Tavistock, Devon

Tavistock, Devon

infobox UK place
country= England
official_name= Tavistock
latitude= 50.550014
longitude= -4.138736
population= 11,018 (2001 Census)
shire_district= West Devon
shire_county= Devon
region= South West England
constituency_westminster=Torridge and West Devon
post_town= TAVISTOCK
postcode_district= PL19
postcode_area= PL
dial_code= 01822
os_grid_reference= SX480740
Tavistock is a market town within West Devon, England on the River Tavy, from which its name derives, and has a population of 11,018.cite|author=Office for National Statistics|title=2001 Census, statistics for Tavistock Parish|publisher=Office for National Statistics|date=2001] It traces its history back at least to AD 961, when Tavistock Abbey, whose ruins lie in the centre of the town, was founded. Its most famous son is Sir Francis Drake. [cite book|last=Turner|first=Michael|title=In Drake's Wake - The Early Voyages|publisher=Paul Mould Publishing|year=2005|isbn=978-1904959212]


Early history

The area around Tavistock (formerly Tavistoke), where the River Tavy runs wide and shallow allowing it to be easily crossed, and near the secure high ground of Dartmoor, was inhabited long before the historical record. The surrounding area is littered with archaeological remains from the Bronze and Iron ages and it is believed a hamlet existed on the site of the present town long before the town's official history began, with the founding of the Abbey.

The abbey of Saint Mary and Saint Rumon was founded in 961 by Orgar, Earl of Devon. After destruction by Danish raiders in 997 it was restored, and among its famous abbots was Aldred, who crowned Harold II and William I, and died Archbishop of York. There is [http://www.bbc.co.uk/devon/news_features/2004/tavistock_cream_tea.shtml evidence] to suggest that the local specialty "cream tea" was first served here; to workers during the restoration. The abbey church was rebuilt in 1285 and the greater part of the abbey in 1457-58. Tea, the drink, did not appear in England until the eighteenth century.

Market town

In 1105 a Royal Charter was granted by Henry I to the monks of Tavistock to run a weekly "Pannier Market" (so called after the baskets used to carry goods) on a Friday, which still takes place today. In 1116 a three-day fair was also granted to mark the feast of Saint Rumon, another tradition that is still maintained in the shape of the annual "Goosey" fair. In 1552 two fairs on April 23 and November 28 were granted by Edward VI to the Earl of Bedford, then lord of the manor.

In the 17th century great quantities of cloth were sold at the Friday market and four fairs were held at the feasts of Saint Michael, Epiphany, Saint Mark, and the Decollation of John the Baptist. The charter of Charles II instituted a Tuesday market, fairs on the Thursday after Whitsunday and at the feast of Saint Swithin. In 1822 the old fairs were abolished in favour of six fairs on the second Wednesdays in May, July, September, October, November and December.

By 1185 Tavistock had achieved borough status and in 1295 became a parliamentary borough, sending two members to parliament. It was deprived of one member in 1867 and finally disenfranchised in 1885. In 1305, with the growing importance of the area as one of Europe's richest sources of tin, Tavistock was one of the four stannary towns appointed by charter of Edward I, where tin was stamped and weighed and monthly courts were held for the regulation of mining affairs.

The church of Saint Eustachius (named after the Roman Centurion who became a Christian) dates from 1318 and was dedicated by Bishop Stapledon. It was further rebuilt and enlarged into its current form between 1425 and 1450, at which time the Clothworkers' Aisle was included, an indication of the growing importance of the textile industry to the local economy - the trade was protected by a 1467 statute. It possesses a lofty tower supported on four open arches, one of which was reputedly added to accommodate the 19th century "tinners" or tin miners. Within are monuments to the Glanville and Bourchier families, besides some stained glass, one window being the work of William Morris. It also possess a roof boss featuring one of the so-called 'Tinner's Hares' (see Three Hares)- a trio of rabbits/hares joined at and sharing three ears between them.

The town continued to prosper under the charge of the abbots, acquiring one of England's first printing presses in 1525. Tavistock remained an important centre of both trade and religion until the Dissolution of the Monasteries - the abbey was demolished in 1539, leaving the ruins still to be seen around the centre of the town. From this time on, the dominant force in the town became the Russell family, Earls and later Dukes of Bedford, who took over much of the land following the Dissolution.

