"ASHBURTON, a parish, market town, municipal and parliamentary borough in the southern division of the hundred of Teignbridge, in the county of Devon, 18 miles to the S.W. of Exeter, and 192 miles from London by road, or 221 by rail. The river Yeo flows through the town, and the South Devon railway passes within 7 miles of it, and has a station at Newton. It is a very ancient place, having been a Roman settlement, and belonged to the crown at the Conquest. It was afterwards conferred on the See of Exeter. In 1310, a grant of a weekly market and an annual fair was procured for the town by Bishop Stapleton. By a charter of Edward III., granted in 1328, Ashburton was constituted a stannary town. In the civil war it was held first by the royalists, but was afterwards taken by Fairfax.
The town, which is well paved, and lighted with gas, is situated about a mile from the river Dart, in the midst of a rich mineral district, and is within the bounds of the Duchy of Cornwall. It was formerly the seat of the Stannary Court. The principal streets are North, South, East, and West Streets. The houses are well built, some of stone, and are roofed with slate, which is quarried in the neighbourhood. It is a borough by prescription, but not under the Municipal Corporation Act, and is governed by a portreeve, bailiff, constable, and other officers. It returned two representatives to parliament, once in the reign of Edward I., and again in the reign of Henry IV. Its ancient privilege was restored in 1640, and exercised thenceforward till the Reform Bill; since which it has returned one representative. The portreeve is returning officer. The bounds of the borough and of the parish are co-extensive, including 6,936 acres, and a population of 3,062, according to the census of 1861, against 3,432 in 1851, showing a decrease of 370 in the decennial period principally owing to emigration.
The manufacture of serge for the East India Company, which was the principal branch of industry, and employed 600 looms, is still carried on, but to a much smaller extent than formerly. The value of the yearly produce of these looms was estimated at £100,000. The tin and copper mines, formerly celebrated, are still worked. There are fulling-mills, and mills for spinning yarn, two blanket manufactories, two curriers, and a market garden.
The living is a vicarage* in the diocese of Exeter, value with the curacies of Bickington and Buckland-in-the-moor, £639, in the patronage of the Dean and Chapter of Exeter. The church, which was collegiate, is dedicated to St. Andrew. It is a cruciform building, with a central tower 94 feet high, in the perpendicular style. The chancel has several stalls. Among the tombs of the Dunnings is that of John Dunning, the great lawyer, who took the title of Baron Ashburton. He was a native of this town (1731), and died in 1783. The Independents, Baptists, and Wesleyans have chapels here.
There is a free grammar school, which was founded by William Blundell, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and endowed by several per sons subsequently. The ancient chantry of St. Lawrence which adjoins the church has been used as the school house since the Reformation. The grammar school has connected with it two scholarships and an exhibition at Exeter College, Oxford. Its revenue is £60. In the free school, endowed in 1754 by the members for the borough, Lord Middleton and John Harris, Esq., 100 children are instructed. It has a revenue of £115. In 1805, Mary Dunning founded a school for ten girls. The charities of this parish amount altogether to £382. A new market-house has been erected in place of the old one, which had fallen to decay. This town was the birthplace of Gifford, editor of the "Quarterly Review," and of Dr. Ireland, Dean of Westminster.
A market for wool and yarn is held on Tuesday, one for corn and provisions on Saturday. Fairs are held on the first Thursday in March and June, and the first Tuesdays in August and November, for horses and sheep."