robert Waylen, the cloth manufacturer, and possibly Sir Thomas Lawrence. (fn. 654) That school was replaced by one conducted by Richard Biggs (fn. 655) held in 1822–3 in High Street (fn. 656) and moved by 1830 to Lansdowne House, Long Street. (fn. 657) By 1839 Richard had been joined by his son R. W. Biggs (LL.D. Dublin, 1847), a Baptist. (fn. 658) The school later moved to Wilsford House, also in Long Street. (fn. 659) In the later 1840s it aimed to prepare boys for the universities and had an unusually wide curriculum and somewhat unorthodox disciplinary system. (fn. 660) Roughly contemporary were the school of the Hon. Charlotte Kerr for little children where fluency in French was a speciality, and that of George Evans held between 1839 and c. 1861 for 60–70 boys at Eastbourne House, Bridewell Street. (fn. 661)
In 1859 the Devizes Proprietary Grammar School Co. Ltd. was formed. (fn. 662) Soon afterwards it opened a school in a building in Long Street, later to become part of the museum. (fn. 663) It closed in 1871 (fn. 664) and that year the Revd. S. S. Pugh (d. 1899), (fn. 665) minister of the New Baptist chapel, set up a school in his house, no. 3 Lansdowne Grove, providing 'advanced education for boys'. In 1874 the school moved to Heathcote House, the Green, and by 1879 had changed its name to Devizes Grammar School. It remained in the hands of the founder's sons until 1917 when it was transferred to J. Thurnham. (fn. 666) It was closed in 1920 (fn. 667) and the buildings sold to the county council. (fn. 668)
A high-class girls' school was kept by Mrs. Elliott, wife of the Congregational minister, in the mid 19th century in no. 41 Long Street, the house taken over by the Proprietary Grammar School c. 1862 (see above). The girls then moved into no. 32 Long Street for a time. (fn. 669) From c. 1877 there was another girls' school at no. 40 Long Street transferred there by the Misses Farmer from Bridewell Street. It closed in 1905 but before then had moved, for in 1902 no. 40 Long Street was acquired as an extension to the museum. (fn. 670) A school drawing girls from all parts of the county was conducted by Miss Elizabeth Bidwell and her niece for about 30 years until 1901. It had premises in no. 9 New Park Street, successively the home of John Tylee the brewer (d. 1812) and the former White Hart inn, and later in Brownston House. (fn. 671) Another girls' school founded in 1870 by Miss Davies lasted until 1937. It occupied four different sites, two in Long Street and two in the Market Place. After 1886 it was named Parnella House. (fn. 672) A Roman Catholic 'middle class' girls' school was carried on in St. Joseph's Convent from c. 1889 until 1969. (fn. 673)
A somewhat unusual school was that founded by the Misses Bennett and Miss Cole who came to Devizes in 1886. Ada Bennett opened a school at no. 19 Long Street, the other two at Meath Lodge, Potterne Road. Later the two schools moved to separate houses in St. John's Street, and later still Ada's school moved to no. 12 Market Place. The schools, which were financially independent of one another, were called 'Devizes College and High School'. Miss Bennett and Miss Cole sold their interest c. 1897–8 to a Miss Horne who renamed the establishment the High School. (fn. 674) Ada Cole continued to run her school for boys and girls until c. 1914. (fn. 675) Stephen Reynolds, an alumnus, described the headmistress as a 'genius among teachers'. (fn. 676)
By 1864 there was a 'successful' night school for men and boys in St. John's parish (fn. 677) and at about the same time there seems also to have been one for women. (fn. 678) By 1867 there was a Government School of Art held at the assize courts, (fn. 679) and by 1880 a 'branch' school in the Town Hall. (fn. 680) By 1889 these institutions were renamed the Government School of Science and Art. (fn. 681) The school was thereafter maintained by the borough technical committee, with county council support, under the Technical Instruction Acts, 1889 and 1891. (fn. 682) By 1895 it possessed 'workshops' in the former premises of the British School, (fn. 683) and in 1898 a chemical laboratory and art room. (fn. 684) The buildings were sold in 1906 and the proceeds surrendered to the county council towards the erection of the Secondary school in which the functions of the 'government' school were absorbed. (fn. 685) A Further Education Institute was maintained in the town between 1955 and 1960, when it moved to the Southbroom site and became the Devizes branch of the West Wilts. and Trowbridge College of Further Education. Since 1971 this has been called Trowbridge Technical College. (fn. 686)
Charities for the Poor and Highways.
