Pilton is a suburb of Barnstaple. It is located about half a mile north on the outskirts of the town in the English county of Devon, and the district of North Devon. It is home to about 2000 residents and has its own primary and secondary school. It is easily accessible via Barnstaple Town.
Situated on an easily-defended hill at the head of the Taw estuary and close to where the river narrows enough to be fordable, Pilton was an important Saxon settlement. Alfred the Great (871-899) had a fortified town, or burh, built at Pilton. According to the Burghal Hidage, an early 10th Century document setting out the details of all burhs then functioning, Pilton's wall was 1485 feet long and the nominated garrison consisted of 360 men drawn from the surrounding district in the event of an invasion. The other burhs in Devon were Exeter, Halwell (near Totnes) and Lydford; Watchet in Somerset was another burh which could provide mutual support. Pilton remained the site of the original burh through much of the 10th century until this was moved a mile or so to the south-east to become Barnstaple, probably because times were more peaceful and the burh's role as a civilian market centre had become more significant. Barnstaple was better located for trade and developed as a market town and then as a borough. A Saxon ford would have typically been indicated by a stapol, or post - Bearda's stapol giving the town of Barnstaple its name.
White's Devonshire Directory (published 1850) described Pilton in these terms:-
Morris and Co.'s Commercial Directory and Gazetteer (published 1870) expanded this with:-
From 1898 to 1935, Pilton was the main depot and operating centre for the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway. The site, a triangle of land to the East of Pilton Causeway, south of Yeo Vale Road and North of what is now the A361, was originally part of the tannery and reverted back to its original ownership when the line closed. The Yard Offices were, for many years after, home to The Sheepskin Shop, and more recently used as an antiquarian furniture shop. The carriage sheds, locomotive shed and other remnants of the railway were destroyed in a fire in 1992 and much of the site is now used for car parking.
Pilton was granted the right to hold an annual festival by Edward III. Since it was revived in 1982, the Pilton Festival is normally held on the third weekend of July and incorporates Green Man Day. The Pilton Festival includes a parade through Barnstaple, market, craft and food stalls, live music and performances of a Green Man pageant at Pilton House. The Green Man performances involve the Green Man, the Prior of the Benedictine Priory of Pilton and the Pilton Worm, an ancient monster. Over time the Festival had seemed to be more about profits with lots of non-local business and stalls but is now reverting to being very much a local and strictly non-profitmaking event with the aim of providing family fun and entertainment, celebrating the local community and helping local charities and businesses.