Posts Tagged ‘Devizes’

A 1999 birthday card

July 3, 2016

A 1999 birthday card

My sister, as she got older, tried to avoid buying new things if a suitable second hand item could be bought. At times I reckon she took this too far but then, I guess she was happy.

And often what she found was appreciated. In 1999 she had found this older postcard of my local town of Devizes.


For some reason the main shopping street in Devizes is called The Brittox and this is it, or was, probably in the early 1950s.

This is much like the street looked when I first knew it in 1970 although the cars did look more modern by then. There are shops I remember like the local tailor, Robert Kemp with the more off the peg Foster Brothers next to it. I think Home and Colonial still operated, but the delivery bikes had probably gone by 1970.

These days this is a pedestrian street and shops have changed. These days we tend to have coffee shops and charity shops.

Nice memories of now long gone times.

On being photographed – Caen Hill locks

April 26, 2016

Chased by the paparazzi

Well not really, of course, but at time it almost felt like it. But here’s the word of advice. If you want to feel like a superstar chased by photographers then take a boat up the Caen Hill flight of locks near Devizes. Make sure it’s a decent day for weather and a weekend as well. Then be ready to pose.

Caen Hill locks are, of course, an unofficial wonder of the world. There are 29 locks in all, but 16 of them form what looks like a giant’s staircase with one lock seemingly built on the previous one. In the true canal sense this isn’t a staircase for a true staircase has no intervening stretches of canal between them. The Caen Hill flight has short pounds, as they are called between the top gate of one lock and the bottom gate of the next. To help with water management each pound opened out at the side to a large area – about an acre in extent. They make a haven for wildlife.

So here we see a swan’s nest by one of the locks and adjacent to one of the side pounds.


And here we see the boat we were helping on.


The boat has just left one lock and has almost reached the next one. The entrance to the side pound can be seen.

And here’s the boat in a lock near the bottom of the flight,


Passing through a lock takes the time it takes. There is nothing you can do to increase the speed at which water enters or drains out of a lock. So like our gallant lock workers here, sit on the beam and relax.


There were getting to be more canal watchers about. Once upon a time people watching canal boats were called gongoozlers. Soon we had them in droves.


That’s my wife at the back of the boat. She was in charge of the boat at the time. On the front is one of her old school friends. It must have been the men doing the work at that time.


The gathering gongoozlers watch and snap photos of our Boat (we don’t own it, it was hired). The boat is out of sight, deep in the lock.


I snap a photo of people taking photos of our boat. It was now lunch time, clearly the time for the boat watchers.


A pair of Canada geese are uninterested in people – unless they feed them.


This is an old school friend of mine – married to my wife’s old school friend. He’s resting on a beam again whilst a lock fills

Permanent moorings.


We moored here for a while to enjoy a spot of lunch. Our mooring was not permanent and had a 24 hour limit.

My photos don’t really convey the almost continuous sight of cameras of all kinds pointing at us as we worked the locks or the boat. I dare say we’ll be on dozens, even hundreds of personal pages by now.




The Gas Works

September 6, 2015

In the bad old days ‘town gas’ was made by cooking coal in a furnace without air so the coal couldn’t burn. Gas was driven off and could be collected and the solid that was left was still a burnable fuel always called coke. The gas often called town gas or coal gas was nasty stuff. One of its burnable products was the toxic carbon monoxide. The gas also had large amounts of hydrogen in it as well as a range of hydrocarbons.

In my local town of Devizes the gas works was sited alongside the canal. This was an obvious choice since coal could be brought in by canal boat although in my memory of the area, which only goes back to the 1970s the works itself was already closed. No doubt, towards the end of its life, coal had been brought by lorry and actually that was easier since lorries can tip whereas coal on a barge would have to be shovelled out.

Alongside the coking and gas plant there had to be storage tanks for the gas and gasworks always had gas holders, often called gasometers. And it’s the Devizes pair of these that we see today.


The gas holders consist of two parts. The base is fixed and a moveable top part can go up or down according to how much gas there is. The gasometer name (meter does mean measure) came about because the height of the holder gave an idea of the amount of gas inside.

Many people of an age will remember cricket commentator John Arlott commenting on the size of the gasometers by the Oval cricket ground.

The clever bit was that it was the weight of that top part which provided the pressure to pump gas to houses.

