HISTORIC Hillworth Park in Devizes underwent a major revamp three years ago but its transformation into a centre for family events has been even more startling.

This year thousands of people have enjoyed everything from relaxed musical afternoons to the full on scary antics of Hallowe'en as parks staff under the leadership of direct services manager Sarah Williams.

The park’s events for 2015 ended on a high with a winter wonderland Christmas event.

The cafe, which was added during the 2012 make-over, has been taken back into Devizes Council control and now opens much longer hours and has played a central role in the many themed events.

Devizes Town Council first became owners of the 27 acre park in 1945 but the majority of the grounds were given over to housing and just five acres were turned into a public park. Hillworth House was also sold.

In July 2012 after a 10 month closure the park was re-opened to show off its new landscaping which had been made possible by a £1.2 million Lottery grant.

But its history goes right back to the 12th century when it was part of the old or great deer park which contained large areas of woodland. Over the next 500 years ‘assarts’ or clearings were made in the park for both settlement and agriculture. By the 1650s it was an area of cherry orchards and gardens, and in 1654 the whole of the park was split into small plots one of which was bought by the Quakers for a burial ground.

Hillworth House has always played a role in the area’s history and the first reference to a house was on a map of Devizes dating from 1737 when it was located 100 metres to the east of its current location on a road which was then known as Gallows Ditch. One theory for the change of location is due to the coming of the railway which passed very close to the original location.

Owners of the house included William Ludlow a snuff manufacturer; a Miss Pawsey who ran a boy’s boarding school from the house; Alexander Leek, a banker; and later the Devizes Town Clerk. The house stayed in the Meek family until 1923 when it was purchased by a Mrs Seaton of Taunton who owned it until 1945.

During the recent work on the park the building known as the Queen Anne Pavilion was restored. It is more likely that this Grade II* listed building was built between 1740 and 1759, during the reign of George II.

The building was possibly used as a banqueting house where drinks and sweetmeats would be taken after a main meal, enabling the owners to enjoy views of their estate.

It is now often a centre piece for festivities once again.

In 2012 as people celebrated the re-opening the park, which is often referred to as the town’s hidden gem, the town council’s park development officer Mike Hasted said: “It looks fantastic. It will be a great facility for Devizes. You can sit and enjoy a bit of tranquility, while there will be regular activities, including music.” His words have turned out to be true.