Devizes began as the satellite town of a great Norman castle built in the twelfth century by Bishop Roger of Salisbury to defend the boundaries of his church's domain. Roger was Chancellor to Henry I and a powerful man in the land while the king was fighting in France. The castle in Devizes, by all accounts an impressive structure, played an important role in military and political events as Stephen and Matilda vied for the English throne following Henry's death.
At the end of the Middle Ages the importance of the castle declined and Devizes became primarily a market town, trading in leather, corn and wool. Surviving merchants' houses from the fifteenth century are evidence of the town's flourishing trade at that time.Just as the existence of many Georgian houses reflect a 'Golden Age' of Devizes in the eighteenth century when wool was the major source of the town's wealth.
Today the town preserves many fine buildings including two Norman churches, a medieval street plan and one of the largest and most attractive market places in the country. The medieval castle has gone but a Victorian replacement built by a Devizes businessman picturesquely occupies the castle site.
A feature of the book is a guided tour of the town that can be used independently of the main text of the book, enabling the reader to embark straight away on a journey into Devizes' past through its existing streets and buildings.
Lorna Haycock lives in Devizes and is currently the Sandell Librarian at Devizes Museum in Long Street.