The ancient chantry lands of Devizes have a complicated and puzzling history. St. Mary's owned some land in the Middle Ages designed for church maintenance, (fn. 687) and land was attached to chantries in both churches. (fn. 688) There was also almshouse property. Over all the charitable lands the borough, itself a landowner, at times exercised a superiority as trustees, which makes it hard to determine the legal owner at any given time. (fn. 689)
Soon after the chantries were dissolved in 1548 some of their lands were granted away by the Crown. In 1549 a small part of the younger John Coventry's chantry in St. Mary's was given to John Berwick of Easton, one of Lord Seymour's servants, (fn. 690) and to Robert Freke, (fn. 691) and in 1555 most of the St. Mary's chantry lands went to William Allen, of Calne, and his son Roger. (fn. 692) Most of the Cardmaker lands in St. John's seem to have escaped confiscation, (fn. 693) though a small parcel was given in 1590 to William Tipper and Robert Dawe. (fn. 694) Some other lands, of uncertain connexion but probably obit lands, were given in 1575 to John Herbert and Andrew Palmer, a London goldsmith, contingent upon proof that they were concealed before 1570. (fn. 695) In 1586 the burgesses began to acquire some of this alienated property. First they procured a Crown grant of some of the land to feoffees to hold to their use. They alleged, in some cases perhaps rightly, that the property was not chantry land at all but had been unlawfully 'plucked' from the borough. (fn. 696) Thenceforth they seem to have been the de facto owners, (fn. 697) and in 1610 they received the lands in fee. The lands were in just under 80 parcels, mainly in Devizes, more or less equally divided, where there is any indication, between the two Ports, but with a little in Bishop's Cannings, Rowde, and Marlborough. (fn. 698) In 1629 the burgesses secured 23 further parcels, all in the borough, which had gone to the Allens in 1555 and had subsequently passed through various hands. These were held for them by sixteen feoffees. (fn. 699)
Thus by the late 16th century the corporation had much old chantry land either in fee or in trust, and to it more trust properties were added. Like other corporations, however, they failed to keep the groups of trust lands distinct from one another or the trust lands as a whole from their own. The result was that when the borough charities came to be surveyed c. 1834 there was much uncertainty about the origins of the parcels. The more ancient trust lands were then grouped as follows: St. Mary's Church and Poor Lands, St. John's Church and Poor Lands, and the Old and New Alms-houses. (fn. 700)
St. Mary's Church and Poor Lands then consisted of 39 parcels, mostly in Devizes but with 7 in Bishop's Cannings and 3 in Rowde. (fn. 701) About two-thirds of the income, which averaged £307 10s. between 1822 and 1832, had been immemorially spent on repairing the church, the rest on the poor. (fn. 702) About 1812 some of the charity moneys were used to rehouse the poor, as shown elsewhere. (fn. 703) The income was similarly applied throughout the 19th century, though from 1881, without legal warrant, some of it was used for the conduct of church services. In 1901 it was c. £420 gross. (fn. 704) By Scheme of 1902 the endowments were consolidated, a single body of trustees appointed, and the charity divided into Church and Alms-house branches. (fn. 705) This partition continues. The administration of the two branches since 1902 is referred to elsewhere. (fn. 706)
St. John's Church and Poor Lands consisted c. 1834 of 14 parcels in Devizes and 2 in Marlborough. The average annual income in 1815– 33 was £28 10s., which was spent on church maintenance. The income of the Marlborough property was divided between that object and poor relief. By 1901, largely it seems through the conversion of rack-rents into quit-rents and the exchange of one parcel for stock, the income of the charity had risen to £129. Of this £15 was given to the inmates of the Old and New Alms-houses, £10 towards the general expenses of the Municipal Charities, and the rest to St. John's churchwardens. (fn. 707) Between 1903 and 1954 nearly 30 houses or plots in or near Devizes were sold and in 1913 and 1925 the Marlborough lands. (fn. 708) The present state of the charity is considered below with the other Municipal Charities.
Before 1451 Thomas Coventry had founded an alms-house in the town and by his will, dated that year, devised for life most of his Devizes lands to his relict on condition that she supported ten beds in the alms-house. Upon her death the land was to pass to the corporation with the same stipulation. Any surplus, subject to a yearly fee to the mayor, was to be applied to support the almspeople. (fn. 709) William Coventry, said to have been Thomas's brother, (fn. 710) by his will charged the lands of the chantry, which he founded in St. Mary's, with a payment of £1 13s. 4d., to four almswomen. That sum was being paid in 1548. (fn. 711) John Coventry, the younger (d. ante 1475), by his will charged the endowment of the chantry which he founded in St. Mary's with £4 to the almshouse poor. (fn. 712)
By 1552 there were two alms-houses in the town, the Old and the New. (fn. 713) Which of these was Coventry's foundation is uncertain, but reasonably good authority suggests that it was the new one. (fn. 714) In 1488 one of the alms-houses lay beside St. John's church. (fn. 715) In 1569 reference is made to two stewards of the Old Alms-house, (fn. 716) in 1573–6 to a warden, and in 1576 to two wardens of the new one. (fn. 717) In 1833 there were two wardens of each, all then common councillors. (fn. 718)
In 1614–15 new regulations for both alms-houses were promulgated by the corporation, and the Old Alms-house, formerly, it seems, of timber, was rebuilt in stone on a new site in 'the orchard'. (fn. 719) The salient points in the New Alms-house regulations were that the inmates, who might be of either sex, should be single, over 50, and have lived at least 20 years within the borough. They were to bring their own furniture which would remain the property of the house after their death. They were to attend church frequently, be of good behaviour, and clean their rooms. In the following year two London citizens contributed to the alms-house funds. (fn. 720)
When the Old Alms-house was investigated c. 1834 it stood in St. John's churchyard and was almost certainly the building of 1615 at the top of Estcourt Hill, which after 1896 became the sexton's house. Its four rooms were occupied by widows, two from each parish, who were without other relief. Two underground rooms were let by the overseers of St. John's to parish paupers. (fn. 721) A garden had existed since 1726. (fn. 722) The house was endowed with fifteen plots within the borough. (fn. 723) In 1896 seven cottages were bought in Sutton Place, which were converted into two-room alms-houses, and to them were transferred the inmates of the Old Almshouse. (fn. 724) In 1902 there were four widows receiving a weekly dole and fuel, and three men receiving nothing. The Municipal Trustees, who had meanwhile assumed the management, (fn. 725) no longer appointed a separate warden for each alms-house. After the paupers of St. John's were removed from St. John's Buildings members of the Old Alms-house seem to have shared them with the Eyles almsmen of St. John's. Some of these almspeople, as vacancies occurred, were moved into the Sutton Place almshouses nearby. (fn. 726) Mary Eyles's charity (fn. 727) was used to repair the building which was empty in 1973.
