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TAVISTOCK

From White's Devonshire Directory of 1850

TAVISTOCK is an ancient parliamentary borough and handsome market and stannary town, delightfully seated in the picturesque valley of the small river Tavy, from which it has its name, 33 miles S.W. by W. of Exeter; 15 miles N. of Plymouth; 20 miles W. of Ashburton, and 205 miles W.S.W. of London. It gives name to a large union, deanery, county court and polling district, and a petty sessional division. Its PARISH is all within the borough, except the manor of Cudlipptown, and extends over about 4000 A. of open moorland on the confines of Dartmoor, and includes 10,573 A. of cultivated land, stretching more than 3 miles north, west, and south of the town, and forming a fertile and picturesque district, bounded on the east by the Tavy, and on the south-west by the navigable river Tamar, which separates it from Cornwall, and to which there is a canal from the town, more than four miles in length, opened in 1817, and passing in a tunnel nearly two miles long, under the rocky hills to Morwellham quay, to which the Tamar is navigable for vessels of 200 tons burthen. The population of the parish was 3420 in 1801; 4723 in 1811; 5483 in 1821; 5602 in 1831; and 6272 in 1841; but it now comprises about 7000, including the numerous scattered farm-houses, &c. The river Tavy rises in the mountainous region of Dartmoor Forest, which extends to within a few miles East of the town. In the neighbourhood are the copper, tin, and lead mines, called the Devonshire Great Consols, or Wheal Maria; Bedford United, Tavy Consols, and Wheal Russell. The first named was opened about five years ago, and belongs to a company, holding 1024 shares, on which only £1 each has been paid, though they are now worth about £200 each. This lucrative mine employs about 1100 hands, and yields about 1350 tons of rich copper ore per month, and its last sale realized £9200. The town has been greatly improved and beautified, during the last ten years, by the Duke of Bedford, who owns most of the parish, and is lord of the manors of Tavistock, Hurdwick, Morwell, Qgbear, Parswell, and Ottery, formerly belonging to the Abbey; but the manor of Cudlipptown belongs to the Rev. E.A. Bray, and was formerly held by the Rolle, Sawle, and Fellowes families. Kilworthy, an ancient house, now occupied by a farmer, was long the seat of Judge Glanville and family, and now belongs to the Duke of Bedford. Mount Tavy is the pleasant seat of Mrs. Carpenter, a liberal benefactress of the poor. Fitzford, adjoining the town, was anciently the seat of the Fitze family, and afterwards of the Grenvilles, but now belongs to the Duke. Its remains have been converted into a farm-house and outbuildings, but the ancient gateway, mantled with ivy, is still standing. Morwell House, occupied by a farmer, is a large and ancient quadrangular building in the Tudor style, which has been completely restored by the Duke of Bedford, who is now rebuilding or enlarging many of the farm-houses on his extensive estates. This house was a country seat of the Abbots of Tavistock, and is situated in the southern part of the parish, overlooking the Tamar valley. TAVISTOCK ABBEY, which stood in the town on the western acclivity of the vale of the Tavy, is said to have been founded in 961, by Orgar, Earl of Devon, or his son Ordulph. Tavistock is said to have been the seat of Earl Orgar, the story of whose beautiful daughter, Elfrida, is well known. The abbey was destroyed by the Danes in 997, but was soon afterwards rebuilt. It was richly endowed by the founder and subsequent benefactors, and its revenues were valued at the dissolution at £902. 5s. 7d. per annum. It was made a mitred abbey in 1458; and in 1514, Richard Banham. procured for himself and successor a seat in parliament. He also obtained from Pope Leo X. a bull which exempted the abbey from episcopal jurisdiction. The abbey had long a flourishing school for Saxon literature, and also a printing press, said to have been the second set up in England. The productions of this press are now extremely rare. In the Abbey Church were buried Edward, brother of Edmund Ironside; Earl Orgar, and his son Ordulph; St. Rumon, to whom the church was dedicated; Bishop Livingus, &c. John Courtenay, one of the abbots, was heir to the earldom of Devonshire, which honor he declined in favour of his next brother. The abbot had the power of inflicting capital punishment in the manor of Hurdwick. The abbey and all its large possessions were granted by Henry VIII. in 1539 or 1540, to John, Lord Russell, an ancestor of the Duke of Bedford, their present owner. The tower and ruins of the Abbey Church, which had been consecrated by Bishop Stapledon, in 1318, were pulled down about 1670, and the materials used in building a school-house. In the early part of last century, the principal remains of the abbey were, "the gatehouse, then used as a prison for captive seamen; the Saxon School, used as a granary, &c.; the walls of the kitchen and chapter-house, uncovered at top; and the abbot's hall, then fitted up as a meeting-house for the Presbyterians," and now occupied by Unitarians. The refectory and some other parts of this once splendid abbey were incorporated into the Abbey House, a large and elegant castellated mansion, built about 130 years ago, and enlarged by the late Duke of Bedford, and elegantly fitted up as an inn, under the name of the Bedford Hotel. The noble dining-room of this hotel is supposed to have been the refectory, and in it the Duke entertains his tenants and holds his courts. It is also used for balls and other public uses. On removing the ceiling of this spacious room, about 35 years ago, the original vaulted roof was discovered. In 1848, the Duke of Bedford erected on the site of part of the abbey ruins, the handsome new Guildhall, which comprises an extensive room, in which the Petty Sessions, County Court, &c., are now held; a magistrates' room and other apartments; under which is the Bridewell, comprising six cells, a dwelling for the police superintendent, a fire engine station, &c. This building, for the free use of the town, cost his Grace about £3000, and is erected in the same style as the venerable remains of the abbey, now mostly incorporated with other buildings. Over the Abbey- Gateway are the rooms of the literary and philosophical society, called the Tavistock Institution, established in 1828; the Public Library, established in 1799; and the Museum, founded by the Duke for the use of the town. The library comprises about 4000 volumes, and attached is a News and Reading Room. In one of the towers are instruments for registering the state of the weather, and a large telescope. Here is also a Mechanics' Institution, established in 1832, and now having about 800 members, and a good library. The site and precincts of the abbey now form the handsomest part of the town, and his Grace intends removing the old walls in front of the Guildhall, so as to open the view from thence to the Bedford Hotel, and the villas in the Abbey Mead. In 1845, he supplied the town with pure water from a reservoir of 50,000 gallons, at the top of Bannawell street, which is filled by never-failing springs. The cost of the water-works was about £1400. In the winters of 1846, '7, and '8, the noble and generous Duke employed a great number of labourers in effectually draining the town, and in carrying the drain waters through Fitzford meadows, which, aided by the fructifying influence of irrigation, now yield three crops of grass per annum. The cost of this work was about £1500. His Grace is now erecting a number of improved dwellings for the labouring poor, and has published a pamphlet on the subject. Bedford Hotel was originally intended as a manor-house, for the occasional residence of the Duke of Bedford's family. Endsleigh, the seat of the present Duke, is in the adjacent parish of Milton-Abbot, as noticed at page 622. William Russell, the seventh Earl of Bedford, was created Marquis of Tavistock and Duke of Bedford in 1649. The present Duke (Francis) was born in 1788, and succeeded in 1839; and his son, the Marquis of Tavistock, was born in 1809. Their principal seat is Woburn Abbey, Bedfordshire. In the Vicarage grounds are two ivy-mantled towers, called Betsy Grimbal's Tower and the Still House; and behind the Bedford Hotel is an elegantly carved porch, with four lofty pinnacles.

