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HER Number:MDV76330
Name:Tavistock

Summary

The town of Tavistock evolved from a small settlement around the 10th century Benedictine Abbey of St Mary and St Rumon. In 1304 it became one of the four stannary towns being easily accessible to tinners working the western slopes of Dartmoor. It became an important centre for woollen cloth and leather but these industries were to pale into insignificance in comparision with the exploitation of mineral resources, particularly of copper, which commenced in the 1790s and continued into the 19th century effectively turning Tavistock into an industrial town. Today though Tavistock serves as an important market town with just a modicum of light industry.

Location

Grid Reference:SX 480 743
Map Sheet:SX47SE
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishTavistock
DistrictWest Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishTAVISTOCK

Protected Status: none recorded

Other References/Statuses: none recorded

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • SETTLEMENT (X to XXI - 950 AD to 2015 AD (Between))

Full description

Worth, R. N., 1889, Notes on the Early History of Tavistock, 136 (Article in Serial). SDV341116.

Tavistock was an early Saxon centre of importance. The earthwork on the hill near Kelly college may represent the original Tavy-stock. Local nomenclature mainly saxon, with Celctic traces. Tavistock is on the line of the Fosseway which crossed Dartmoor from Exeter to its Cornish terminus at Giano, or Marazion. Great central trackwayof Dartmoor a relic of this road, and Ptolemy's Tamara probably somewhere in this locality. The ancient inscribed stones found and now in the Vicarage garden are found upon one parallel in the SW of the county, between Stowford on the north, and Yealmpton on the south, passing through Tavistcok as a kind of centre. Probably indicate a period of active mission work of the Irish church, end 5th-first half of the 6th century.


Gover, J. E. B. + Mawer, A. + Stenton, F. M., 1931, The Place-Names of Devon: Part One, 217 (Monograph). SDV1312.

Tavistock was mentioned as 'Tauistoce' and 'Attavistoce' in 981. In 1000 in was referred to as 'Tefing stoce', in 1086 as 'Tavestocha' and in 1120 as 'Taefingstoc'.


Finberg, H. P. R., 1947, The Borough of Tavistock: Its Origin and Early History, 130 (Article in Serial). SDV344360.

In the 10th century a settlement grew up outside the monastery gates in Tavistock and by 1086 there were twelve serfs, twenty bordars and seventeen villani settled under the abbot's lordship.


Timms, S. C., 1976, The Devon Urban Survey, 1976. First Draft, 165- (Report - Survey). SDV341346.

The Domesday entry for Tavistock shows the settlement to be a prosperous agricultural community but gives no indication of any urban status. The first documentary evidence for urban growth comes from the 12th century when, in 1105, the abbot obtained the grant of a weekly market and a three day market was added in 1116. Shortly before 1185 an are of 325 acres was marked out as the site of a new borough. The abbey lay within the physical limits of this new borough although it was officially part of the abbot's manor of Hurdwick.
Tavistock was to be assessed at the fifth highest rate in the county in 1332 and by the mid 15th century it had risen to fourth place, overtaking Dartmouth to lie behind only Exeter, Barnstaple and Plymouth.
The early growth of the borough centred around efficient farming and the production of an agricultural surplus. The borough's location between Dartmoor and the Tamar also brought other sources of economic growth with Morwhellham already being used as a shipping port in the 12th century. Tavistock was made one of the four stannary towns in 1304 being accessible to the tinners working the western slopes of the moor. It also developed its own manufacturing industries, becoming an important centre for woollen cloth and leather. The town became noted for the production of coarse serges known as 'tavistocks'.
In 1539 after the dissolution the borough was among the abbey possessions given to the Russell family (later headed by the Dukes of Bedford) who, although they were never resident in the town, held political control over the borough even after a charter of incorporation was obtained in 1682. The local manufacturing industries continued to function, there was a large leatherworking community through to the 18th century and there were still 100 looms at work in 1838. These industries pale into insignificance, however, in comparison with the exploitation of mineral resources, especially of copper, which commenced in the 1790s and continued into the second half of the 19th century, effectively turning Tavistock into an industrial town. As a result the Dukes of Bedford were able to carry out large scale modernisation schemes in the town. The 19th century growth of the mining industry led to further expansion and the construction of two railway lines called for new access roads. As a result the present town plan is much changed from its medieval predecessor. Today Tavistock serves as an important market town with a modicum of light industry.


The Tavistock and District Local History Society, 1994, About Tavistock: An Historical Introduction and Six Town Walks, 7-21 (Monograph). SDV354806.

Brief history of the town given.


Exeter Archaeology, 1997, Archaeological Assessment of Tavistock Sewer Overflows Scheme, 2 (Report - Assessment). SDV344347.

The town of Tavistock evolved from a small settlement around the 10th century Benedictine Abbey of St Mary and St Rumon. The site lay at a convenient river crossing where routes from Okehampton, Plymouth and Cornwall converged. A market and a fair were granted to the abbey in the early 12th century and a new Borough of Tavistock was formed in the late 12th century.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV1312Monograph: Gover, J. E. B. + Mawer, A. + Stenton, F. M.. 1931. The Place-Names of Devon: Part One. The Place-Names of Devon: Part One. VIII. A5 Hardback. 217.
SDV341116Article in Serial: Worth, R. N.. 1889. Notes on the Early History of Tavistock. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 21. A5 Hardback. 136.
SDV341346Report - Survey: Timms, S. C.. 1976. The Devon Urban Survey, 1976. First Draft. Devon Committee for Rescue Archaeology Report. A4 Unbound + Digital. 165-.
SDV344347Report - Assessment: Exeter Archaeology. 1997. Archaeological Assessment of Tavistock Sewer Overflows Scheme. Exeter Archaeology Report. 97.02. A4 Stapled + Digital. 2.
SDV344360Article in Serial: Finberg, H. P. R.. 1947. The Borough of Tavistock: Its Origin and Early History. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 79. A5 Hardback. 130.
SDV354806Monograph: The Tavistock and District Local History Society. 1994. About Tavistock: An Historical Introduction and Six Town Walks. About Tavistock: An Historical Introduction and Six Town Walks. A5 Paperback. 7-21.

Associated Monuments

MDV21702Related to: Lower Market House, Tavistock (Building)
MDV21792Related to: Medieval Borough of Tavistock (Monument)
MDV3919Related to: Tavistock Abbey (Monument)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV4597 - Assessment of Tavistock Sewer Overflow Scheme

Date Last Edited:Feb 23 2018 1:56PM