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Totnes, Devon

Historical Description

Totnes, a municipal borough, a market-town, and a parish in Devonshire. The town stands on the river Dart, with a station on the G.W.R., 218 miles from London, and 22½ SSW of Exeter. Totnes is a junction for the main line and the Ashburton and Buckfastleigh branch. It was anciently called Totneis, Totonese, Toutaness, and Dodonese; is supposed to have got these names from words signifying " a rocky or projecting place;" dates from very ancient times, may not improbably have been a place of trade with the Phoenicians; is thought by some to have been the Roman Ad Durium Amnem at the terminus of the Fosse Way; was held at Domesday by Judhael de Totneis, and had then 110 burgesses; acquired from Judhael a castle, the keep of which still stands; acquired also a Benedictine priory from Judhael and a Trinitarian house from Bishop Warlewast; was once surrounded with walls, some fragments of which still exist; numbers among its natives the Saxon scholar Lye (who died in 1769), the Hebrew scholar Kennicott(1783),the theologian Furneaux (1726), the painter Brockedon, and the Australian explorer Wills (1860). It gave the title of Earl in the time of James I. to G. Carew. It is a borough by prescription, governed by a mayor, 4 aldermen, and 12 councillors, who act as the urban district council; sent two members to Parliament from the time of Edward I. till 1867, and was then disfranchised; is a seat of petty sessions and county courts; occupies the acclivity and the brow of a steep hill, sheltered by higher grounds, yet commanding a fine view; is connected by a handsome bridge with the suburb of Bridgetown in Berry Pomeroy parish; exhibits aspects of antiquity in some houses with slated fronts, piazzas, and projecting gables; has a head post office, three banks, a gnild-hall, a police office erected in 1892, an assembly room, recreation grounds around the castle, apublic walk along the river, a granite obelisk of 1864 to Wills, a mechanics' institute, an endowed grammar school, a workhouse built at a cost of £6000, and publishes two weekly newspapers. A weekly market is held on Saturday, a cattle market on the first and third Tuesday of every month, fairs on 12 May and 28 Oct., and a considerable coasting trade in vessels of 200 tons and under is carried on. There are two breweries, a flour mill, and a cider factory. The manor passed from Judhael to successively the De Braoses, the Zouches, the Valletorts, and the Edgecumbes, and belongs now to the Duke of Somerset. Folladton House, Broomborough, and Bowdon are the chief residences. The fine scenery of the valley of the Dart and the beauty of the surrounding country, secures for Totnes a continual influx of visitors. Area of municipal borough, 1295 acres; population, 4016; of the ecclesiastical parish, 3377. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Exeter; gross value, £230 with residence. Patron, the Bishop of Exeter. The church is a fine building of stone in the Perpendicular style, with a lofty tower. It contains a number of interesting monuments and memorials, and is said to have the finest stone screen in existence, and has been well restored. The church of St John the Evangelist, Bridgetown, is a chapel of ease to the parish church of Berry Pomeroy, and was erected in 1832. There are Baptist, Wesleyan, Congregational, and Roman Catholic chapels.

Totnes or Southern Parliamentary Division of Devonshire was formed under the Redistribution of Seats Act of 1885, and returns one member to the House of Commons. Population, 49,642. The division includes the following:- Ermington and Plympton-Aveton Gifford, Bigbury, Brixton, Cornwood, Ermington, Harford, Holbeton, Kingston, Modbury, Newton Ferrers, Plympton Maurice, Plympton (St Mary), Plymstock, Revelstoke, Ringmore, Ugborough, Wembury, Yealmpton; Stanborough and Coleridge-Ashprington, Berry Pomeroy, Blackawton, Buckfastleigh, Buckland Tout Saints, Charleton, Chivelstone, Churchstow, Cornworthy, Dartington, Dean Prior, Diptford, Dittisham, Dodbroke, East Allington, Halwell, Harberton, Kingsbridge, Little Hempstone, Loddiswell, Malborough, Morleigh, North Huish, Portlemouth, Rattery, Sherford, Slapton, South Brent, South Huish, South Milton, South Pool, Stoke Fleming (part of), Stokenham, Thurleston, Totnes, West Alvington, Woodleigh; Totnes, 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 parishTotnes St. Mary 
Poor Law unionTotnes 

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 Totnes

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Totnes from the following:


Online maps of Totnes 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:

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.

DistrictSouth Hams
RegionSouth West
Postal districtTQ9
Post TownTotnes