About 1834 the New Alms-houses stood where St. John's churchyard meets St. John's Court and consisted of a large common kitchen with 'sleeping places' on two sides of it. A lumber-room above was not then in use. (fn. 728) The house was endowed with three plots in the borough. (fn. 729) Not long before 1855 it was rebuilt, a process which revealed that it had been fashioned out of the stones of the Norman nave of St. John's. (fn. 730) Thereafter the whole house was open to the almspeople, who in 1901 were three women, chosen alternately from each parish, of no defined age and not necessarily drawn from the second poor. They received a weekly dole and coals. (fn. 731) In 1971 the building, which had been altered c. 1895, (fn. 732) formed two separate dwellings. (fn. 733)
By Scheme of 1904 the Old and the New Alms houses were formed into a trust distinct from the other Municipal charities, though the same body of trustees remained. The houses themselves were administratively united to provide homes for eight almswomen of at least two years' residence within the borough and normally unrelieved. At least half were to be widows. They were to receive weekly stipends to which the trustees might add benefits in kind and services. (fn. 734) In 1913 the Old and New were united with the Eyleses' alms-house charities. (fn. 735) Powers were taken to move the almspeople to other alms-houses, provided the Eyles almspeople always had three sets of rooms secured for them and bore their founder's name. The almspeople might be of either sex, and must be unrelieved before appointment and resident within St. John's parish for the two preceding years. (fn. 736)
By Scheme of 1933 the alms-house trustees were authorized to spend not more than £5,600 of their considerable capital in building twelve alms-houses in Southbroom parish, so as to provide for 22 almspeople in all. (fn. 737) As soon as these were ready, houses in Commercial Road, built in 1828 by St. Mary's parish, were to be given up and let at rack-rents. In future there were to be three Eyles almspeople of either sex, four married couples or single people of either sex, and the rest women. All must have a two-year residence qualification in the borough. All but seven must have small means, and all were to receive stipends and might receive extra benefits. Land in Sedgefield Gardens had been already bought for this rehousing and nos. 1–12 Sedgefield Gardens began to be built upon it in 1932. (fn. 738)
In 1940 the trustees were empowered to spend money on the conversion of the former 'New' Almshouses. Thereafter they received new benefactions. By will proved 1945 Henry Tratman left £1,000 for the erection and maintenance of new alms-houses, and by will proved 1955 Henry Tull left £10,000 for the erection of further alms-houses, preferably for pensioners. By Scheme of 1958 the trustees were authorized to build the Tull alms-houses which became nos. 13–18 Sedgefield Gardens. The occupants were to be pensioners and stipends became permissive. Finally under Scheme of 1970 the Sutton Place alms-houses were sold in 1971, qualification was reduced to mere residence in the borough, and the almspeople, who now ceased to receive stipends, might be required to contribute towards their own accommodation. In 1971 additional alms-houses were being built in Victoria Road. (fn. 739)
The stipends and other benefits enjoyed by the alms-people after the Reformation were in part drawn from the Church and Poor Lands of the two town parishes. (fn. 740) In addition the almspeople were entitled to some benefactions expressly provided for them. By 1614 William Boke had devised 6d. charged on lands in the town for six poor people in 'the alms-house'. (fn. 741) Though the money was long received it was not so applied but rested in the general poor account of St. Mary's. From 1834 to 1901 it was divided between the Old and New Alms-houses. (fn. 742) By will proved 1642 John Pierce (fn. 743) left £10 to each alms-house for fuel. The capital seems to have been held as part of the Alms-house funds and not to have been separately accounted for. (fn. 744) Before 1786 Mary Sellwood bequeathed £50 between the two almshouses and in 1750 Thomas Sutton £20 to the New Alms-house. The total of £70 was invested and yielded a small income to each alms-house in 1834 and 1901, the New Alms-house enjoying the larger share. (fn. 745) Before 1627 Anthony Hart or Hort had provided a legacy which yielded £1 yearly to the poor of 'the alms-house', apparently the new one. It was still received in 1836 but seems to have been lost soon after. (fn. 746)