Those gas holders stayed in place until about 1990.

The fair in the Market Place

August 23, 2015

Devizes has been my local town for many a year. There have been times, now long ago, when I lived there and worked there. Back in the early 1970s I was happy to wander around with a camera and snap images. These were often black and white which I processed myself and here is one of them. It dates from about 1972.


Jennings Fair was and still is based in Devizes and so, not surprisingly there are fairs held on the green and sometimes, like on this occasion, in the Market Place. A big wheel no doubt provided riders with a good view down on the scene below but I never rode one in that location. This one is either being erected or taken down – I can’t remember which and it has to be said it looks quite flimsy in its incomplete form.

Other rides can be seen and on the left is a typical fair lorry – heavy, reliable and slow.

I think there are still fairs held in the Market Place in Devizes.

A pretty little building on Caen Hill

May 13, 2015

I call this a pretty little building, but then I like brick work. It stands at what was the entrance to the Caen Hill brick works on the edge of Devizes. Caen Hill is best known for the flight of 29 locks on the Kennet and Avon canal. Having bricks made more or less on site must have been useful to the canal builders. This little building, alongside a dual carriageway section of the A361 seems to have avoided much attention. image002 I have no real idea as to its purpose. I guess it might be a sort of gatehouse doubling up as an advert for the products made at the brickworks.

When I took this photo, in about 1970, the brickworks had closed but evidence of it was everywhere. For a long time the site was used as a ready-mix concrete depot. I have no idea what goes on there now. This entrance building is still there and was photographed by the google streetview team. image004 Can anyone tell me if my guess about original function is right? Please!

The Market Cross

April 27, 2015

My local town is, and has been for close on 45 years, Devizes in Wiltshire. When I drove into the Market Place the other day I was shocked by a structure I didn’t, at first, recognise. But then I was driving and concentrating on other traffic and pedestrians using the crossing.

I was able to park the car and get a photograph.


It proved to be the Market Cross under wraps. Presumably it is getting a bit of a spruce up.

Having lived in the area for 35 years I take these things for granted but I have found a photo I took of some classic cars around the Market Cross on a very wet day in May 2004.


You might notice there’s a metal plaque on the cross. That tells the tale of Ruth Pierce.

This extract is from A History Military and Municipal of the Ancient Borough of The Devizes, by James Waylen. 1859. It tells the tale of Ruth’s attempt to be dishonest and her rapid demise.


So let that be a lesson to one and all!

Hillworth Birds

March 27, 2015

The park in Devizes, known as Hillworth Park has had an aviary with pretty birds in it ever since I have lived in the area – and that’s 45 years. The park was recently revamped and is much more of a place to go than it used to be. The birds are still there and were given a splendid home. I don’t really like caged birds, but these have space to fly, to nest, to be on their own or with the crowd so I guess it isn’t an unpleasant environment for them. Of course they are well fed so one might say they don’t have a care in the world.

From time to time we took our children to see the budgerigars in the park. Now we take grandchildren and there is a wider variety of birds. Let’s start with a zebra finch.


All photos have to be taken through that hefty mesh. If your lens is large, the trick is to put the camera lens right on the mesh. As if by magic, the mash bars seem to vanish. There is one in that picture which shows faintly as a very blurred grey area. You can see it above and below the letter C on the feed tray.


Love birds or budgerigars?  The out of focus metal bars show up at left and right side. I could call it a form of vignetting.

This is a variety of sparrow. The aviary has a good board telling you what the birds are. My memory failed on that one. Is it a Java sparrow?


There are ground level scavengers in the form of pretty chickens. The board said they were silkies but I’m certain this is not a silkie.


Granddaughter enjoyed the birds – just like her dad and aunty had a generation earlier.

The Queen visited Devizes

October 4, 2014

Now I don’t claim to be much of a royalist. I’m not anti the royals as people. I’m sure they are, mostly, quite decent people. But I don’t think that somebody has a birth right to a top job just because their mum or dad had it before. I suppose if you wanted to attach a label to me you might say I believe in meritocracy. But having said that, if an opportunity comes along to see a top royal, then I’d take it. Once came along, for me, back in 1990. The queen came to my local home town of Devizes.