Tavistock sent Members to Parliament as early as the reign of Edward I., and it has regularly sent two representatives since the time of Edward III. The right of election, until the passing of the Reform Act of 1832, was in the freeholders of inheritance, residing in the borough, who were about 50 in number. The number of voters registered in 1837 was 329, of whom 300 were £10 householders. The old borough comprised only the town and its immediate vicinity, but the borough limits were extended by the Reform Act so as to comprise all the extensive parish, except the manor of Cudlipptown. The present representatives of the borough are the Hon. Edward Southwell Russell and John Salmsbury Trelawny, Esq. Tavistock is a borough by prescription, but was never incorporated. It is governed by a portreeve, who is the returning officer, and is appointed by the court-leet of the lord of the manor. A survey and valuation of the borough, made in 1726, says the lord holds courts leet and baron twice a year, at which the portreeve and eight masters are appointed by the lord's steward; that there were lands worth £60 per annum, mostly expended by the masters in repairing the church; and that the lord had a gaol and two sergeants-at-mace, a court of pleas for the manor and hundred, and a weekly court of record, The old Guildhall, being in a dilapidated state, was taken down after the completion of the new one. Petty Sessions are held here every alternate Thursday by the magistrates of Tavistock Division, to whom Mr. R. Luxton is clerk. The County Court, for the 24 parishes of Tavistock Union and some others, is held at the Guildhall monthly, and Mr. C.V. Bridgman is the clerk, and Mr. John Brownson the high bailiff. Quarter Sessions were formerly held here. In 1591, when the plague raged at Exeter, the summer assizes were held here, and 13 persons were condemned and executed on the Abbey green. On the breaking out of the civil wars of the 17th century, Tavistock was the scene of great confusion and excitement. Whilst the Earl of Bedford and most of the burgesses, with the celebrated Pym, one of their representatives, were warm in favour of the Parliament, many of the neighbouring gentry espoused the royal cause. Fitzford, the ancient seat of the Grenvilles, held out for the King, but was taken by the Earl of Essex, with 1000 stand of arms, and £3000 in money. Prince Charles held several councils here when Plymouth was blockaded by the Royalists, and Exeter by the Parliamentarians ; but the town does not appear to have been garrisoned during that unhappy period, though the royal army marched through into Cornwall, with the King at its head. Henry I. is said to have granted Tavistock a charter for a weekly market to be held on Saturday, but it is now held on Friday, and is ore of the largest in. the county for corn and slaughtered sheep, swine, &c., which are extensively purchased for Plymouth and other towns. The corn market is held in a building on granite arches, erected by the Duke of Bedford in 1839; and it is said to be his Grace's intention to erect a commodious Market House for the accommodation of the butchers, greengrocers, and the vendors of poultry, butter, eggs, &c., whose shops and stalls are now scattered and inconvenient. Here are nine cattle fairs, held on the second Wednesdays in January, March, May, July, September, October, and November; on the first Wednesday in Dec., and the 3rd Wednesday in August. Races are held annually on Whitchurch-down. The town has now a clean and handsome appearance, and contains several good inns, and many well-stocked shops. The Gas Works were established in 1831, and enlarged in 1835, and now belong to a company holding 750 £5 shares. The manufacture of coarse woollens flourished here from an early period, but declined at the close of last century, and is now nearly obsolete. Mining operations have been carried on in the neighbourhood from time immemorial, and there are now to be seen several remains of the Phoenician smelting houses, called "Jews' houses." Tavistock is one of the principal stannary towns in Devon, and several profitable mines of copper, &c., are now at work in the neighbourhood, as noticed at page 624. There is a smelting establishment at Crowndale, a mile from the town, and the products of the mines have an outlet to the Tamar and the coast by means of the canal, which is noticed at page 624, and was commenced in 1803 and finished in 1817, at the cost of £68,000. In the town are two large ironfoundries and engine works. John R. Thomas, a working engineer, employed at one of these establishments, has recently completed a steam carriage, said to be adapted for travelling on turnpike roads, and having a condensing apparatus which prevents the emission of steam, and reduces the consumption of both coal and water.