After 1904 the alms-house trustees blent all the alms-house endowments including those for supporting the inmates. Between 1919 and 1928 they sold 16 houses or plots. (fn. 747) In 1970 the property, apart from the alms-houses themselves, consisted of just over 20 houses or plots, 2 rent-charges, and cash and investments of the nominal value of £19,000. (fn. 748)
By 1668 Sir John Eyles (d. 1703) had founded an alms-house in Short Street in St. Mary's parish in or near a 'gatehouse' there. (fn. 749) By his will, proved 1703, he settled the house, then consisting of eight rooms, in trust upon the poor of St. John's parish. It was used by them until 1829 (see below). Eyles also left two houses in Short Street for the poor of St. Mary's. (fn. 750) The separate origins of the two benefactions were indistinct c. 1834 and the early 19th century is a period of uncertainty in their history. (fn. 751)
The St. Mary's houses were rebuilt by the vestry in 1812 but pulled down again in 1828. (fn. 752) Both parishes built new combined alms-and poor-houses 1828–9. St. John's Buildings, erected 1829 and so called by 1885, housed Eyles almspeople in 6 of its 24 rooms. They shared the building with parish paupers and, after the Union workhouse was built in 1836, apparently with members of the Old Almshouse. (fn. 753) Thenceforward the history of the Eyles almspeople of St. John's is traced with that of the Old and New Alms-houses. (fn. 754) In 1828 St. Mary's built premises on a site at New Town in Commercial Road. (fn. 755) They consisted of a two-storeyed brick building of two blocks, facing one another across a garden. Each block contained sixteen rooms. Two rooms were assigned to each inmate and four pairs of rooms, the first floor of the north block in 1901, represented Eyles's benefaction and the building was so inscribed. Both men and women, sometimes married couples, occupied it c. 1834, and then and in 1901 all were paupers. (fn. 756) In 1911 those not on the Eyles foundation were removed (see below) and the Eyles almspeople left in sole possession of the site at New Town. By Scheme of 1913 the management of the Eyles alms-house was fused with that of the Old and New Alms-houses and by Scheme of 1933 the trustees were authorized to abandon the Commercial Road building and rack-rent it. (fn. 757) Thenceforth the story of the St. Mary's Eyles almshouse charity is absorbed in that of the Old and New Alms-houses. (fn. 758)
Mary Eyles, by deed of 1704, settled in trust a rent of £8 charged upon the Elm Tree inn. Of this rent £1 4s. was to be used to buy fuel for six poor women living in Sir John Eyles's alms-houses. The residue was for clothing (fn. 759) and teaching. (fn. 760) The inn was sold c. 1886, the rent-charge redeemed, and the proceeds invested in stock. From 1888 to 1896 four-sevenths of the income was applied in equal shares to poor women of the two town parishes, not necessarily almspeople. Thereafter until at least 1901 this share was used for repairing not these but the alms-houses in St. John's parish, which had been much neglected. (fn. 761) By Scheme of 1905 the trustees were authorized to spend the share on repairing the Eyles alms-house (fn. 762) and by Scheme of 1913 the whole charity was amalgamated with those of the Old and New Alms-houses and with Sir John Eyles's alms-house charity. (fn. 763)
When in 1902 the St. Mary's Church and Poor Lands charity was divided into two, the almshouse branch was set apart for the support of a block of alms-houses for the use of eight persons, four of whom might be married couples. All the inmates were to be unrelieved Devizes residents of not less than five years' standing, preferably from St. Mary's parish, and all were to receive stipends. (fn. 764) Between 1904 and 1913 the trustees sold some fifteen houses or plots. (fn. 765) By these complicated arrangements a new alms-house was founded out of lands which in part had been given not for an alms-house but for general eleemosynary purposes and the Eyles's charities were detached from the parish to which they originally belonged.
