A HERITAGE group that came into being to stop one of the most iconic landmarks in Devizes being changed 50 years ago is still fighting to safeguard the town from the wrong sort of development.

The Trust For Devizes started off on a winning streak when in 1967 the council of the time wanted to put a wall around the Crammer - the famous Devizes pond rumoured to be the origin of the Moonrakers story involving the moon and excise men.

The story goes back to the 18th century when smuggling was rife and there were many secret routes through Wiltshire from the coast. It is said local people had hidden contraband barrels of French brandy from customs officers in the Crammer

While trying to retrieve it at night, they were caught by the revenue men, but explained themselves by pointing to the moon's reflection and saying they were trying to rake in a round cheese.

The revenue men, thinking they were simple yokels, laughed at them and went on their way. But, as the story goes, it was the moonrakers who had the last laugh. In the words of an anonymous Wiltshireman who recounted the story to writer Arthur Granville Bradley: “ Zo the excizeman ’as ax’d ’n the question ’ad his grin at ’n,…but they’d a good laugh at ’ee when ’em got whoame the stuff.”

So when there were plans to change the landscape of the Crammer locals were just as quick thinking and staged a protest which persuaded the council to change its mind and the trust was born.

Trust member Philippa Morgan said: "Since then the Trust has been involved in ensuring that the heritage, which is at the very core of our fine market town, is not destroyed by careless and thoughtless development.

"We have enjoyed a number of very significant successes over the years. We saved St John’s Alley, a fine terrace of Tudor buildings, from being demolished and ensured it was fully restored. We got a by-pass moved to save Great Porch House and we saved Shanes Castle from being replaced by a roundabout.

"These days, with constantly increasing pressure to build more homes, the Trust is more active than ever in ensuring that this is not achieved at the cost of destroying our historic buildings and the very ambience that attracts people to live in Devizes.

"But it is not only those wishing to build new homes that threaten our heritage: businesses can be cavalier about the premises they occupy, desiring only to make them more convenient or efficient to their business, rather than act as guardians of buildings, many of which are medieval in origin.

"On the other hand, Devizes needs a thriving commercial sector and therefore a balance has to be struck between the reasonable demands of a modern business and the ancient buildings entrusted to our generation. This is something we always aim to do. We also get involved in issues such as car parking, air pollution and traffic which we feel are important to our town."

The trust is to create a new edition of the Town Trail in 2017 so that visitors and locals can enjoy walking around Devizes and learning about its history.