The Church (St. Eustachius,) is a large and handsome structure, consisting of a nave with a north and two south aisles, a chancel, a south porch, and a lofty tower, containing eight bells, and standing on four arches at the west end. In 1844-'5, it underwent a thorough renovation, and has now open carved benches affording 1004 sitting, of which 410 are free. It has a new stone pulpit and altar screen, finely carved; and some ancient and modern monuments, one of which has effigies of Sir John Fitze and his lady; and another has the effigy of Judge Glanville in his robes. In the church are preserved some human bones of gigantic size, which were found in a stone coffin when digging for the foundation of the Bedford Hotel, and are said, by tradition, to be the bones of Ordulph, son of the founder of the abbey, whom William of Malmsbury represents as so immense in stature that he could bestride a river ten feet broad. The Duke of Bedford is impropriator of the great tithes, formerly belonging to the abbey, and also patron of the vicarage, valued in K.B. at £10. 17s. 6d., and in 1831 at £302, and now in the incumbency of the Rev. E.A. Bray, who has a good residence, with pleasant grounds. He receives a stipend from the Duke in lieu of tithes. In 1846, the tithes of 3151A. of land, not belonging to the Duke, were commuted for £363. 11s. per annum. There were anciently chapels of St. Margaret and St. John in the parish; and Tanner says there was here a house of Austin Friars, and a Lepers' Hospital. There are now in the town four CHAPELS belonging to Unitarians, Independents, Wesleyans, and the Society of Friends. The Unitarian Chapel occupies part of the abbey buildings, as noticed at page 625, and its congregation originated as Presbyterians. in 1670. The Independent Congregation was formed in 1796, and erected a new chapel in 1820, but it was burnt down and rebuilt, in 1833. It is a neat stone building, with an Ionic portico. A small Cemetery was made about 16 years ago, on land given by the Duke of Bedford. The ancient GRAMMAR SCHOOL formed part of the old Vicarage premises, which were taken down about 30 years ago to enlarge the church-yard; but the Duke of Bedford furnished the vicar with another residence, and built the present large and elegant school-house and school in 1837, at the cost of £2500. He allows about £50 a year to the head-master, and £20 to the second master, in consideration of which they charge only small quarterages for such boys as are sent by him or his steward. In 1649, Sir John Glanville, Kt., left a house and land at Lamerton, in trust that the yearly profits should be applied in maintaining a boy from this school at one of the Universities. This property is now worth about £20 a year, and is at present in chancery. The National Schools, erected in 1847, form a large and handsome building in the Tudor style, and are attended by about 160 boys, 160 girls, and 90 infants. Here is also a large British School, erected in 1822 at the sole expense of the Duke of Bedford, and attended by about 300 children. It is supported by subscription, as also is an Infant School, attended by more than 100 pupils. Among the charitable institutions of the town are - a Dispensary, established in 1832, and Dorcas and Lying-in Societies. There is a Freemasons' Lodge at the Bedford Hotel, and here are several other provident institutions and Friendly Societies. Tavistock Savings' Bank was established in 1816, and in 1848 had upwards of £30,000, belonging to 906 individual depositors, 23 Friendly Societies, and 8 Charitable Societies. The Duke of Bedford is its patron and governor. The West Devon Friendly Building and Accumulation Fund Society, was established a few years ago, and has now about 100 members. The Literary Institutions of the town are already noticed at page 625. Tavistock and West Devon Agricultural Society holds its meetings here, and has a numerous list of members. J. Benson, Esq., the Duke of Bedford's land agent, is the secretary. Among the worthies of Tavistock may be enumerated the celebrated Sir Fras. Drake, said to have been born at Crowndale; Judge Glanville, and his son Sir John, a political writer; and Wm. Browne, the poet, who was born in 1590. Several of the abbots were learned men, and with the aid of their printing press, gave great encouragement to literature. Mrs. Bray, the lady of the present worthy vicar, has published several interesting works, descriptive of the romantic beauties of this neighbourhood, and recording much of its history, and the manners and traditions of its inhabitants. The town has several Almshouses and Charitable Bequests for the poor.

