James Waylen.

Chronicles of the Devizes, being a history of the castle, parks and borough of that name; with notices statistical, parliamentary, ecclesiastic, and biographical online

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Online LibraryJames WaylenChronicles of the Devizes, being a history of the castle, parks and borough of that name; with notices statistical, parliamentary, ecclesiastic, and biographical → online text (page 1 of 24)
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59, Museum Street.


The object and character of a work bearing the title
of the present must be so obvious to all, that preface
seems hardly necessary except for the purpose of saying
a few words on the sources of information, and paying
that just tribute of respect which is due to the gentlemen
who have assisted me in the undertaking.

The history of this Country during the middle ages
has already derived much elucidation from the publishing
of the Tower- Records; and although it will remain com-
paratively defective till that publication is complete, yet
to have deferred the history of Devizes till such a doubt-
ful period should arrive, would have been a virtual re-
linquishing of the task.

The observations in the municipal department are taken
in a great measure from the reports lately published by
Government. With regard to such as are not, I think
it only necessary to say that they have been drawn up
with considerable care, and with an anxious desire to
offend no living man.

A great deal has been written about Wiltshire and its
antiquities, but I cannot help thinking that no writer has
sufficiently studied the moral influence which its inhabi-
tants and principal families have ever exercised in the
revolutions of the state. With this view, much might
have been added and many names introduced in the pre-
sent work, with reference to the great civil wars : but I
willingly leave this point to be more ably discussed by
Mr. Hatcher, in his forthcoming work on Salisbury. To
this gentleman I am indebted for the whole of the docu-
ments relative to the disposal of the Castle under Bishop
Joceline's prelacy.

The other gentlemen who have supplied me with
valuable materials are the Rev. Edward James Phipps,
Mr. Paul Anstie, Mr. George Anstie, and Mr. T. B.
Smith, of Devizes and Mr. Britton of London.






WHEN undertaking to give the history of
nations or smaller communities, historians and
biographers have always exhibited the very
natural desire to begin if possible at the begin-
ning. Their repugnance to the idea of raising a
" baseless fabric " is such, that when unable to
discover a legitimate and undoubted origin ;
their next step has been to set about manufac-
turing one. Such practices, to be sure, are
becoming less and less available in the present
day, when writers who presume to venture into
doubtful paths, without suitable provision and
armour of proof, are liable to sudden and dis-
graceful defeat. Even if this were not the case,
there is something so unsatisfactory to the mind,
in putting forth statements, or only suggestions,
of the truth of which we feel not fully assured,
that at first sight it appears surprizing that real
lovers of history should so often have indulged


in such a course. It is however undoubtedly
true that many who have made the most laborious
researches to ascertain truth for themselves, have
in many cases been the same persons not only to
profess a belief in the vain fancies of hoary
legends, but to attempt to foist on mankind other
figments of their own brain. The moving prin-
ciple in such must be, a desire to serve the pur-
poses of some party feeling, or else to be regarded
as oracles by the unlearned. Hector Boethius
for instance must have shared pretty largely in
this latter gratification, when he garnished the
annals of Scotland with his comely catalogue of
kings before the fifth century ; furnishing for
each of them, a life, character, and eventful
reign ; and basing his " History " on such autho-
rities as Cornelius Hibernicus and a variety of
other authors whom the world had never known,
or heard of.

On the other hand it is necessary to guard
against becoming the victims of our own incre-
dulity, and of rejecting statements, the truth of
which we have never taken the trouble to inves-
tigate ; merely because they appear improbable.
This cautionary process, it will probably be
thought, is an unnecessary introduction to the
examination of a subject so unimportant as the
present ; but the fact is, that the interest attached
to such enquiries, is frequently not at all in ac-
cordance with the importance they possess. In
fighting about a mere word, men have been as
guilty of violent language and party spleen, as if


disputing their claim to an estate ; and questions
of a philological nature, have often appeared
arrayed in additional dignity in proportion to the
cramped and limited extent of the orbits to which
they were necessarily confined. The reader must
not therefore feel himself aggrieved, if a problem
which has already perplexed so many heads,
though its object be nothing more than the origin
of a country town, should be once more fairly
hauled over ; and that the very circumstance of
its having been so often and so unsuccessfully
treated, should of itself be regarded as investing
it with an interest sufficient to claim his attention
for many pages to come.

