It is difficult to know how to write about the parish of Roundway, which was only created in 1894. There is a small Roundway village that was once in Bishops Cannings' parish and a very strangely shaped area of land that surrounds the town of Devizes to the north, east and south of it. Only a narrow isthmus of land connects the northern and southern parts of the parish and both these areas contain domestic and commercial buildings that really belong to the town of Devizes. It is likely that most people living in the parish, other than those actually in Roundway village consider that they live in the town of Devizes. The parish looks as though it was created by a bureaucrat who was having a very bad day.Concise History: Wiltshire: A History of its Landscape and PeopleThis community has been included in John Chandler's on-going series and the full text is available here.
The village is about one mile to the north east of Devizes and is remarkable in having had no church or chapel of ease, no school and having lost its manor house. There are however a complex of roads that led to Bromham, Heddington, Rowde, Devizes and Potterne and it is this complex that suggests the village was once larger than it is today. In the parish itself the highest ground is in the north-east, Roundway Hill at 242 metres and the lowest in the south, at about 116 metres. Roundway Park lies between the village and Devizes, which are connected by Quaker's Walk passing through the grounds. Mother Anthony's Well lies at the foot of Roundway Hill, close to Roman settlement in Bromham parish while Drew's Pond and its nature reserve is in the south in the narrow strip of Roundway parish that encompasses the southern boundary of the town of Devizes. A small area of Wick was lost by Roundway to Devizes in the late 20th century.
Earliest indications of inhabitants are the Neolithic round barrows associated with the Beaker People on Roundway Down. There are also bowl barrows and the Iron Age hill fort of Oliver's Camp that is just in Bromham parish. At first a promontory fort it was later changed to a rectangular univallate one. A recently discovered Iron Age farmstead near Brickley Lane became a Roman settlement, possibly with a temple and likely to have been associated with a villa at Wick Green or Pans Lane. In the Domesday Book Roundway is included in the large estate of Bishops Cannings and it is impossible to know what, if any, settlement there was in the modern parish.
From the late 13th century an estate at Roundway was held by the senior branch of the Wiltshire Nicholas family. William Nicholas was alive at the end of the 13th century and the family held the estate until the 18th century. They built a house, Nicholas Place, which from earthworks shown on an 18th century map was probably at the north eastern end of Quakers Walk. The family's land was in small strips in the open field system, which, in 1597, comprised East, North and South fields containing many strips of half an acre or less. In 1634 a survey undertaken by the steward of the Bishop of Salisbury found that among the tenants there were five freeholders, two leaseholders and six copyholders. There were also three freeholders at New Park.
The reason why Roundway has a place in national history occurred during the Civil War when William Waller's Parliamentary forces were defeated on the downs by the Royalists under Lord Wilmot. Waller and Hopton had fought an inconclusive battle at Lansdown Hill, near Bath, on 5 July 1643 after which Hopton found himself trapped by Waller in Devizes when he was trying to reach the King's headquarters at Oxford. With insufficient cavalry to continue their journey some horsemen succeeded in breaking out of Devizes to summon help from Oxford. On 11 July a relief force of 1800 cavalry under Prince Maurice and Lord Wilmot rode for Devizes. When informed of their approach Waller withdrew his army (1800 - 2500 infantry, 2000 cavalry and 500 dragoons and put them in battle order near the eastern end of Roundway Down. The Royalists engaged the Parliamentary cavalry before their army could bring their guns and infantry into the battle and put them to flight. Many were killed in the deep ditch below the misnamed Oliver's Castle. The Parliamentary infantry were demoralised by the flight of their cavalry and threw down their weapons when Hopton's infantry marched out of Devizes through Roundway village. As a result of this battle the port of Bristol fell to the Royalists a few days later. Quite what the villagers thought of this is unknown but is to be hoped that they kept themselves well out of the way; probably cursing both sided impartially for ruining crops and scattering livestock.
In the first part of the 18th century the Nicolas family vacated their old manor and moved to New Park, building a house that was to become the kitchen block of the later New Park. They sold their estate after 1770 to Edward Richmond, whose family were succeeded there by the Willeys, Suttons and Escourts. In 1780 James Sutton began to rebuild Nicholas House with the architect James Wyatt. There was a fire in 1792 that seems to have left no permanent damage and when John Britton wrote about it in 1801 it was a fine house with landscaped grounds that had been designed by Humphrey Repton. In 1840 New Park estate was bought by E. F. Colston and it then became known as Roundway Park. He started to enclose land and caused local resentment by enclosing Sheep Wash Dell in 1842. A deer park was created, which in 1892 consisted of 120 acres enclosed by iron fencing containing about 200 fallow deer.
