The History of Southbroom House is grade 2 listed,
built in 1773 now the home of Devizes School
Southbroom is first mentioned in 1227 and was probably then part of a broom-clad area. In 1360 a cottage stood there called “super Southbroom”. The first known owner of Southbroom House was John Drew a wealthy clothier from Devon. When John Drew occupied the Estate in 1501 it consisted of a House, a dove house, a small park, orchards, and gardens. A small pond was thought to have existed on the estate at that time although this was not shown in later records. This could have some connection with Drews Pond which is on the outskirts of Devizes off the Potterne road.
Above Southbroom House before the major development of Devizes School - about 1950. Note the ha ha in the foreground, this stone reinforced ditch gave an interupted view out of the House to the Estate, but kept any cattle or deer from approaching it.
The estate passed to John Drew’s grandson who was also called John. He died in 1614 and the estate passed to his son, Robert. For some unknown reason Sir Charles Lloyd burnt down the house in 1645. Robert died in the fire leaving the house and estate to his widow Elizabeth. Their son John Drew died soon after inheriting the estate leaving the remaining property to his widow who, in 1664, married Sir Henry Andrews, 1st Baronet of Lathbury.
The bulk of the estate stayed in the Drew family until 1680 when it was bought by Sir John Eyles.
Sir John Eyles was the MP for the borough of Devizes between 1679 and 1681. He was married to Mary Eyles who as a widow went on to fund educational and poor relief charities in Devizes. Mary. He had dissenting religious views. In 1673 he bought and gave the lease for number 22 the Brittox to early Baptists as a place to meet and worship. The house then stood further to the north-east than does the present one and was of six bays with a gatehouse front and rear. Southwards stood the dove house and formal gardens lay to the south and west. In the early 18th century a second building lay westward of the western garden. An avenue led southward across the park to end in Southbroom Lane. In the later 17th and earlier 18th centuries what seems to have been a public track led south-westwards across the park to Half Moon Lane.
In 1773 Edward Eyles built a new house on the original site with imported Bath labour. Edward was the fourth and only surviving son of John Eyles. He had spent the greater part of his life in Foreign Service with the East India Company Governor. A fire occurred in the new building in 1779 but did not destroy the whole house. Waylen in his chronicles states that the local labourers were slow to help put out the fire as the house had been built with Bath labour to their disadvantage. Edward Eyles died in 1792, aged 78. His House (much modified) is described in the English Heritage listing below
The property descended to Edward’s sister Maria and then to her son Josiah Eyles Heathcote. Maria Eyles was born on June 12th 1706. She married George Heathcote of London in 1724, and she died in 1792. She is buried in St. John’s Church cemetery in Devizes. George Heathcote became Lord Mayor of London in 1742. Interestingly, Devizes School, who now occupy the Southbroom House, is organised into four houses one of which is Heathcote House. Popular myth suggests that this was named after Maria Heathcote whose ghost is said to haunt the house. Heathcote House was built some time in 17th Century and was originally the house provided for the vicar of St. James Church. Sometime between 1792 and 1811 it became known as Heathcote House.
George and Maria’s son Josiah Eyles Heathcote died in 1811 and the estate was sold to William Salmon in 1812. The park (then 22 acres) was by this time encircled by trees and rare plants and adorned by ‘romantic walls’. The whole estate while in the possession of William Salmon amounted to 269 acres (1.09 km2). William was succeeded by W.W. Salmon who died in 1828.
The whole estate was then sold to George Watson-Taylor. Some accounts say that George’s son Simon Watson-Taylor was the occupier in 1880 but other accounts say that it was owned by Robert Parry Nisbet (died 1882) . He certainly occupied the estate by 1841, and is referenced to live there on the occasion of his marriage in 1847. This is known because his crest is on one of the two lodges (one of which was demolished in 1968).
In 1913 and 1914, R.H. Caird owned the property. He left the town and sold the estate that now consisted of the house, private golf course, park with small maze, and rare trees and plants to Sir Horace Westropp McMahon). The next owners were Wiltshire Country Council in 1926, but by this time the estate had shrunk to just 7 acres. After many alterations it is now part of Devizes School.