Without further comment therefore I shall
proceed, first, to specify what \vas the primitive
spelling of the modern word Devizes ; and then
to detail the various hypotheses and conjectures
to which the singularity of that name has given
rise. The word made use of by William of
Malmsbury, and in most of the public records,
by all such authorities, in short, from whom we
might reasonably expect accuracy, is one in the
plural number. It is Castrum Divisarum Villa
Divisarum Burgenses Divisarum, and if the
former words are omitted for brevity, it becomes
Divisse. This plurality it has retained almost to
the present day, the prefixing of the definite ar-
ticle, in the case of public documents, having be-
come totally laid aside, only within a few years.
Without referring to the numerous readings which
a copious Italian dictionary will furnish under


the head Divisa ; it seems the most legitimate
course, to adopt the ordinary and natural ren-
dering of the past participle of Divido, and trans-
lating Divisse as divided partitioned off or
alienated, connect it with some such word as
terra or partes. This gives it the exact meaning
of the Saxon Kenninga from Kennan to cut, and
has given rise to the following theory. That
Divisse is only the Latin expression (made use of
in legal documents) of Kannings, and entertaining
this view, Devizes may be the " Kainingham " of
Domsday book. It has been usual to regard
this name as the ancient one of the present village
of Bishop's Cannings, but it seems very unneces-
sary to go to Kainingham for this latter, when
we possess the much more suitable name of
" Kaninge" which has remained almost unmuti-
lated down to the present day. The termination
" ham " from originally signifying a house, came
to imply a street or town, and still exists in many
names, as Nottingham, Shoreham, Chippenham,
East and West Ham. Kainingham or Kanning-
ham it is therefore presumed may mean the
principal town in Kanings. Or the " Borough of
Bishop's Cannings " an expression which actually
occurs in a document of Charles Ist's time written
by John Kent, Esq. This opinion however is
only thrown out as a plausible conjecture ; it is
incapable of any substantial proof, and still leaves
in obscurity the reason which first occasioned the
idea of partition being attached to the spot or to
the district. That such however was the idea


intended to be conveyed, is evident from the cir-
cumstance of Florence of Worcester always wri-
ting it Divisio. The greater part of the other
conjectures on this subject have been brought
forward in so amusing a manner by Dr. Davis, a
Physician of Devizes, in his " Origines Divisianse"
that I make no scruple of relieving myself of the
task of so much recapitulation and arrangement
by just transcribing the whole of that portion of
his little work which refers to this pomt. A step
which will also possess the advantage of exhibiting
the style of that writer, and of laying before the
inhabitants of Devizes, no inconsiderable portion
of a treatise on their town, which is now become
so scarce that it is probable not three copies could
be found in the place. The " Origines " were
compiled in the form of letters to a friend and
written in the years 1750 and 1751. The design
of the work being, not only to narrate the prin-
cipal incidents connected with the early history
of the Town, but also as a satire on Dr. Stukeley,
Dr. Musgrove, and others, and on credulous an-
tiquaries in general. In the following extracts,
the plan of the letters will necessarily be over-
looked. He opens the subject with the following

" There is a particular fondness in all mankind
that I have yet met with, for the places of their
nativity. Whether this preference be woven in
our constitutions or is the effect of education,
cannot certainly be determined. Other incidents
may fall in, connexions with relatives and friends,


particular interests, or the pleasing remembrance
of the innocent amusements and diversions of
childhood, may have their share in forming it. I
am not therefore surprised at your affection for
The Devizes, nor at the constant enquiries you are
making among your friends, concerning its an-
tiquities. This passion Virgil seems to have felt
in a natural manner when he makes his shepherd
complain so feelingly,

" Nos dulcia linquitrus arva."

And when the course of the Georgick brings him
in sight of his Mantua, he laments its ruin in the
following passionate line,

' Et qualem infelix amisit Mantua campum."

