Historic Devizes buildings opened to the public

Local historian John Girvan inside the old Town lockup

Local historian John Girvan inside the old Town lockup

First published in News
Last updated
by , Devizes area senior reporter

A dingy former police cell and a Masonic Hall are among two buildings in Devizes that are being opened to the public.

For the first time, the Trust for Devizes is participating in the national Heritage Open Days and has gained the support of organisations to allow six buildings to be open for free on Saturday, September 14.

The trust said it is an ideal opportunity to learn more about some of the town’s historic buildings.

Three of the town’s oldest churches – St James’, St John’s and St Mary’s – are taking part, as are Wiltshire Museum in Long Street, the Town Lockup in St John’s Street and the Masonic Hall in Morris Lane.

Philippa Morgan, events manager at the Trust for Devizes, said: “We have got 500 or so listed buildings in Devizes and some of them are rarely open to the public, particularly the Masonic Hall which is a mystery to most people.

“We thought it would be nice to make it happen. There will be people in all the buildings giving a bit of history about them, which will give an added dimension. The national heritage Open Days have been going on for years. We have never participated before and we decided to have a go. Next year we can hopefully get more buildings involved.”

The Masonic Hall was originally a girls’ school until it was bought by the Wiltshire Lodge of Fidelity in 1881 and has been a Masonic Hall ever since.

A pair of adjoining cottages was later purchased to enable the hall to be enlarged, but the original school room, which is used for meetings, is still very much unaltered.

The Town Lockup is a deep cell chamber underneath the town hall. It was used as a police cell and also as a Second World War shelter. Local historian John Girvan will be there to talk about the building.

St Mary’s and St John’s churches were both built during the 12th century. St James’ Church was damaged during the Civil War and the tower bears some of the marks from the cannonballs and shot that hit it.

Wiltshire Museum has an international reputation and attracts visitors from all over the world. Its archaeology collections are among the finest in Britain.

On September 14, St James’ Church will be open from 10am to noon, St John’s, St Mary’s and the Masonic Hall will be open from 10am to 3pm, Wiltshire Museum from 10am to 5pm and the Town Lockup from 11am to noon and 2pm to 3pm.

The Trust for Devizes has produced leaflets giving information on all the buildings and these are available from Wiltshire Museum.

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