Francis Drake

Around 1540 (some sources state 1542 as the exact year), Sir Francis Drake was born at Crowndale Farm, just to the west of what is now Tavistock College; a Blue Plaque marks the house in which he is believed to have been born. He became a prominent figure of his age, a champion of Queen Elizabeth, the first Englishman to circumnavigate the world and one of the English commanders in the famously decisive victory against the Spanish Armada in 1588. Drake is more important to Plymothians for his part in constructing Drake's Leat a long open granite watercourse bringing clean fresh water from the high moor into the town of Plymouth.

The famous statue of Drake on Plymouth Hoe is a copy of that on a roundabout on the A386 at the western end of the town [cite web|url=http://www.plymouthdata.info/Memorial-Drake%20Statue.htm|title=Drake's Statue|work=Encyclopaedia of Plymouth History|accessdate=2007-06-28] , with panels not replicated on the Hoe copy. Drake later made his home at Buckland Abbey, about convert|8|mi|km away towards Plymouth, jointly owned/run by Plymouth City Council and the National Trust, and now a museum to Drake [cite web|url=http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-vh/w-visits/w-findaplace/w-bucklandabbey.htm|title=Buckland Abbey|publisher=National Trust|work=National Trust website|accessdate=2007-06-28] .


Mines of copper, manganese, lead, silver and tin were previously in the neighborhood and the town played host to a considerable trade of cattle and corn, and industries in brewing and iron-founding.

By the 17th century, tin was on the wane and the town relied more heavily on the cloth trade. Under the stewardship of the Russells the town remained prosperous, surviving the Black Death in 1625 (though 52 townspeople died). In the English Civil War starting 1642, the town was at first held by the Parliamentarians (Francis Russell, the 4th Earl of Bedford was a leading figure in the parliamentarian movement), before later hosting King Charles I and his Royalist troops in 1643 after the defeat of the Parliamentary forces at Bradock Down.

The woollen industry decayed at Tavistock and was attributed by the inhabitants in 1641 to the dread of the Turks at sea and of Popish Plots at home.

In 1694, William Russell, 5th Earl of Bedford became the first Duke of Bedford.

By 1800, cloth was heading the same way as tin had done a century earlier, but copper was starting to be seriously mined in the area, to such an extent that by 1817 the Tavistock Canal had been dug (most of the labour being done by French prisoners of war from the Napoleonic Wars [http://www.devon.gov.uk/localstudies/110312/1.html Devon County Council: Local Studies] ] , to carry copper to Morwellham Quay on the River Tamar, where it could be loaded into sailing ships weighing up to 200 tonnes.

In the mid-nineteenth century, with nearby Devon Great Consols mine at Blanchdown one of the biggest copper mining operations in the world, Tavistock was booming again, reputedly earning the 7th Duke of Bedford alone over £2,000,000. A statue in copper of the 7th Duke stands in Guildhall Square. The Duke built a 50,000 imperial gallon (230 m³) reservoir to supply the town in 1845, as well as a hundred miners' houses at the southern end of town, between 1845 and 1855. There is a strong, recognisable vernacular "Bedford style" of design, exemplified most strikingly in Tavistock's Town Hall and "Bedford Cottages" ubiquitous across Tavistock and much of the local area to the north and west, where the Bedfords had their estate and summer "cottage" at Endsleigh House and Gardens (since 2005, Alex Polizzi's Hotel Endsleigh).

The railway came to the town in 1859, with the town being connected to the Great Western Railway and the London and South Western Railway. At around this time the centre of town was substantially and ruthlessly remodelled by the 7th Duke of Bedford, including the construction of the current Town Hall and Pannier Market buildings, and the widening of the Abbey Bridge, first built in 1764, and a new Drake Road ramped up northwards from Bedford Square to the LSWR station. The population had peaked at around 9,000. By 1901 the population had halved, recorded as 4,728.

Kelly College, a co-educational public school, to the north-east of the town, was founded by Admiral Benedictus Marwood Kelly, and opened in 1877 for the education of his descendants and the orphan sons of naval officers, and is a pastiche of the Bedford and High Victorian styles of building.