" To gratify this desire of yours I have catched
at every thing relating to ycur town, which casu-
ally offered itself in the progress of my studies,
and if any particulars occurred, I thought myself
possessed of a valuable acquisition, because it
would give you pleasure. The few that have
come to my knowledge I communicate to you/'

" Those who are but moderately acquainted
with the study of the early English antiquities,
must soon have been convinced that they are en-
gaged in a dry uncomfortable task, and obliged to
plunge through many difficulties, and puzzle
through a variety of perplexities ; the originals of
facts lying confused and involved, and are to be
found out only, like rattle snakes, by their tails.
Here truth is as closely blended with error, as
lights and shades in painting, it being very diffi-


cult even to a discerning eye, to determine in a
well executed picture, where the shade ends or
the light begins. The monuments which the
Romans left behind them in Britain are greatly
disfigured and changed by the barbarity of the
succeeding conquerors : they left no traces or acts
of sciences behind them, and indeed nothing but
what is now become valuable ruins. These though
they have greatly advanced the prices of estates,
yet have embarrassed the English antiquary.
His curiosity however is not to be censured for
making attempts towards explaining them, if his
views are but properly regulated. Would the
writers upon these subjects permit modesty and
reason now and then to step into their minds,
they would restrain their loose imaginations, and
keep within the bounds of useful and beneficial
knowledge. Their readers too would be freed
from perusing long and lifeless books, made up
chiefly of fanciful suppositions instead of well
grounded 'facts ; which has been too much the
case in the point before you."

" The later authors, who mention this town are
desirous of giving it an early original. I will
acquaint you with their sentiments, and leave
them to your own decision as well as the cursory
remarks that lie intermixed. Some would have
this town British some Roman, and others
Saxon. They who contend for its being British
assert Dunwallo to have been its founder, or Di-
visus. The first opinion has had the ill fortune to
be supported, neither by facts, nor even by pro-


babilities. Dr. Stukeley is a kind of a sort of
patron of the last. Though in his Itinerarium
Curiosum (page 136) he earnestly contends for
this town, being the same with the " Punctuobice"
of an anonymous writer of Ravennas, and by this
gives it the honour of a Roman structure ; yet in
his Stonehenge (page 48) he is in some distress
to determine, whether it might not have been
built by an old British king, whom he himself
christened Divitiacus. These curious suggestions
will by and bye regain an attentive consideration
when your friend has nothing else to do/'

" I know of no authorities relating to the
British affairs, that go farther back than the ac-
count delivered by Julius Caesar ; and the suc-
ceeding classical authors themselves assure us that
he knew little more than their outlines. The
subsequent writers are too general to be proper
evidences for the doctor. I never heard of any
ancient books remaining of the Britons : they are
all lost, if they ever subsisted. The language
only remains, and the recondite antiquary founds
facts of history upon the radixes of this, as the
mysterious Hutchinsonian builds systems of phi-
losophy upon Hebrew ones. These etymologies
have furnished out great attempts for wonderful
discoveries, the words having been tortured and
woven into a delicate contexture of flimsy pro-

" Musgrave thinks it a Roman town, but the
ancient name lost (see Belgium Britannicum, vol.
1. page 124.) He has produced some grounds


for his conjecture, from the many Roman anti-
quities found in its neighbourhood. I wonder
that the antiquaries have not availed themselves
of the advantages that arise from its name ; from
hence might start a pregnant hint for a visionary
in antiquities. The word Devizes is very near
the Latin Divisee. This looks something like a
Roman word, and indeed could the word be traced
clearly back to the Roman times, it would be a
reasonable proof of the place itself being a Roman
work. The Romans left Britain about the year
476 ; the Saxons and Danes kept possession till
1066 ; barbarous and ignorant nations, who ex-
tirpated the people, and almost the language of
Rome. The Monks however preserved some
relics of the tongue out of this general devastation.
William of Malmsbury the most accurate and
sensible writer of all the Monkish historians, has
retained some Roman names of towns. Among
others, he calls the Bishop of Lincoln, Episcopus
Lind-colniensis, that is Lindi colonise. This
writer all along calls this town Divisa?. But
Roger Hoveden, under the years 1063 and 1072,
and Dugdale's Monasticon use this word for
boundaries ; and the ancient lawyers as Bracton
and Fleta. Whether these intimations are cre-
dible, or what these boundaries meant, the author
will not take upon him to determine."

