A ONE of Devizes' most unusual monuments, which relates the moral tale of a woman struck dead after telling a lie, is to be repaired at a cost of £10,000.

The tale of Ruth Pierce, the 18th century Potterne farmer's wife who met her death in bizarre circumstances, has been displayed on the Market Cross since 1814.

But now the monument is deteriorating as iron reinforcements rust and push the steps out of place.

The town council has agreed to spend £10,000 on repairs, but it has been suggested the plaque recording Ruth's story should also be restored to its original old English lettering.

The story, which is famous worldwide, tells how on January 25 1753, Ruth and three other women agreed to go to Devizes market and go equal shares in a sack of wheat. The woman collecting the money found she was 3d short and demanded the money from Ruth, who declared that she had paid her share and that God should strike her dead if she lied.

She immediately fell stone dead. An inquest later stated that she had been struck down dead by the vengeance of God with a lie in her mouth.

A painted board recording the incident was fixed to the market house.

Later, a similar inscription was incorporated in the present Market Cross, with an additional phrase, 'having the money concealed in her hand', to point the moral further.

That inscription, dating from the Market Cross's construction in 1814, faded badly and was covered in the early 1970s by a bronze plaque.

At last week's meeting of the town council's recreation and properties committee, Coun Hugh Burn, who is also secretary of the Trust for Devizes, asked if this could be the opportunity for some sympathetic reconstruction.

He said: The bronze plaque is insensitive with the print all in upper case and prone to tarnishing. The original inscription was in old English lettering.

It would be nice to see it restored as it was.

Coun Burn showed town councillors a photograph of the inscription as it was before being covered by the bronze plaque.

Town clerk Sarah Todhunter said the removal of the plaque would not be complicated. We will have to see how it is fixed and how practical it is to remove it.

The town council voted to spend £10,000 in the current financial year to carry out repairs to the Market Cross and stop the steps at the foot of the monument moving further out from the cross.

Tenders are being sought for the work.

The successful bidder will now also be asked to quote for the removal of the Ruth Pierce plaque, and the restoration of the lettering to old English.