The Gift House, an old building, occupied rent free by about 12 poor families, was by Oliver Maynard in 1602 for the residence of poor artificers and handicraftsmen. Lord Courtenay's Almshouse is the residence of four poor widows, who are appointed by the Earl of Devon, and have divided among them a yearly rent-charge of £8. 12s. out of Pitscliffe estate. In 1674, Nicholas Watts left, in trust for charitable uses, ten houses and gardens, and about 16A. of land, now let for £64 a year, subject to fines on the renewal of the leases. There is also belonging to the same trust £125 navy five per cents., purchased with a small unapplied portion of the rents intended to be applied in fitting a youth for the University, but there are seldom any applications for this branch of the charity. The trustees, pursuant to the donor's will, pay yearly £10 to four dissenting ministers, and distribute £35. 5s. among 95 poor men in sums of 7s. each. New trustees were appointed, and a new scheme sanctioned, by the Court of Chancery for the application of the four branches of the charity, abont20 years ago. Several ancient Charities settled by Act of Parliament in the 3rd of Geo. III. comprised divers small tenements. rent-charges, &c., which were given by the said Act to the Duke of Bedford in exchange for an annual rent of 120, charged on his estate in this parish. The Act directed that, out of the first three year's income, the trustees should lay out £300 in erecting an Almshouse for 15 poor persons of Tavistock, who do not receive parochial relief. The annuity of £120 is applied as follows: £50 for the support of the almspeople and the repairs of the almshouses; £30 in quarterly distributions among 60 poor parishioners; £4. 4s. to the master of the Grammar School; £20 in four marriage portions to poor maidens; and £15 in apprenticing two poor boys. The Duke of Bedford and the Vicar, Churchwardens, and Overseers, are the trustees.

TAVISTOCK UNION comprises the 24 parishes of Tavistock, Beer-Ferris, Buckland-Monachorum, Bradstone, Brentor, Coryton, Kelly, Dunterton, Lamerton, Lifton, Lidford, Lewtrenchard, Maristow, Marytavy, Meavy, Milton-Abbot, Petertavy, Sampford-Spiney, Sheepstor. Sydenham-Damerel, Stowford, Thrushelton, Walkhampton. and Whitechurch, which embrace an area of 242 square miles, and had 23,995 inhabitants in 1841, living in 4040 houses, besides which there were 157 unoccupied houses. and 36 building when the census was taken. Their total average annual expenditure on the poor, during the three years preceding the formation of the union, was £8547. The expenditure of the union was £6394 in 1838, £8047 in 1840, and £10,083 in 1849. The Workhouse is a large building, erected in 1837 at the cost of £7000, and has room for 300 paupers. Mr. John Palmer and Mrs. Heath are the master and matron. John Benson, Esq., is chairman of the Board of Guardians, and Mr. John Physick is the union clerk and superintendent registrar. Messrs. George Kneebone, of Ashleigh, and John Andrews, of Tavistock, are the relieving officers. Messrs. F.A. Davis, of Tavistock, and John Percy, of Lamerton, are registrars of marriages; and Messrs. F.A. Davis, Rd. Toop, John Percy, and Geo. Kneebone, are registrars of births and deaths.

Brian Randell, 7 Mar 1999