The almspeople not on the Eyles foundation, who were removed from New Town in 1911, were housed in eight purpose-built alms-houses lying beside the canal to the east of Victoria Road. (fn. 766) Thus were created St. Mary's Alms-houses. They were enlarged in 1925 by four additional sets, (fn. 767) and by 1948 had been renamed St. Mary's Gardens. (fn. 768) The branch was regulated by Schemes of 1961 and 1968, the second of which authorized the almspeople to contribute towards their own support. (fn. 769) The trustees of the charity continued to sell off their land. Between 1919 and 1970 nearly 50 dwellings or plots were sold. (fn. 770) By the second year the property had been reduced to barely a dozen plots, yielding £714 net in rent. Stock was held of the market value of £57,857 and yielded £2,900. (fn. 771)
By Scheme of 1902 the church branch income was to be paid to the rector and churchwardens for the maintenance, repair, and insurance of the church fabric and for churchyard maintenance. By Scheme of 1921 not more than £100 of the branch income might be paid to an assistant curate's fund. Schemes of 1949 and 1970 amended this provision so as to secure that not more than £200 and £300 respectively of the branch income might be used to augment the rector's stipend. (fn. 772) In 1970 this branch received five-eighths of the total income and the alms-house branch the rest. (fn. 773)
Between 1927 and 1930 William Richard Helms, farmer, of Frome Selwood (Som.), built four cottage homes in Commercial Road, facing the east end of St. Mary's church, for eight poor persons, resident in Devizes for at least five years, who might be either married couples, two sisters, or single persons aged 60. By declaration of trust of 1930 all were to receive weekly stipends. By Scheme of 1964 the land on which the homes were built was slightly reduced for the benefit of the charity. (fn. 774)
By Scheme of 1961 provision was made for homes for old people at as low a rent 'as is economically consistent with good management'. This Scheme regulated the bequest of Samuel Harry Ward (d. 1952), successively of Devizes and Bournemouth, who subject to a life interest left three-quarters of the residue of his estate for this purpose. The bequest, then £8,972, became available in 1957 and the trustees built the 'Ward Homes' in Church Row, opened in 1961. (fn. 775) By the terms of the trust they are to be occupied by married couples, two sisters, or single persons all over 60. (fn. 776)
The Lucas and Brown charities, devoted, as they have been, to the relief of the old and sick, are best treated at this point. In 1882 Frances Mary Lucas settled in trust the Grange, Bridewell Street, (fn. 777) which she had established as a day-nursery for working-class infants. By will proved 1886 she left £4,500 towards maintaining the nursery and pensioning, if need be, its existing or a future matron. Should the nursery be discontinued £2,000 was to be raised from the investments and applied equally to the cottage hospital and the dispensary. (fn. 778) The residue was to go to repairing the Grange and supporting aged women. (fn. 779) Under Schemes of 1909 and 1910 the nursery was closed and the building became a home for needy old women of the borough. From 1922 to c. 1956 it also housed, in conformity with the Scheme, a nurse attending the sick poor. She was partially supported out of the fund, which, since the dispensary had closed, could not be paid to it. By Scheme of 1952 £30 of the income was to be spent on medical supplies and comforts and domestic help for the sick poor, or generally for the relief of suffering. The building was vacated in 1971 and the almswomen moved to the Victoria Road alms-houses. (fn. 780) The trustees, however, still owned it and enjoyed an income of about £100, spent in doles to the alms-women, then numbering four, and the maintenance of the building. (fn. 781)
By will proved 1896 Charlotte Brown left to the trustees of the Grange £400 to provide a trained nurse for the borough poor. The benefaction was invested as £343 and the interest (£9) was at first paid to the Devizes Nursing Society, which the testatrix had founded. By 1910 the capital had been merged in the Lucas charity. (fn. 782)
Three highway charities have been known. William Salter, by will dated 1404, left a house in trust subject to life interests, (fn. 783) William Page, of Devizes, by will proved 1542, ewes and lambs, an optimistic endowment, (fn. 784) and John Pierce, by will proved 1642, £50. (fn. 785) Of the first two charities no more is heard. The third was being paid c. 1834 but had been lost by c. 1870, perhaps, as was suggested in 1901, because it lapsed when the corporation became the highway authority. (fn. 786)
There have also been at least eleven loan charities, but a like fate has overcome them all. (fn. 787) In 1587 Walter Keymes, rector of Compton Bassett, gave £20 for interest-free loans to 20 poor handicraftsmen each year. In 1594 Anne, relict of Sir Henry Sharington of Lacock, settled £40 to provide like loans of £2, payable in alternate years, to 20 clothworkers. At the same time she founded a sermon charity. (fn. 788) It was found in 1630 that interest on the loans was being charged and the practice was interdicted. (fn. 789) In 1603 Hugh Attwell, parson of St. Tew (Cornw.), left £1 6s. 8d. for yearly loans to poor artificers and handicraftsmen. Before 1614 John Archard or Orchard, a Lyneham clothier, gave £10 to be lent in moieties to poor tradesmen. (fn. 790) In 1616 Sir Henry Baynton, of Bromham, left £20 to be lent yearly in