Mayor's Message

2020 21 Chris Gay

Mayor of Devizes Councillor Chris Gay 2020-21

We live in a unique and very remarkable town.

Devizes grew up around the wooden castle built in 1080 and, later, a stone castle, considered, at the time, to be “the finest castle in England”, was built after the wooden castle had burned down!

In 1141, the people of Devizes won back Devizes Castle for Queen Matilda during the war between her and Stephen over who should be monarch of England. Matilda was so pleased with the “simple rustics”, as she called as she called the people of Devizes, that she gave Devizes a Charter which meant that the market could be held in Devizes. Since then, despite Civil War battles, plague and World Wars, our market town of Devizes has flourished and has gone from strength to strength.

Devizes has long been known for its markets, initially selling cattle, corn and wool, for its cloth and leather industry, for its “beer and baccy” production and in more recent times for things such as bacon, faggots and peas, and building.

Today, our magnificent town of Devizes hosts Music and Arts Events and Festivals, Food Festivals, has a world famous Museum, and is well known for its wealth of independent traders and retailers.

2020 has been a year of unforeseen events. The United Kingdom went into Lockdown at the end of March.

Our town, Devizes, was one of the front runners in the Country to set up a COVID-19 Support Centre for our community. The role of the Town Council is to support the community it serves. In exceptional times, there need to be exceptional actions. I am so proud of the role that our Town Council  took in helping the Partnership of Churches, through Saint James’s, to set up a local and very impressive COVID-19 Support Section Network.

This terrible pandemic has clearly brought into focus the incredible community spirit we all know exists in Devizes. Hundreds of volunteers came forward to answer thousands of calls for help.

Importantly as well, 2020 has seen the completion of protracted negotiations between Devizes Town Council and Wiltshire Council. These completed negotiations ensure that many of our important open spaces and buildings, such as the Shambles, are brought back under the control of our community, through the Town Council. Much of what has now been returned to the Town Council was lost in 1974, when Local Government arrangements were changed in a bid to centralise decision-making.

It has been my very great pleasure and privilege to to join our Town Clerk, Mr Simon Fisher, in signing this agreement which will secure the future of these open spaces and buildings for our community.

Over coming months and years the Town Council will be asking you what, if any, changes we should be making to ensure that these assets can continue to meet the needs of our town for years to come.

I am extremely honoured, very privileged - and very proud - to be Mayor of our outstanding town, Devizes.