The Wiltshire town famous for bumbling low-level criminality


It was a moonlit night in the 18th century or thereabouts, and some ne’er-do-wells of Devizes were up to no good. Their town, traditionally the gateway to the West Country, was part of a smuggling route from the continent to the capital, and they had hidden kegs of French brandy – contraband – at the bottom of a local pond. 

That night, with the full moon’s reflection lain starkly on the surface of the pond, the locals went to dredge up the barrels. As they went about it, though, scraping the pond bed with rakes, they were spotted by some customs officials. The officials challenged the men. What were they up to?

One of the men had an enterprising answer. They were trying, he said, pointing to…

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