20th and 21st Centuries

In 1911, the Bedford influence on the town came to an end after over 450 years, when the family sold most of their holdings in the area to meet death duties. The Bedford name can still be seen in many place names around the town.The Town Council is the owner of much former Bedford property from around this time, making it one of the richest parish councils in EnglandFact|date=January 2007.The council cannot raise capital or income from the landholding and spends much of its meagre budget on managing the properties.Fact|date=May 2008

West Devon Borough Council is based in Tavistock, about 500 metres north of Bedford Square at Kilworthy Park. There is a small police station under part of the Bedford building complex on Bedford Square but the adjacent historic Magistrates Court has been closed and the nearest criminal court is now at Plymouth.

In 1933 the long-disused canal was put to use providing hydroelectric power for the area [cite web|url=http://www.tamarvalley.org.uk/pdf/TAVICANAL.pdf|title=The Tavistock Canal - A Review|author=Tom Greeves, MA, PhD|publisher=Tamar Valley Service|month=April|year=2003|accessdate=May 30|accessyear=2007|format=PDF] .

A war memorial in Bedford Square commemorates and many, but not all, the townsfolk killed in the First and Second World Wars. Many families across Britain exercised their right not to have their family members named on these public memorials. As of 2006, this memorial is in process of being moved, to a site in the graveyard of the Parish Churchcite|url=http://www.tavistock.gov.uk/minutes/atm/2_october_2006.htm|title=Minutes of a Town Meeting of Tavistock|author=Tavistock Town Council|publisher=Tavistock Town Council|date=2006-08-02|accessdate=2007-06-28] .Tavistock had two railway stations, both now closed. Tavistock South was the Great Western Railway's station, on the route between Launceston and Plymouth. This was closed and mostly dismantled between 1962 and 1965. The station was sited to the south of Bedford Square, just over the bridge and to the right - now a council depot. There is no trace of the station remaining. Tavistock North was the Plymouth, Devonport and South Western Junction Railway's station, operated by the London and South Western Railway, on the route between Lydford and Plymouth via Bere Alston. This opened on 2 June 1890 and closed on 6 May 1968. The main station building survives as a private house while the extensive goods yard is now known as Kilworthy Park and houses the offices of West Devon Borough Council. The railway for around a mile south of Tavistock North station is open to the public as a footpath and nature reserve and it is possible to walk across the viaducts that overlook the town.

The trackbed of the Tavistock North route is almost intact to Bere Alston where it joins today's Tamar Valley Line. There has been discussion regarding the re-opening of a rail link for a number of years. Engineering assessment shows the rail-bed, bridges and tunnels to be in sound condition. A light transit link to Plymouth is estimated at around £10 million, and has already encouraged speculation about restoring the Tavistock-Okehampton rail link, which could provide an alternative rail link for the South West to the rest of UK to the Devon coastal mainline [cite press release|title=Tentative Talks Held Over Rail Line Reopening|publisher=West Devon Borough Council|date=2005-07-27|url=http://www.westdevon.gov.uk/doc.asp?doc=11501&cat=1954|accessdate=2007-06-28] .

In 1986, the town's two newspapers, the Tavistock Gazette (founded in 1857) and the Tavistock Times (established in 1920) merged to form the current weekly publication, the Tavistock Times Gazette, with a circulation of around 8,000 [cite web|url=http://www.tavistock-today.co.uk/today/options/about/history.cfm|title=Tavistock Times Gazette History|Tavistock Times Gazette|work=Tavistock Today website|accessdate=2007-06-28] . The newspaper is owned by Tindle Newspaper Group. The newspaper celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2007, with a visit from the Prince of Wales & Duchess of Cornwall [cite news|title=Duke and Duchess join paper's anniversary celebrations|url=http://www.tavistock-today.co.uk/today/options/news/newsdetail.cfm?id=41112|last=Honey|first=Jane|work=Tavistock Times Gazette|date=2007-05-18|publisher=Tindle Newspapers Ltd.] .

In July 2006 Tavistock was named the eastern Gateway to the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site, which runs westward through the Tamar Valley and Great Consols Mine, down the spine of Cornwall to Lands End [cite press release|url=http://www.gnn.gov.uk/content/detail.asp?NewsAreaID=2&ReleaseID=214185|title=Mining landscape of Cornwall and West Devon becomes a UNESCO World Heritage Site|publisher=Department for Culture, Media And Sport|date=2006-07-13] . This £75 million project is likely to bring more tourists to Tavistock. A £1.1million World Heritage Site Interpretation Centre is planned for 2007, to be built in the area of the Guildhall, and overlooking the River Tavy.