She came, largely, to declare the Kennet and Avon Canal re-opened and there was an outcome I was all in favour of. But whilst in the area, she also opened the new and extended leisure centre in Devizes.


My son, then a 12 year old local scout was asked to be part of a sort of welcoming corridor for the queen to walk through as she entered the leisure centre so my wife, daughter and I had to be there. I was just a part of the crowd.

The brochure for this event gave a list of all the dignitaries the queen was to meet and a precise timetable of events. The queen was to see the swimming pool, the disabled swimmers, and then tour other facilities to see and meet various athletes.

We were waiting – for we had had to arrive early, when a slightly worried table tennis player saw me in the crowd.

‘Can you come inside and play?’ she asked. ‘One of our players hasn’t turned up.’

So of course, I agreed. I had time to dash to a shop and buy a suitable shirt and some trainers. I couldn’t find a pair of shorts! I had to pass some kind of security check as well!

When the queen arrived to see four people playing table tennis, three were smartly dressed. I was wearing an ok shirt and trainers, but in between I was in jeans. We played a few rallies whilst our sovereign looked on. Then we had to line up in front of her and bow whilst she mumbled a few words at us.

So I sort of met the queen. This followed a bit of a family tradition for my dad had been properly introduced to her when she visited Crawley in 1958. He wasn’t what you’d call a royalist either.

I put it down as an experience that was a bit wasted on me – but at least I made sure table tennis was represented properly.

On the royalty business, I often compare myself with Charles.  He and I were born in the same month of the same year so I could say we have led parallel lives. When I was a child I was envious – jealous even of all his wealth and privilege. I couldn’t say when I realised that I was the lucky one and he has had a bit of a rough life by comparison. I could mention that I am now very happily retired from paid employment. He’s still waiting for his proper job! I was allowed to marry the person I wanted to. I’ll leave the other part of that unsaid. In so many ways, if I compare myself with our future King, I realise how tough life has been for him and how lucky I am by comparison.

And perhaps I could add that even though I object to privilege by right of birth, I have to say that Queen and many other leading royals have caught the mood of the people better than politicians. Maybe there is something to be said for the system!

Snuff Street

August 17, 2014

Industrial Devizes

For more than forty years, Devizes has been my local town. It has seen many changes in that time and today we are looking back to a time when Snuff Street still looked industrial.


Snuff Street turns directly off Devizes Market Place.

The name was based on the fact that the Anstie family had a tobacco and snuff factory there. As an avid anti smoker, I’ll say I am delighted it had closed by the time I knew the area and the old buildings were in use as a printing works.


Small cottages – straight onto the narrow pavement are mixed in with industrial buildings. Nowadays it is residential and commercial.

At the New Park Street end of Snuff Street there is a lovely large industrial building.


This was set up by a different member of the Anstie family and was originally a cloth mill. The building dates from 1785. These days this building is clean, spruce and gentrified. It still looks lovely, particularly from Its New Park Street frontage.

These Devizes industries are gone but not forgotten.

The pictures from the early 1970s were taken on my little Canon Demi camera.

Table Tennis

July 11, 2014

I may be the wrong side of retirement age, but I still play table tennis. I have now been a member of teams in the Devizes and District League for more than forty years. Within that league I’d say I’m a very average player and there’s no doubt that I am slower and even less mobile than I once was. But I still enjoy it.

These days technology plays a big part in the game. People who don’t play would be stunned by how much difference having the right bat makes. They’d be amazed at the bewildering variety of blade materials and rubbers you can stick on them. Non players tend to rubbish the idea that it can make much difference to a player, but be assured, it really does.

I’m a spinny, defensive player, rather than an attacking ‘hit it hard’ person. I need a bat which grips the ball so that you can impart as much spin as possible. But being mean, I also need a cheap bat. You could spend well over a hundred quid on a bat.

But it wasn’t always so and today I shall show a bat that is now totally illegal because one side isn’t red and the other isn’t black and the rubbers aren’t stamped with the mark of a recognised table tennis association.


This bat has an early 60s look to me. One of the greats of UK table tennis, Chester Barnes, played with bats of that shape and, as a result, so did many others.

The added bonus on this bat is the local, Devizes commotion.


The handle is clearly stamped ‘Cole & Son Devizes & Chippenham.

Devizes folks will remember their shop in the Market Place. It’s good to have a reminder.