sums of 6s. 8d. to three artificers or tradesmen, and £10 to be lent in sums of £2 or £5 to five or two such persons. In 1620 the Virginia Company gave £40 to be spent in loans of £6 13s. 4d. of three years' duration for six artificers and tradesmen and for apprenticing. In 1622 Thomas Shepperd, of Seend, left £10 for loans, at ½ per cent, to poor artificers and tradesmen, which in practice was lent in sums of £5 to two persons. In 1623 Ralph Pierce, of Hilmarton, gave £5 to the poor, which was yearly lent at the same interest to an artificer or tradesman. In 1624 William Barrett, a London merchant, son of a Devizes man, gave £5 for interest-free loans. (fn. 791) In 1631 Robert Hyde, of Hatch, gave £10 for like loans to leather-workers. It is said that in 1647 Edward Northey gave £24 for such loans. (fn. 792) The capital of all these charities, apart from Northey's, was intact in 1663 (fn. 793) but is not heard of again. In 1614 36 people were drawing upon the Keymes, Sharington, Archard, and Attwell charities. (fn. 794) In 1622 22 people drew £1 apiece repayable in the following year. (fn. 795)
The charities paid in food, clothing, and doles are or have been numerous and have naturally survived longer than the foregoing. Richard Gobett's benefaction, (fn. 796) which became a bread charity, had been distributed for 150 years before c. 1834. The feast of St. Thomas, however, had replaced the Friday after Epiphany as dole-day. (fn. 797) In 1901 the charity was thought to have been merged in the stipends paid to the New Town almspeople. (fn. 798) An annual dole of 8s. 4d. on Good Friday, founded by Thomas Newman and Robert Paynter, was paid in 1525–6 and 1533–4, (fn. 799) but not afterwards. Newman may have been a chantry priest. (fn. 800)
Most highlighted among Devizes charities is Coventry's dole. (fn. 801) Tradition, as recorded in 1786, declares that a destitute vagrant of that name, passing through the town, was given a loaf by a baker. The vagrant, having made his fortune in London, directed that a loaf should be given yearly on a fixed day to everyone then present in the town. The funds, whatever they were, were administered by the corporation, who between 1586 and 1786 paid out varying sums to meet the alleged requirements of the charity. An attempt made in 1663 to limit the expenses and to exclude 'taxpayers' from the benefit proved abortive. In 1786 Archduke Ferdinand of Austria and his wife, passing through Devizes, were 'tickled' at receiving the dole. Next year the corporation abolished it, though it was decided during the 'scarcity' of 1802 that a payment in lieu might be made out of borough funds, (fn. 802) and even the chamberlains of 1835–6, in their austere report, budgeted for its resumption. (fn. 803)
By will proved 1564 Robert Drew or Trew, of Southbroom, gave the poorest people of Devizes 20s. out of his lands in Devizes to be dispensed by his widow and after her death by the mayor. (fn. 804) No more is known of this, but by 1618 another Robert Drew was paying to the churchwardens of St. John's 9s. yearly left to the poor by his father John. This sum was being received c. 1834 and was applied to relieve the poor-rate. In 1900 it was still received and in St. John's parish was used on gifts of calico in lieu of the flannel formerly bought. In St. Mary's it was added to the Nicholas charities. (fn. 805) It survives. (fn. 806)
Henry Morris, by will proved 1573, gave £1 to the poor charged upon his Bromham lands. The rent was withheld until 1618 when it was recovered by Chancery suit. (fn. 807) About 1834 it was used to relieve the poor-rate in both parishes, in 1901 it formed part of the Thurman group of charities, (fn. 808) and consequently was subsequently administered by the Municipal Trustees. The rent was unredeemed in 1970. (fn. 809) In 1625 Thomas Poller, of Devizes, gave land in Bridewell Street, apparently in perpetuity, to repair St. John's church and relieve St. John's poor. (fn. 810) It is not heard of again. The Angel rent, presumably named after an inn, (fn. 811) was being received in 1618, (fn. 812) and in 1625, when it amounted to £4, was paid in doles and clothing. (fn. 813) About 1834, when it formed part of the Thurman group of charities, it was worth £4 and was payable to the poor of the two parishes in moieties. (fn. 814) From 1858 it was applied to the boys' Town School and remained educational. (fn. 815) Between 1630 and c. 1834 5s. was paid out of 'Read's house' to St. John's parish and in the latter year formed part of the Thurman group of charities. (fn. 816) It is not mentioned again. In 1634 Elizabeth Strangwidge gave £40 in trust to the corporation, which, after deduction for a sermon, was to be spent on clothing the poor. About 1834, when it was administered with the Thurman group, the income of 38s. was divided equally between the two parishes. (fn. 817) Griffin Nicholas, by will dated 1634, gave £150 to St. Mary's, the interest on which (£9) had for many years before c. 1834 been used to clothe the poor. (fn. 818) He also gave £50 to the poor of St. John's parish. (fn. 819) In 1638 Michael Nicholas gave £5 divisible between the two parishes, which c. 1834 produced 6s. for each. (fn. 820)