A small group of local businessmen, collectively known as "Tavistock Forward", have been revealed as negotiating to take over the Guildhall complex with Police force and English Heritage endorsement, with lease-back of the existing Police station to Devon & Cornwall Police, while developing the Guildhall itself [cite web|url=http://www.tavistockforward.org.uk/AGM.htm|title=Tavistock Forward Annual General Meeting minutes|date=2006-05-25|publisher=Tavistock Forward|accessdate=2007-06-28] .


Tavistock lies on the edge of Dartmoor, around convert|24|km|mi|1 north of Plymouth on the A386, with a population of 11,018. The town is centred on the paved amenity of Bedford Square, around which are found St. Eustachius' Church and the Abbey ruins, to the west, the Grade 2-listed Town Hall, the disused former Guildhall/magistrates' court buildings, and Pannier Market buildings behind the Town Hall. Abbey Bridge crosses the River Tavy to the south, while West Street and Duke Street, on either side of the north end of the square, form the main shopping areas, with the indoor [Pannier] market running behind Duke Street.

Plymouth Road, the A386 heading west from the centre of the square, is home to much of the town's tourist trade, with many hotels and bed and breakfast establishments, as well as the town's bus station. Between Plymouth Road and the Tavy is the park, known locally as the Meadows, along with car parks, the Wharf theatre, cinema and culture centre, and a public recreation pool. West of the Meadows are found the substantial playing fields and buildings of Tavistock College, reached by an underpass below the A386. Further south along the Plymouth Road/A386 lie industrial estates, supermarkets and other large retail outlets. To the north and east of town lies Whitchurch Down, where Dartmoor begins immediately.



Most secondary education is provided by Tavistock College, a state-funded specialist Language College with nearly 2,000 pupilscite web|url=http://www.tavistockcollege.devon.sch.uk/college/|title=The College|publisher=Tavistock College|work=Tavistock College website|accessdate=2007-06-28] . Drawn from a catchment area of about 20 km (12 miles) radius. The college has international links with Japan, Uganda, Spain and India where staff exchanges and student visits and projects take place. The college is also involved in organising concerts in their area under the name of ParkLife, with the first being held in 2006 [cite web|url=http://www.parklifeparty.co.uk/index2.php|title=Parklife Party Homepage|work=Parklife website|accessdate=2007-06-28] .

Some children who pass the optional 11 plus exam at a high level travel to one of the three remaining grammar schools in Plymouth. Others who leave school at 16 attend the City College C of F E there.

Tavistock has a choice of primary schools: Church of England St Peters and also St Rumons together with Devon County Council's Tavistock Community Primary and Whitchurch Primary.


There is a private school, Kelly College, of around 350 pupils [cite web|url=http://www.isinspect.org.uk/reports/2004/0564_04.htm|title=Inspection Report on Kelly College|author=Independent Schools Inspectorate|year=2004|accessdate=2007-06-28] , situated just outside town to the east. Further along the road is its preparatory school Kelly College Preparatory School. Close by on a prominent site beside the Princetown road is Mount House Preparatory School preparing boarding youngsters from 7 to 13 and Common Entrance to their public schools.

Life and Events

Tavistock is a small market town, providing shopping and entertainment for its residents, many small outlying villages and the local farming community. It is a centre for the West Devon and Dartmoor tourist trade. It is a fast growing dormitory area for commuters working in Plymouth and has a sizeable and rapidly growing retired community, perhaps drawn by the rural tranquility and scenery, giving Tavistock an average resident age of 44 (one of the highest average ages in DevonFact|date=June 2007).

The Market continues to operate from the large covered market building, the Pannier Market; the main market is on Fridays, with other days playing host to various more specialised events, such as craft fairs and antiques fairs [cite web|url=http://www.tavistockpanniermarket.co.uk/|title=Tavistock Pannier Market website|accessdate=2007-06-28] . A Farmers' Market takes place on the Square fortnightly and has been voted Best Farmer's Market in the South West [cite web|url=http://www.tavistockfarmersmarket.com/|title=Tavistock Farmers Market website|accessdate=2007-06-28] .

