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Tavistock, Devon

Historical Description

Tavistock, a town and a parish in Devonshire. The town stands on the river Tavy, with stations on the G.W.R. and L. & S.W.R., 214 miles from London, and 16½ N of Plymouth. It has a post, money order, and telegraph office. It took its name from the Tavy, and was anciently called Tavystoke; belonged to Earl Orgdar, father-in-law to King Edgar; acquired from Orgdar and his son Ordulph in 961-81 a magnificent abbey, and derived from that abbey much and long consequence as a place of concourse, underwent many vicissitudes in the course of public events, was occupied, by the Royalists in 1643, and visited by Charles I. in 1644. It numbers among its natives Sir Francis Drake, who died in 1596; Sir J. Glanville, who died in 1600; Sir J. Maynard, who died in 1690; the poet Browne, who was born in 1590; and the graphic writer Mrs Bray; and gives the title of Marquis to the Duke of Bedford. Its abbey was destroyed by the Danes in 997, was rebuilt with increased splendour, was invested by Henry I. with jurisdiction over all Tavistock hundred, rose in the early years of Henry VIII. to the status of n, mitred abbey, with exemption from episcopal oversight, had a school for the study of Saxon, and the second printing press set up in England, was given at the Dissolution to Lord Russell, ancestor of the Duke of Bedford, was partly incorporated about 1755 with an edifice called the Bedford Hotel, and is now represented chiefly by the principal gateway, a small but picturesque adjoining tower, a pinnacled porch at the back of the hotel, two towers and a still-house in the grounds of the vicarage, and the refectory converted into a Unitarian chapel.

The town stands in a fine hollow surrounded by verdant hills, on the E by a portion of Dartmoor, enjoys attractive environs with great diversity of feature, is irregularly aligned, and consists for the most part of wide streets with a few old, houses. The Guildhall, on part of the site of the Abbey, was. built in 1848. The rooms over the abbey gateway contain a public library. A spacious covered market with shops, a reading-room, and adjoining open yards, was constructed in 1863 at a cost of £25,000, and is in the Late Pointed Domestic-style. A handsome public swimming bath was built in 1883. A bronze statue of Francis, seventh Duke of Bedford, was erected in 1864, and a bronze statue of Sir Francis Drake in. 1883. The church of St Eustachius is Later English, was restored in 1846, and contains some good monuments. The living is a vicarage with Fitzford annexed, in the diocese of Exeter; gross value, £490 with residence. Patron, the Duke of Bedford. St Paul's Church, Gulworthy, is a building of stone in the Early English style. The living is a vicarage; gross value, £165 with residence. There are six dissenting chapels; a mechanics' institute; a grammar school, endowed by Hastings Russell, late Duke of Bedford, which has several scholarships; Kelly College, founded in 1870 by the late Admiral Kelly, a large educational establishment of the higher grade, which has a cadet corps attached to the 2nd Devonshire Volunteers; a school of art, a dispensary, a cottage hospital, a workhouse, and considerable charities. The town has three banks and three chief inns, is a seat of petty sessions, and publishes a weekly newspaper, has a weekly market on Friday, monthly fairs, a brewery, and an iron-foundry. It was never chartered, sent two members to Parliament occasionally from the time of Edward I., and always from that of Edward III. till 1867. It was reduced by the Reform Act of that year to the right of sending only one, and in 1885 its representation was merged in that of the county. Acreage of the civil parish, 11,539; population, 6252; of the ecclesiastical, 6323. The Duke of Bedford is lord of the manor, and owner of most of the parish.

Tavistock or Western Parliamentary Division of Devonshire was formed under the Redistribution of Seats Act of 1885 and returns one member to the House of Commons. Population, 50,616. The division includes the following:- Hatherleigh-Ashbury, Beaworthy, Belston, Broadwoodkelly, Exbourn, Hatherleigh, Highhampton, Honeychurch, Iddesleigh, Inwardleigh, Jacobstow, Meeth, Monk Okehampton, North Lew, Okehampton, Sampford Courtenay, Sheepwash; Holsworthy-Abbots Bickington, Ashwater, Black Torrington, Bradford, Bradworthy, Bridgerule (East), Bridgerule (West), Clawton, Cookbury, Halwell, Hollacombe, Holsworthy, Luffincott, Milton Damerel, Northcott Hamlet, Pancrasweek, Pyworthy, Sutcombe, Tetcott, Thornbury, West Putford; Lifton-Bradstone, Bratton Clovelly, Bridestowe, Broadwoodwidger, Coryton, Dunterton, Germansweek, Kelly, Lewtrenchard, Lifton, Maristow, North Petherwin, St Giles-in-the-Heath, Sourton, Stowford, Thrushelton, Virginstow, Werrington; Midland Roborough-Bickleigh, Buckland Monachorum, Compton Gifford, Eggbuckland, Laira Green, Meavy, St Budeaux, Shaugh, Sheepstor, Tamerton Folliot, Walkampton, Weston Peverell; Roborough-East Stonehouse; Tavistock-Beerferris, Brentor, Lamerton, Lidford, Marytavy, Milton Abbott, Petertavy, Sampford Spiney, Sydenham Damerell, Tavistock, Whitchurch; Devonport, municipal borough; Plymouth, municipal borough.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient CountyDevon 
Ecclesiastical parishTavistock St. Evstachius 
Poor Law unionTavistock 

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.

Church Records

Findmypast, in association with the South West Heritage Trust, Parochial Church Council, and Devon Family History Society have the Baptisms, Banns, Marriages, and Burials online for Tavistock

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Tavistock from the following:


Online maps of Tavistock are available from a number of sites:

Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following newspapers covering Devon online:

Villages, Hamlets, &c


Visitations Heraldic

The Visitation of the County of Devon in the year 1564, with additions from the earlier visitation of 1531, is online.

The Visitations of the County of Devon, comprising the Heralds' Visitations of 1531, 1564, & 1620, with additions by Lieutant-Colonel J.L. Vivian, published for the author by Henry S. Eland, Exeter 1895 is online.

DistrictWest Devon
RegionSouth West
Postal districtPL19
Post TownTavistock