Totnes Devon - Information On Totnes, Accommodation, Self Catering, Cottages, Hotels And B&B's In Totnes
Totnes in South Devon
The ancient borough of Totnes enjoys a prominent position above the River Dart. Totnes is one of Devon's gems; full of both colour and character, that stems from a rich cultural, historical and archaeological heritage.
Totnes is the second oldest borough in England and is full of interesting diversions for the visitor museums, a riverside with steamer quay, an ancient Guildhall and Church, a Norman Castle and the North and East Gates.
The town is an architectural feast to those interested in historic buildings - with fine examples of properties dating back to Norman, Medieval and Tudor times. The name Totnes derives from the Saxon for a fort or lookout on a ridge. The town is known to have been a fortified Saxon settlement, built to protect the upper reaches of the river from Viking raiding parties.
As a visitor to this fascinating town, take time to hunt out the Leechwells, uncover the legend of the Brutus stone; browse amongst the delightful shops for arts, crafts and unusual gifts or just listen to buskers, especially on market days. The riverside offers you the chance to take a boat trip from the Steamer Quay to the historic town of Dartmouth or for land lubbers, why not take the steam train to Buckfastleigh?
Totnes has a long history; it was one of the five Devonshire towns originally mentioned in the Doomsday Book. It was one of the wealthiest towns in Medieval and Tudor Devon (second only to Exeter) the town's wealth, and prosperity, built upon the export of wool from sheep reared on nearby Dartmoor and the export of locally mined tin. The town's location helped contribute to this success - being both the highest port navigable, and the lowest bridging place on the river Dart.
A visit to Totnes is best started from the river side - at the bottom of the town. Here you will find the old Steamer Quay, in what was once the thriving river port. The quay is now the centre for the local river cruisers - who daily carry the summer visitors on pleasure trips from Totnes to Dartmouth some 6 miles down stream.
From the quay, Fore Street rises up into the centre of the town, passing underneath the East Gate Arch - a splendid Tudor structure. On its way up into the town the street winds it way past many fine examples of 16th and 17th century merchant's houses, including the restored Elizabethan House, which serves as the museum. The quality of the architecture found in Totnes was recognised by the Council for British Archaeology, in 1965, which placed Totnes in the CBA's list of top forty towns - towns that are their opinion; 'so splendid and precious that the ultimate responsibility for them should be regarded as a National concern'.
This accolade is in part due to the fact that , there are 66 houses in Totnes that date to before 1700.
A striking feature from Totnes' past is the Butterwalk (on the north side of High Street) and the Poultry Walk. These are two, covered pavement arcades with stone pillars carrying the overhanging storeys of the houses, that once sheltered markets that were held there. Similar pillared ambulatories can be seen in nearby owns of Dartmouth and Kingsbridge.
The red sandstone St. Mary's Church in Totnes has a fine example of a fifteenth century rood screen, carved from stone quarried in Beer.
The Guild Hall, on Ramparts Walk (just after the East gate
Arch) in the High Street, is a well-preserved 16th century building. The
Hall, which was constructed in 1533, still serves as a council chamber.
Visitors to the Guild Hall can see Totnes' Old Jail and the table where
Cromwell sat in 1646.
The Ancient Leech Well
Situated on Fore Street, close to the East Gate Arch. The museum is located in a Tudor Merchants House. This half-timbered building is an excellent architectural example of this type of period property. The museum has a good display of local history - containing 5000 years of local history.
13 diverse rooms rising three floors and reaching far into a long thin burgage plot and covering a courtyard, separate Kitchen block with Tudor garden beyond. Archaeological, Victorian toy and Jacobean furniture displays. Features Charles Babbage, Victorian inventor of the first computer.
Open Monday - Friday mid March to end of October, 10:30am to 5:00pm (last entry at 4:30pm). Closed weekends and Bank Holidays. Study Centre (archive) open all year round on Thursdays and Fridays 10:30am to 4:00pm.
Tel. 01803 863 821
Totnes has a fine example of a Norman Castle, with commanding views over the town. Totnes Castle was constructed at a time when feudal Lords ruled over a simple mediaeval society. The presence, power and status of this ruling class of Norman's, was clearly demonstrated to the local people in the form of the castles that they built.
William the conqueror, granted Totnes, along with 107 other Devonshire manors to Judel the Breton (three variations of the name are mentioned in the research texts; Judel, Juhel and Judhael). Totnes castle was one of the first three stone castles to be in Devon, in a clear attempt to tighten William's hold over this potentially rebellious shire. Judel built his castle in the most commanding position possible, straddling the original medieval town walls with one of the largest examples of a Norman motte-and-bailey castle in the country. A dramatic round shell keep built on top of a huge mound of pounded earth and rock that still evokes a feeling of power today. The castle remains remarkably intact to this day, as it never received the kind of battering usually suffered by castles in the middle ages.
Totnes Costume Museum
An exhibition of costumes and accessories, entitled "The age of Victoria 1837-1901", Situated in one of the oldest Tudor houses in Totnes. Admission: Spring Bank Holiday to 1st Oct Mon to Fri 11.00am to 5.00pm
Local Places to Visit
Berry Pomeroy Castle
Local Folklore claims that this late medieval castle is a haunted. The Castle and mansion house is situated halfway up a wooded hillside, looking out over a deep ravine and stream. Berry Pomeroy is unusual in the way that it combines the remains of a large castle with a flamboyant courtier's mansion.
The original castle was constructed by the Pomeroy family following their arrival in England during the Norman invasion led by William the Conqueror. Originally made from wood, the castle was reconstructed in stone during the 12th century. The only part of the current building that is medieval in origin is the section stretchs from the gatehouse to St Margaret's tower.
The Duke of Somerset bought Berry Pomeroy in 1548; the family living in the castle for the next 100 years. During the Elizabethan period the castle was aquired by the Seymour family, who began a modernisation programme - by building the great mansion. The English Civil War interupted the work on the castle as it reached its final stages of completion. The Seymours abandoning the building in 1688 following damage by the Parliamentarian forces. A great fire at the end of 17th century destroyed the roofs and timber structures of the building, leaving the castle and mansion in ruins. Admission: 1 Apr to 31 Oct, daily 10.00am to 6.00pm. Tel: 01803 866 618
South Devon Railway
Steam trains running from Buckfastleigh to Totnes, very scenic and nostalgic. Tel. 01364 642 338
Water-coasters, Toboggan ride, Bumper boats, 14 Play zones, 30 Spectacular slides, Massive indoor Venture centres, Animal farm centre, Toddlers paradise. The Woodlands Leisure Park is a very good day out for the whole family. Tel. 01803 712 598
The Red Cruisers
Scenic cruises on the River Dart between the towns of Totnes and Dartmouth. Tel. 01803 555 872
Dartington Cider Press Centre
A visitor and craft centre, with 11 shops set in a village atmosphere, offering a wide variety of quality products including: crystal, jewellery, pottery, food, kitchen ware, books, stationary, toys etc. The Arts and Craft section offers a wide range of top quality designer wares. The centre provides an excellent range of well prepared, quality meals. Tel. 01803 864 171
High Cross House, Dartington Hall
Accessible from the Dartington Cider Press Centre, this is a listed International Modernist Style House, complete with 20th century paintings, ceramics, and an exhibition of text and photographs drawn from The Dartington Hall Trust Archive, which is administered from this site.
The house is open from May to October, Tues-Fri. 14.00-16.30 hours and to coach parties by appointment. The Archive is open to researchers throughout the year by appointment.
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