Straddling the fast flowing river Tavy, below the western edge of Dartmoor, Tavistock stands in the heart of an area of tremendous natural beauty. It is a classic West Country Market Town.
The old streets radiate from Bedford Square and contain shops for every taste and need. Within easy walking distance of the car parks and bus station you can find an eclectic mix of small independent shops, including delicatessens famous throughout the South West. Venture behind the Town Hall to discover the award winning and historic Pannier Market. The towns Market used to be held in Bank Square, now a car park but was replaced in 1860 by a stone-built covered Pannier Market. The Market bustles with activity on most days of the week.
Award winning hotels, restaurants and cafés cater for all tastes.
Situated just five minutes from the town centre, between the River Tavy and the canal, you will find The Meadows. This beautiful and peaceful park is a tranquil haven with attractive walks, children’s play area and Trim Trails.
There are many leisure and sporting activities available in and around the town including live entertainment and cinema at the Wharf Arts Centre, swimming at Meadowlands Leisure Pool, golf, cricket, football, tennis and, being the birthplace of Sir Francis Drake, bowling.
Tavistock is a lively and attractive Market Town, which wears its historic links with pride.
Tavistock, which had received its Market Charter from Henry I in 1105, developed from its wool trade, enjoying the monopoly to manufacture woollen cloths known as Tavistock Kersies. The wool trade flourished for many years, and the town prospered from its weekly markets, being the centre of a large farming district.
It also had the distinction of being one of the Stannary Towns where all the mined metal was weighed, stamped and assessed for duty. From the 12th Century considerable quantities of tin were mined, but latterly tin-mining was in decline. By 1850 the mining industry was booming again in this area with extraction of copper from the famous Devon Great Consols Mine. This was once the richest source of copper in Europe, and the relics of old workings are common, some standing stark and awesome against the sky, some softened by a cloak of ivy, others lost to the sight of all but the most determined searcher.
In 1542 Tavistock’s most famous son was born at a farm at Crowndale just down-stream on the Tavy – he was to become Sir Francis Drake. He left home to become apprenticed on a ship trading in the Channel and in 1567 Drake and Hawkins sailed out of Plymouth on a slave-trading voyage to the West Indies, and first tangled with the Spaniards. By 1588 when he helped the Lord High Admiral of England to defeat the Spanish Armada, as immortalised by that famous game of bowls on Plymouth Hoe, he had been knighted by Elizabeth I for his services to the Country (and her Treasury). He made his home at Buckland Abbey close to Tavistock. On Plymouth Road is Edgar Boehm’s Statue of Drake, erected by the 9th Duke of Bedford in 1883. Around its granite pedestal are bas reliefs depicting scenes from the life of Drake – the first Englishman to circumnavigate the world. Although more famous than its Tavistock counterpart, the Statue of Drake on Plymouth Hoe is a copy of the original Tavistock model, and does not possess these bas reliefs. Drake died during his West Indies Expedition in 1594, being buried at sea.
Tavistock itself is unique for its green stone buildings (Hurdwick Stone from a local quarry), which have a subtle charm. Many of them were built with stone taken from the Abbey when it was demolished after the Dissolution.
The towns focal point is Bedford Square, flanked by the Parish Church (St Eustachius) and the Town Hall, built in 1859 as part of the re-development carried out by Francis, the Seventh Duke of Bedford, whose statue stands outside the Guildhall, erected in 1848. The re-development was paid for largely from the huge royalties the Duke was receiving from mining operations on his Estates.
Nearby are most of the existing remains of the Abbey. All are scheduled as Ancient Monuments. The most picturesque is the Court Gate, an archway leading from Bedford Square to Guildhall Square. The archway houses the Museum and the Subscription Library – one of the oldest private libraries in Devon. The Arch stands on the site of the main entrance to the great courtyard of the Abbey.
One of the most attractive features of Bedford Square is the Town Hall, the embattled and pinnacled building, completed in 1860, has a beautifully vaulted, beamed ceiling and will seat approximately 500 people. The main function room houses a number of portraits of Tavistock’s noted dignitaries, including the Bedford family, Drake and Lord John Russell.
Copyright: Tavistock Town Council.