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The History of Tavistock

Prehistoric man lived on the rugged moorland rising high above the Town. Traces of him are scattered over the hill-sides in the shape of stone hut circles and other relics.

The River Tavy - in the centre of TavistockThe ancient British trackway between Exeter and the extreme West passed through Tavistock, which derives its name from the Saxon Tau-Vechan- Stoke (the River Tavy being called TauVechan by the Britons.

Around the year AD 961 Ordgar the Earl of Devon laid the foundations of a Benedictine Abbey where the centre of the Town now sits.

In AD 997 the town and abbey were looted and destroyed by a marauding band of Vikings. However, Ordgar's son Ordulf soon restored the abbey.

At the time of the conquest in 1066 Tavistock was firmly established as an ecclesiastic and trading centre.

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The Abbey prospered, and in 1116 Henry I gave a Charter as a Market Town, followed in 1281 by Tavistock becoming a Stannary Town entitled to weigh and stamp tin in the Monarch's cause. By then the locality was exporting large quantities of tin to Europe.

Tavistock Parish Church - St EustachiusIn 1295 Tavistock gained recognition as a Borough, and sent two Members of parliament to London.

The Parish Church of St Eustachius dates from 1318, and in 1467 cloth manufacture in the Town was protected by Statute.

In 1525 one of the first printing presses in England was established in the Abbey, and Walton's translation of Boethius de Conolatione was imprinted by Thomas Rychard, a local monk.

In 1539 Henry VIII dissolved the Abbey, and its grounds and property were 'gifted' to Lord John Russell, the ancestor of the Bedford's.

In 1581 a local boy made good (Sir Francis Drake) became Mayor of Plymouth.

1625 saw the plague come to Tavistock and 52 people died.

Tavistock Town Hall and Bedford SquareIn 1642 the Civil War came, and the Town was first held for Parliament, then played host to Charles I and his Army.

In 1694 the Earl of Bedford was created Duke, and the strong links with the Bedford dynasty began.

In 1803 a canal was cut to link the Town with the River Tamar at Morewhellam, and business blossomed.

The railways came in 1859, and the Bedford's commenced a massive re-building project in the Town, the present Town Hall, Guildhall, Pannier Market and shops along Duke Street.


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