Wiltshire County Council purchased the mansion of Southbroom House in 1925 together with 7 acres (28,000 m2) of grounds. The house was adapted as a senior school for children over the age of 8 in the south ward of the town. The adjacent Heathcote House, formerly the private grammar school, was used as the Headmaster's residence and in 1929 a large classroom at the rear adapted as a Domestic Science Room. By 1930 there was a 'housecraft centre' near the school and a large garden for the pupils to work in. In 1936 a new block was added to the Heathcote House section to form a Handicraft Centre and Science Laboratory. The school continued to expand and in 1937 a kitchen and canteen were opened to provide hot dinners for the children.
Early during the Second World War the school became an evacuee reception and dispersal centre. The Devizes Day Nursery was built in the grounds as an emergency measure; this became redundant in 1947 and provided extra accommodation for the school. In 1949 the school became a secondary modern as Southbroom Secondary School. In 1950 there were 452 pupils and this rose to 590, aged between 8 and 15, by 1954. The school was too small and was enlarged in 1956, and again in 1964.
In 1969 Southbroom Secondary School was merged with the Devizes Grammar School to form Devizes Comprehensive School. Above is an aerial photo ca 1970 of the building of Devizes School on the site of Southbroom House. St. James Church, the Crammer, the Green and Estcourt Street are visible.
As of 1980, Southbroom House was used mainly for school staff offices and the staff common room
Southbroom House - the buildings
The original building dating is mainly from 1773 and is constructed of Bath Stone Ashlar and consisted of a two-story central block flanked by much lower service wings. When the Eyles family owned the House consisted of a dining hall, library, study, drawing room, servants’ quarters, morning room, bedrooms, bathroom and conservatory. Also there were extensive gardens and shrubberies. The attics had one main use, to provide a place to sleep for the servants. Each night the butler would bring a ladder to the attic entrance so that the servants could go up to their room to sleep. He would then remove it until the following morning when again he would bring the ladder and allow the servants to get down.
The house was considerably altered and extended in the 19th and 20th centuries for use as part of a School. The original building dating mainly from 1773 is of Bath Stone Ashlar and consisted of a two-story central block flanked by much lower service wings. The wings have been considerably altered but retain a few original round-headed openings on the ground floor with some oval windows above.Southbroom House is a Grade II listed building, as maintained by English Heritage, the UK government body responsible for the historic environment in England.
 Purchase by Wiltshire Country Council and use as a school
English Heritage listing for Southbroom House
Image of England Number: 435392. Grade 2.
Location: SOUTHBROOM HOUSE, Road (east side), DEVIZES, WILTSHIRE
Date listed: 09 April 1954. Date of last amendment: 19 September 1972
1. 1042 SOUTHBROOM ROAD (East Side) Southbroom House (Formerly listed under Southbroom Place) SU 0161 3a/2l3 9.4.54. II
2. Part of Devizes Secondary Modern School now Devizes School.
Built in 1773 of Bath stone. Tall central symmetrical block, of 2 storeys, with long side wings probably symmetrical originally but with many altered windows. The side wings are effectively screened by shrubs and trees on the entrance front. North-west front - Ashlar stone, with chamfered quoins on wide projecting plinth with projecting slab coping. Moulded cornice with parapet and coping. Stone tile roof. The 3 centre bays have a slight projection and pediment over with a central carved stone cartouche of Arms. There are 7 windows with projecting sills and stone architrave surrounds on lst floor. There are 6 windows, without architraves on ground floor and projecting central porch, early C19 of stone with triple angle semi-engaged Doric columns to front and sides, and at angle of Junction with main wall a quadrant column, all supporting entablature with blocking course, and standing on projecting plinth. Double 6-panel doors, flush type. Wrought iron scroll pattern lamp bracket projecting over door. The side wings of 2 storeys with projecting string and parapet, the top of parapet level with sills of lst floor windows to main block. The original windows were probably all arched - 2-light casements on ground floor with oval cart wheel windows above. This now applies to left hand wing and on ground floor only and partly to right hand wing. Many windows altered to 2-light square casements. The garden front is similar but plainer with central fall height canted bay. Modern school buildings added either side of house.
The grounds retain fine trees particularly around house and are an important background feature to Devizes Green.