Buckfastleigh is a small market town and civil parish in Devon, England situated beside the Devon Expressway (A38) at the edge of the Dartmoor National Park. It is part of Teignbridge District and, for ecclesiastical purposes lies within the Totnes Deanery. It has a population of 3,661. It is a centre of tourism, and is home to Buckfast Abbey, the South Devon Railway, the Buckfastleigh Butterfly Farm and Otter Sanctuary, the Tomb of Squire Richard Cabell and The Valiant Soldier.
The town was originally part of Stanborough Hundred, an ancient division of Devon. It was an urban district from 1894 until 1974 when it was merged with other local municipalities to become the Teignbridge District.
Historically Buckfastleigh has grown as a mill town known for its woollen mills, corn and paper mills and a tannery supported by the rivers Dart, Mardle and the Dean Burn — water being an essential natural resource used in the manufacturing of wool and other products.
Buckfastleigh is medieval in origin, as is still evident in the original layout of the town. By the seventeenth century, most of the properties had been rebuilt, but the medieval layout, particularly in Fore Street, is still visible today.
The name "Buckfast" means "stronghold" — traditionally a place where deer and buck were held, and "Leigh" would have been the pasture belonging to Buckfast — hence the meaning deer held in a pasture (buck-fast-leigh).
Buckfast probably existed before Buckfastleigh as it is mentioned in the Domesday Book and in 1018 a Benedictine Abbey was founded and endorsed by King Canute at Buckfast.
Buckfastleigh town centre is now an area of mostly late eighteenth to early twentieth century buildings with an interesting collection of private dwellings, commercial and retail properties and public houses which retain many, if not all, of their original features, styles and character.
The town centre during the first half of the twentieth century was a lively almost self-sufficient community with locally based employment and a large building programme of local authority housing initiated by Buckfastleigh Urban District Council which commenced in the 1920s and extended the town to the south west and the north west. Census data shows that in 1801 the population was 1,525, and 2,781 in 1901.
The most prominent benefactors of the town were the Hamlyn family . who were the original owners of the woollen mills up until 1920 and together with other philanthropists in the town, new cottages were erected. In 1887 they were instrumental in the building of a new Town Hall and community building to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria. Land was also made available at this time for further public facilities which included Victoria Park, the tennis courts and the swimming pool. The new primary school was built in 1875 and the railway line from Buckfastleigh and Ashburton to Totnes was opened.