Place:Tavistock, Devon, England

Alt namesTavestocsource: Domesday Book (1985) p 87
Tavestochasource: Domesday Book (1985) p 87
TypeTown, Urban district
Coordinates50.545°N 4.15°W
Located inDevon, England
See alsoTavistock Hundred, Devon, Englandhundred in which the town was originally located
West Devon District, Devon, Englanddistrict municipality in which it is now located
source: Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names
source: Family History Library Catalog

the following article is based on one in Wikipedia

Tavistock is an ancient market town within the district of West Devon, in Devon, England. It is situated on the River Tavy from which its name derives. At the 2001 census it had a population of 11,018. It traces its recorded history back to at least AD 961 when Tavistock Abbey, whose ruins lie in the centre of the town, was founded. Its most famous son is Sir Francis Drake.

In addition to being the name of an ancient hundred, Tavistock was a Poor Law Union and Registration District from 1837 until 1930, and an Urban District from 1898 until 1966. In 1966 it joined Tavistock Rural District and the whole area became part of West Devon District in 1974.




In 1105 a Royal Charter was granted by Henry I to the monks of Tavistock (the abbey of Saint Mary and Saint Rumon was founded in 961) to run a weekly "Pannier Market" (so called after the baskets used to carry goods) on a Friday. This market still takes place today. In 1116 a three-day fair was also granted to mark the feast of Saint Rumon, another tradition that is still maintained in the shape of the annual "Goosey" fair on the second Wednesday in October.

In the 17th century great quantities of cloth were sold at the Friday market and four fairs were held at the feasts of Saint Michael, Epiphany, Saint Mark, and the Decollation of John the Baptist. The charter of Charles II instituted a Tuesday market, and fairs on the Thursday after Whitsunday and at the feast of Saint Swithin.

In 1305, with the growing importance of the area as one of Europe's richest sources of tin, Tavistock was one of the four stannary towns appointed by charter of Edward I, where tin was stamped and weighed and monthly courts were held for the regulation of mining affairs.

The town continued to prosper in the charge of the abbots, acquiring one of England's first printing presses in 1525. Tavistock remained an important centre of both trade and religion until the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The abbey was demolished in 1539, leaving the ruins still to be seen around the centre of the town.

The Russell Family

From this time on, the dominant force in the town became the Russell family, Earls and later Dukes of Bedford, who took over much of the land following the Dissolution.

Tavistock is tied from late medieval times with the Russells, the family name of the Earls of Bedford and since 1694, the Dukes of Bedford. This is clearly seen from the history of the town. The second title of the Duke of Bedford is the Marquess of Tavistock, taken as the courtesy title of the eldest son and heir to the dukedom, and illustrates the importance of this Devon town, its hinterland and the minerals beneath it to the family's fortunes. It is believed that the Russell family retains considerable interests in the locality. Most recently, Robin, the short-lived 14th Duke, as Marquess of Tavistock, was a frequent visitor to the town along with his wife, Henrietta. Andrew Russell is the 15th Duke of Bedford and Marquess of Tavistock.

Francis Drake

Around 1540 (some sources state 1542 as the exact year), Sir Francis Drake was born at Crowndale Farm, just to the west of what is now Tavistock College. He became a prominent figure of his age, a champion of Queen Elizabeth, the first Englishman to circumnavigate the world and one of the English commanders in the famously decisive victory against the Spanish Armada in 1588.

For more information, see the EN Wikipedia article Tavistock, Devon.

Research Tips

  • Ordnance Survey Maps of England and Wales - Revised: Devonshire Northand Devonshire South illustrate the parish boundaries of Devon when rural districts were still in existence. The maps publication year is 1931. The maps blow up to show all the parishes and many of the small villages and hamlets. These maps are now downloadable for personal use.
  • GENUKI has a new map feature on its individual Devon parish pages. Each parish page includes an outline map of parishes in the region of the one under inspection. By clicking on this map the user is taken to a blow-up of Historic Parishes of England and Wales: an Electronic Map of Boundaries before 1850 with a Gazetteer and Metadata [computer file] provided by R. J. P. Kain and R. R. Oliver of the History Data Service of Colchester, Essex (distributed by UK Data Archive).
  • Devon County Council's Record Offices and Local Studies Libraries are being reorganized and amalgamated to form the Devon Heritage Services, comprising the Devon Heritage Centre (Exeter) and the North Devon Record Office (Barnstaple). These developments, which are described in Historical Records: A New Future for Devon's Heritage, do not affect the other major Devon archive, the Plymouth & West Devon Record Office, or the Local Studies Library, which are located in Plymouth and come under the Plymouth City Council. (Devon FHS report that Plymouth Record Office has just aquired new premises.) There is a guide entitled Which heritage centre or record office should I visit? which is provided to explain the organization further.
  • Devon Family History Society Mailing address: PO Box 9, Exeter, EX2 6YP, United Kingdom. Specialized contacts for membership, publications, queries, etc. The society has branches in various parts of the county. It is the largest Family History Society in the United Kingdom.
  • Devon has a Online Parish Clerk (OPC) Project. Only about half of the parishes have a volunteer contributing local data. For more information, consult the website, especially the list at the bottom of the homepage.
  • GENUKI makes a great many suggestions as to other websites with worthwhile information about Devon as well as leading to a collection of 19th century descriptions of each of the ecclesiastical parishes. Devon is one of the counties on the GENUKI website that has recently (summer 2015) been updated. The maps described above are just one of the innovations.
  • The FamilySearch Wiki provides a similar information service to GENUKI which may be more up-to-date. An index of parishes leads to notes and references for each parish.
  • A Vision of Britain through Time has
  1. organization charts of the hierarchies of parishes within hundreds, registration districts and rural and urban districts of the 20th century
  2. excerpts from a gazetteer of circa 1870 outlining individual towns and parishes
  3. reviews of population through the time period 1800-1960
  • More local sources can often be found by referring to "What Links Here" in the column on the left.
This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original content was at Tavistock, Devon. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with WeRelate, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.