" It is by no means probable that this town was
a Saxon building hi the time of Alfred, as the
annotator on his life is reported to have advanced ;
for the name would then have had some Saxon


termination, which no one has yet ventured to
assert. Nor can it be allowed to have had its
name from a division of lands between king
Stephen and Roger, Bishop of Salisbury ; because
the grant of these lands was made to Roger before
Stephen was king ; and no division of lands ap-
pears to have been made, or possibly could be
between Stephen and Roger, as will appear below.
So that all the scene here laid before you is, like
Milton's Chaos,

' As dark as Erebus, or Night.'
"The Roman coins and Penates found in its
neighbourhood, do not prove the town Roman,
because these might have been hid in fields. It is
very reasonable to believe it a town not known in
or near Antoninus's time, because no traces can
be found of it in his Itinerary. That it was the
Punctuobice of Ravennas wants clearer proofs than
can be wire-drawn from an unmeaning, unac-
countable, and an absurd Etymology. Though
the Via Icena, according to Mr. Wise, (see Wise's
White Horse, p. 43) points to Abury, it does not
prove that it passes through the Devizes. There
are no marks left of any Roman works in or near
the place, unless that near Roundway-hill be a
Roman camp ; which would prove as well Calne,
and all the towns under The Downs, which have
Roman camps in their neighbourhoods, to have
been Roman. Another reason why it could not
be so, may be derived from the nature and situa-
tion of the place. The Romans were too well
instructed to build a town at such a distance from


a river, unless upon a causeway ; at which Mr.
Wise has made a fair point, but nothing arose.
Mr. Camden with his usual prudence and judg-
ment has kept clear of all intimations that might
carry this place into any remote antiquity. We
can indeed go no farther back than where you
have often formerly played, the Castle ; which
engages you even now in amusements almost as
trifling and insignificant as the diversions of child-
hood. But since we are come to this spot, here
you may set your foot upon firm ground. I am
obliged however to tread with caution, and to
follow the footsteps of the earliest Monkish his-
torians ; for their successors are very busy in
adding largely to their facts ; they are not con-
tented to deliver them as they were handed down
without intruding some of their own unac-
countable inventions into the situations of their
predecessors. You may hence conclude that I
have a strong passion for antiquities ; yet there
is no one that gives me so much pleasure as an
old friend, which I am satisfied you are to
him, &c., &c.

11 " *' An old woman who shewed

Lord Bathurst's fine place by Cirencester, was
asked by a gentleman that came to see it, ' Pray
what building is that' ' Oh sir that is a ruin a
thousand years old, which my lord built last year,
and he proposes to build one this year, half as
old again.* This absurdity i& scarce greater than
what is seriously practised by modern antiquaries.
Dr. Stukeley is for carrying the Castle of. The


Devizes into the legendary state oif the old

" You have seen that castles have

their periods ; they rise, flourish, and decay ; and
seem as mortal as the man that built them.
Though they were once noble and amazing struc-
tures, they were, as Rome has been, and as my
Lord Mayor's house will be, ruined by their own
greatness. They ought not however to dazzle
our eyes so much as to make us conclude upon
the greatness of their age from that of their bulk.
No further allowance "should be given to their
years than that which is justified by authority ;
and this will not allow you to go one step farther
back for the origin of your castle than the year
1132. Then it was certainly built. But what
weight can so puny an author as your friend is,
who never yet published a sixpenny pamphlet,
have against so ponderous an author of some
Folios? Mine is like the fate of Hector in
Homer, or Turnus in Virgil, or the Devil's in
Milton, which

* Flew up and kick't the beam.'
" I acknowledge myself to be a mean Cockney
to that great hunter after objects of antiquity,
the renowned Antiquary of Lincolnshire, the in-
incomparable incomprehensible incon vincible
Doctor Stukeley, who affirms very peremptorily
affirms ' That the town was enclosed by the
Romans with a vallum and ditch/ though no
traces of a vallum and ditch appear to any eye
but his own. That ' this town took in the castle,


which was originally Roman, but afterwards
rendered impregnable by Roger, Bishop of Salis-
bury." I humbly conceive, the Roman castle,
here mentioned, did not formerly stand on the
hill where the windmills are now placed, but in
the air."