The biggest event in the town's calendar is the annual Tavistock Goose Fair (known locally as "Goosey Fair"), which has existed since 1116. Originally scheduled to take place on the feast-day of St. Rumon, it now occurs on the second Wednesday of October, and takes over much of the town for several days either side, drawing crowds which far outnumber the resident population. Traditionally, the Fair was an opportunity for locals to purchase their Christmas goose, allowing plenty of time to fatten the bird before Christmas came; nowadays, along with a multitude of street vendors selling a vast range of wares, there are all the rides and games associated with funfairs [cite web|url=http://www.tavistock.gov.uk/tavistock/goose_fair.htm|title=Goose Fair|work=Tavistock Town Council website|publisher=Tavistock Town Council|accessdate=2007-06-28] .

The town maintains twinning links with Pontivy in France (Brittany) since 1958 and with Celle in Germany [cite web|url=http://www.twinning.org.uk/uk_twinnings.htm|title=UK Twin Towns|publisher=Dorset Twinning Association|date=2007-05-11|accessdate=2007-06-28] .

In 2005 Tavistock was voted 'Best Market Town' in England and in 2006 'Best Food Town' [cite news|title=No need to shop around in Tavistock|first=Peter|last=Harrison|work=Western Morning News|date=2005-10-12|url=http://www.tavistockforward.org.uk/nc%20ewwmnbid.htm] , largely on the strength of the large number of independent food shops and suppliers to be found in the town and hinterland. Of particular note are a long established family grocers and delicatessen in East St and the cheese shop to be found behind the Pannier market. There is an annual 2-day Food Festival in July [cite web|url=http://www.tavistockfoodfestival.co.uk/|title=Tavistock Food Festival website|accessdate=2007-06-28] and a Carnival with a 2-day Balloon Fiesta each August bank holiday weekend. The town is also Devon's second Fairtrade Town (in 2006) [cite web|url=http://www.fairtrade.org.uk/get_involved_fairtrade_towns.htm|title=Fairtrade towns|publisher=Fairtrade Foundation|date=2007-06-18|accessdate=2007-06-28] . The town as recently as 2006 had a moment of international fame for having successfully cold-shouldered to closure the local branch of the world's leading 'burger chain'.

Tavistock also has a football team, Tavistock F.C. and a rugby team which goes by the name of Tavistock Rugby Football Club


Literary links

Tavistock was the birthplace of the poet William Browne [cite book|title=A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature|last=Cousin|first=John W.|publisher=J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd.|location=London|url=http://www.gutenberg.org/files/13240/13240-h/13240-h.htm|year=1910] .

The town is mentioned in some of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes adventures, including The Hound of the Baskervilles and Silver Blaze. It is also receives a mention in R. D. Blackmore's classic Lorna Doone and Neal Stephenson's novel, "The System Of The World".

Aristocratic link

Tavistock is tied from late medieval times with the Russells, the family name of the Earls of Bedford and since 1694, the Dukes of Bedford. This is clearly seen from the history of the town. The second title of the Duke of Bedford is the Marquess of Tavistock, taken as the courtesy title of the eldest son and heir to the dukedom, and illustrates the importance of this Devon town, its hinterland and the minerals beneath it to the family's fortunes. It is believed that the Russell family retains considerable interests in the locality. Most recently, Robin, the short-lived 14th Duke, as Marquess of Tavistock, was a frequent visitor to the town along with his wife, Henrietta. Andrew Russell is the 15th Duke of Bedford and Marquess of Tavistock.

It is this Russell family connection through the Bedford Estates which gives the name by ownership to Russell Square and Tavistock Square in London, famously home to the Tavistock Clinic, and infamously the bus-bombing of 7th July 2005.

ee also

* Tavistock Abbey
* Tavistock Canal
* Tavistock F.C.
* South Devon and Tavistock Railway


External links

* [http://www.tavistock.gov.uk/ Local government]
* [http://www.devon.gov.uk/etched?url=etched/ixbin/hixclient.exe&_IXP_=1&_IXR=110633 Tavistock information from Devon County Council]
* [http://www.tavistock-today.co.uk/today/index.cfm The Tavistock Times Gazette]
* [http://www.canals.btinternet.co.uk/canals/tavistock.htm History of the canal]
* [http://www.plymrail.co.uk/history.html History of the railway]

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