Besides his other benefactions, (fn. 821) John Pierce, by will proved 1642, left £40 to St. John's parish for clothing and bedding for the needy. (fn. 822) By 1901 the charity was administered with the three Nicholas charities (fn. 823) and so remained in 1962. (fn. 824) About 1645 Samuel Martin had entrusted to the corporation £10 for the poor of both parishes. About 1834, as one of the Thurman group, it yielded 6s. for each. (fn. 825) In 1650 Robert Nicholas, judge of the Upper Bench and later borough recorder, gave £30 to the poor of both parishes. Of that total £20 was intended for St. Mary's to which parish the same donor added £10 in 1652. The corporation, however, admitted c. 1834 to having received only £20, which apparently yielded 6s. to St. John's and 12s. to St. Mary's. (fn. 826)
Before 1657 a Mrs. Grubbe had given £5 to St. John's which yielded 6s. By 1667 St. Mary's was administering the income on £25 which the same donor had left for clothing the poor. In 1669 the interest seems to have been spent on St. Mary's bells. (fn. 827) The charity then disappears. (fn. 828) About 1670 Robert Walter left £20, out of which 17s. 4d. was paid to the St. Mary's poor according to his will. (fn. 829) In 1670 Mary Collier left the same sum, yielding the same, to St. John's poor, together with money for a sermon charity. (fn. 830) About 1834 these formed part of the Thurman group of charities. (fn. 831) Sir John Eyles, by will proved 1703, left two houses in St. Mary's parish for the parish poor and also three sums of £60 to the poor of the two town parishes and St. James's. (fn. 832) The money was to be invested in land, and, until it had been, Sarah, his relict, was to pay £3 to each parish out of the estate. The fate of the two houses is narrated elsewhere. (fn. 833) The other charity moneys seem never to have been sunk in land. At sundry times, however, up to 1776 Eyles's heirs seem to have paid sums of about £3 to St. Mary's and these were spent on cloth. Nothing was being received c. 1834 and the charity seems thereafter to have been lost. (fn. 834) The benefaction to St. John's, stated in 1724 to have been £80 yielding £4, was then applied to the church debt and in 1739 and 1746 to cloth. Thereafter it is lost. (fn. 835) It was thought c. 1834 that Eyles's bequest to St. James's had been used to rebuild some houses left to the chapelry by an unknown donor. (fn. 836)
By declaration of trust of 1704 Mary Eyles provided that £3 of the rent-charge which she had left for various purposes should be used to distribute annually linen shifts to 20 poor women of the borough not being beggars, and 16s. to augment other charities apart from her fuel charity. Shifts were still being distributed c. 1834 and the residue applied to teaching. When the property bearing the rent-charge was sold in 1888 four-sevenths were paid until 1896–7 equally to the two parishes to provide fuel or flannel for poor women. After 1896–7 the money was used for alms-house repair. (fn. 837) About 1705 John Rogers gave £10 to the poor of both parishes apparently to buy cloth. Payments, when stated, of 10s. seem to have been received by St. John's in 1705 and by St. Mary's until 1723. Both charities are then lost. (fn. 838)
By will proved c. 1696 Richard Hiller or Hillier left £20, the income to be distributed in cloth to the poor of both parishes on St. Andrew's day. St. John's was receiving 10s. yearly c. 1834; payments to St. Mary's seem to have ceased much earlier. The charity formed part of the Thurman group. About 1707 Edward Want left £10, the income to buy bread for the poor of St. John's on St. Thomas's day. Valued at 10s., it seems to have been so applied until 1749 and possibly thereafter. By c. 1834 it was lost. (fn. 839) In 1720 Eleanor Phillips gave a rent of 52s. charged on land in Rowde to purchase 2d. loaves for six poor unrelieved church-going women of St. Mary's parish on Sundays. (fn. 840) It survives. (fn. 841) In 1728 a Mrs. Kent left £20 for bread for the poor, apparently of St. John's parish, on Christmas Day. It was paid in doles between 1731 and 1745 and was thereafter lost. (fn. 842) In 1739 John Gifford, ironmonger, is said to have given £10 to the St. John's poor for 'bread on St. Thomas's day'. This never seems to have been paid. (fn. 843) James Miln, by will proved 1759, gave £100 to be invested for the purchase of 3d. loaves on Sunday to church-goers of St. John's parish. For a time in the 18th century the income was incorrectly paid to St. Mary's parish. About 1834 it was being distributed in loaves to poor widows of St. John's each Sunday with a bonus distribution at Easter. In 1901 it was given to poor church-going widows on Sundays. (fn. 844) By will dated 1770 Joan Bisse left the same sum to be distributed in bread to the poor of St. John's parish twelve months from her death. Since the parish would not accept the bequest, her niece, Ann Blagdon, by will dated 1773, left a rent of £4, charged on her lands in Steeple Ashton, for the distribution of 3d. loaves to the same beneficiaries. The income was so distributed c. 1834 and 1901 in conjunction with Miln's charity. (fn. 845) Both charities survive. (fn. 846) About 1760 Thomas Thurman (fn. 847) gave £200 to buy shirts or shifts for the unrelieved poor of both parishes. By c. 1834 it had become one of several charities which were administered together, the income whereon was paid to 49 men and 49 women of both parishes in clothing, bread, and rent doles. In 1888, after their then recent transfer from the Municipal Charity Trustees to the two parishes, the various capital sums were reinvested as £188. The income, with that from Drew's charity, was spent in 1901 on calico. (fn. 848) Besides his educational and sermon charities, Thomas Bancroft of Bristol, by will proved 1774, left £500 for the benefit of 20 men of each parish. The capital was invested and the income used, as directed by the testator, to provide doles in April and blue cloth in October. Shortly before 1834 the two charities had been blent and were being spent wholly on cloth. The moneys were afterwards reinvested as £1,247, which became £1,260 upon further reinvestment in 1885–6. In 1901 the income was £33 and was divided equally between the parishes. It was used towards buying coats. (fn. 849) It survives and is valued at £25–£50 yearly. (fn. 850) Before 1786 one Taylor gave a rent charged on land in Rowde to provide bread for the unrelieved poor of St. Mary's parish. It was so used c. 1834 but in 1901 was in practice confined to Anglican widows, most of whom were relieved. (fn. 851) It survives. (fn. 852)