" You see the town is not only Roman, but the
castle too, without the least probability or the
shadow of a proof. If the town must be linked
with the castle the former had better be fixed to
the true date of the latter. This I confess will
degrade it in the eyes of all zealots of antiquity,
by paring it down from a Roman to a Norman
structure, yet this is the most reasonable opinion.
The extent and magnificence of the castle must
have furnished a number of attendants suitable to
its greatness. Bread, meat, herbs, clothes, and
utensils are the calls of necessity ; which must be
supplied by bakers, butchers, brewers, gardeners,
shoemakers, taylors, manufacturers and mecha-
nics. You see there is instantly a set of inhabi-
tants fixed without the walls, to answer the exi-
gencies of those within. The cloistered monks
indeed kept arts and sciences close within their
walls, which were scarce ever known to come
abroad but once at the Reformation ; but this
was not the case with castles. This great one
then produced the town, as naturally as a Palace
begets a village ; or a great Lord, villians."*

" As 1 am just come to the town after a fatigu-
ing pursuit, it is necessary to pull in and enter
coolly. I shafl take a peep over the pales at your


villa, which is one of the most natural modern
antiquities that has yet been seen, &c. &c."

" As to your town, no doubt but it was

ancient, as has been asserted above, but not quite
so old as the Flood, Babel, Babylon, or Rome.
The inhabitants are not the worse for not having
long pedigrees of Roman blood in their veins ;
they may be contented with a descent no earlier
than the Normans. It is honour enough in these
days to derive our blood from the French, for we
are not like to draw it from them any other way.
Surely that nature was the common stock of all
the Europeans ; who are all dwindling into beaux,
dancing masters, musicians, fribbles, and games-
ters. Witness the genteel pig- tail, the graceful
movement, the harmonious hum, the jessamy cock
of the hat, and the tradesmen's books. They
seem very much like your gallipots, which are
lately gilded and newJettered by order of the
College of Physicians. They are all gold without
but bitterness within. The complexion of the
present age you see, pleads strongly for this ori-
ginal, and carries this hereditary claim still farther.
Not only the cut of their clothes and their diet,
but their language is brought irresistibly into
fashion. I hope for the sake of old England, that
our acts of parliament will continue some time
longer in English, though it is to be feared they
may not do so, since the articles of a late peace
have been penned in French; and since an able
speaker at the head of the War office is fond of
crowding French phrases into English parliamen-


tary debates. You, sir, in your place, have par-
taken of this degeneracy, and expelled the few
remains of the old honest laborious Saxons ; who
early submitted to, and were incorporated with
the Normans. They were wool-pickers, wool-
combers, weavers, clothiers, and dyers. The in-
dustry of these brought riches into your town,
which were preserved under the faithful custody
of frugality. But now how are you changed into
delicacy and poverty into embroidery on one day
of the week, and dirtiness on all the rest sacks
are thin hi your market-place on Thursdays, but
thick in your churches on Sundays. You have
turned the grating of your wool-combs into the
scraping of fiddles ; the skreeking loom into the
tinkling harpsichord, and the thumping fulling-
mills into a glittering and contentious organ.
Scents of perfumes are in your churches ; your
houses are ornamented with Bath stone, wrought
into pediments, entablatures, and pillas trades ;
your market-house a stranger to wool-packs is
metamorphosed into a theatre for balls, concertos
and oratorios. So much for the present liberties
of the Town, &c. &c."

" You must now give me leave to ad-
dress myself to you in a more particular manner,
with that old fashioned frankness that would not
flatter an enemy to make him his friend. You
had always a natural taste for antiquities, especially
for the English. Your honest passion has been
steady to the roast beef and strong beer of old

Online LibraryJames WaylenChronicles of the Devizes, being a history of the castle, parks and borough of that name; with notices statistical, parliamentary, ecclesiastic, and biographical → online text (page 1 of 24)