Most of the parish had been enclosed by an Act of 1794, which was put into practice in 1812. Thomas Griniston Estcourt of New Place had received 704 acres, leased of the Bishop of Salisbury. One slight puzzle is that part of the eastern end of Roundway Hill was still known as Windmill Knowl in 1811 (there had also been windmills in Devizes) but on Andrews' and Dury's map of Wiltshire (1773) there is a Roundway Mill shown on a small stream to the north of New Place. One cannot feel that the water mill could have been very effective but it may have succeeded the earlier windmill.
In 1845 apprentice shoemakers from Devizes cut a white horse on Roundway Down, to the south of Oliver's Camp; it was known as Snob's Horse as snob was the local name for a shoemaker. It later became overgrown and attempts to restore it in the 20th century failed. A more permanent feature was established in 1851 when the Wilts County Lunatic Asylum (later Roundway Hospital) opened. Building had started in the summer of 1849 with stone from Murhill quarries, near Winsley and slates from Wales; both materials being transported on the Kennet and Avon Canal which had opened through the parish in 1810. The building was designed by T. H. Wyatt in the Italian style, cost £19,594, with a further £1,069 for ironwork, and the first patients were admitted on 19 September 1851. The well respected and liberally advanced Dr. Thurnam had been appointed as Medical Superintendent in March 1849 and he oversaw construction. Owing to a disinclination on the part of the county authorities to spend too much money the asylum was too small from the time it was built, and there were extensions and new buildings in just about every decade except the 1940s. There were 350 patients by 1860, 449 by 1870 and 976 in 1910. John Thurman, who was also a noted local archaeologist, died in 1873 but he had set the pattern for compassionate care and also recognised that many people sent by parish authorities were not insane but had other problems.
By 1878 the Le Marchant Barracks were completed alongside the main Devizes to Beckhampton road. They were named after Sir John Gaspard Le Marchant, who commanded the 99th Regiment of Foot in 1839; with the 62nd Foot this regiment formed the Wiltshire Regiment in 1881. The Barracks was the regimental headquarters until 1959 and then became a regimental museum until this moved to The Close in Salisbury. In 1890 the North Wiltshire Golf Club laid out its first course on Roundway Hill using a railway coach as their first club house. The civil parish of Roundway was created in 1894 and comprised part of Bishops Cannings parish and part of the chapelry of St. James, Southbroom.
The Colstons remained at Roundway Park until 1948 and in 1916 C. E. H. A. Colston was created the 1st Lord Roundway. A Reading Room of timber and corrugated iron on a brick foundation was erected by Edward Coward. From 1937 church services were held here, possibly the first to be held in the village in its known history. In 1938 the entire village contained only 30 households plus Roundway Park although the population of the parish was over 2,600. The population increased further after 1939 with the building of the Prince Maurice Barracks, mainly wooden huts to the north of Le Marchant Barracks.
After the war and substantial military activity in the parish, the 2nd Lord Roundway sold Roundway Park. The house, pleasure gardens, kitchen garden and a paddock were bought by Wiltshire County Council, who used part of the house for Civil Defence purposes. The land, 1,584 acres, was sold to the Bristol Merchant Ventures as the trustees of H. H. Wills chantry for Chronic and Incurable Sufferers. Roundway House was demolished in 1955. After the war a flax factory was operating on the Devizes road and this was a forerunner of the business to come in the Hopton Industrial estate and Garden Industrial estate as the old barracks were cleared in the 1970s and 1980s. Although the parish boundaries were redrawn in the late 20th century, taking Southbroom and Wick from Roundway and placing them in Devizes, new houses were built in other parts of the parish close to Devizes.
A decision to close Roundway Hospital was taken in 1989 and in 1990 a modern Green Lane Hospital was built in the grounds. The hospital was finally closed in 1995 and remaining patients accommodated in Green Lane. The Devizes Millennium project was the cutting of a white horse on Roundway Hill. Land was made available by farmer Chris Combe and owners the Crown Commissioners and the work carried out by commercial and voluntary bodies. The horse measuring about 45 x 45 metres was completed 29 September 1999.