Sarah Wadsworth, besides her educational charity, (fn. 853) left, by will proved 1854, £100 for bread each Sunday for six poor church-going women of St. Mary's parish. The capital was eventually invested and used in 1901 together with Phillips's and Taylor's charities for bread to poor widows on Sundays. (fn. 854) It survives. (fn. 855) Ann Biggs, by will proved 1860, left £50 for poor church-goers of St. John's. In 1901 the income was £1 2s. and was spent on flannel and calico. (fn. 856) It survives. (fn. 857) By will proved 1881 Sarah Anne Williams Lucas, of Bristol, left £12,000 to provide pensions to poor women nominated in rotation by the representatives of five nonconformist churches, of whom the minister of the Devizes Strict Baptist chapel should be one. In 1971 it yielded £295. (fn. 858) Frank Simpson, successively of Devizes and Fulham (Mdx.), by will proved 1897, left the residue of his estate, subject to a life interest, for the poor. The funds were transferred in 1917 and in 1922 were represented by £1,330. By Scheme of 1923 the income was to be used to assist sick or unfortunate people with medical or surgical attention. George Simpson, successively of Devizes and Forest Row (Suss.), by will proved 1945, (fn. 859) left £1,000 for the sick and needy of the borough, and in 1936 Dr. Leonard Raby, successively of Devizes and Southbourne (Hants), gave £300 to the poor of the borough, especially for comforts to children and old people. These three charities are regulated by Scheme of 1946. (fn. 860) Maud Edith Cunnington, by will proved 1951, left £200 towards feeding deserving vagrants passing through the town. (fn. 861) It survives.
A body of Municipal Charity Trustees was formed in 1836 to administer those charities which, before the Municipal Corporations Act prohibited such a practice, had been managed by the corporation. (fn. 862) These were the Church and Poor Lands of St. John's, Pierce's gifts for St. John's, Thurman's charity and others consolidated with it, the Old and New Alms-houses and their associated charities, and the charities of Morris, Maynard, Hort, Smith, and Wild. The trustees survive but have lost some of their original responsibilities and gained new ones. They no longer administer the Maynard and Smith charities, but have acquired the Ellinor Pitt charity. That charity appears to have been established by 1738 but nothing is known of it until it was regulated by Scheme of 1909. The capital was then £743, and the income (£19) was to provide pensions for unrelieved widows, each pension to be payable for not less than three and not more than six years. In 1970 one pensioner received the bulk of the income but in 1971 it was not being distributed. (fn. 863) In 1970 the trustees acquired the almshouses, though they administer them as a distinct trust. In 1970 the non-alms-house charities held two or three houses and stock of the nominal capital value of £7,032. Of the income the largest share (£369) was paid to the churchwardens of St. John's in respect of St. John's Church lands. The rest, apart from the Wild and Pitt charities mentioned elsewhere, (fn. 864) was divided in shares of £13, £11, and £8 between the two poor funds and the rector respectively. All are spent on church maintenance, poor relief, and parochial care. (fn. 865)
Before their separation from Bishop's Cannings the people of Southbroom presumably benefited from all the charities of that parish. There is, however, evidence of two charities expressly assigned to Southbroom. By declaration of trust of 1757 Edward Rose and others assigned to the second poor of the chapelry a rent-charge grounded upon £20 formerly devised by unknown persons for the same purpose. The house whence the rent issued seems to have been demolished by c. 1834 and five houses to have been built upon the site possibly out of Sir John Eyles's charity to the chapelry. (fn. 866) The houses were then occupied by parish paupers and any income distributed in clothes to the second poor. (fn. 867) In 1901 the houses still existed and were let at low rents. (fn. 868) In 1910 any income was spent on a parish provident and children's clubs. (fn. 869)
It was stated in 1786 that 'Mr. Eyles', i.e. Sir John Eyles, had given £200 to the unrelieved poor of the chapelry, which yielded £8, and that Thomas Smith had given £10, yielding 10s. The former was said to be a rent-charge. No more is known of it. The second seems to have been immediately distributed and not to have constituted a perpetuity. (fn. 870) Some houses, other than those mentioned above, have been thought to have formed a charitable donation, but to have been sold to the Guardians in and after 1837. (fn. 871)
Annette Sarah Grindle, of Brighton, by will proved 1899, gave to the poor of St. Peter's parish £200 to be spent at the discretion of the vicar and churchwardens. In 1970 the income provided coal for six persons. (fn. 872)