[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868)]

"GREAT TORRINGTON, a parish, market-town, and municipal borough, in the hundred of Fremington, county Devon, 32 miles N.W. of Exeter, and 7 S.E. of Bideford railway station. It was anciently called Cheping Toriton, and before the Conquest was held by Editha, mother of Harold. The castle was in existence at the Norman conquest, and dismantled in the reign of Richard II. The manor carne to Richard de Merton, subsequently to Margaret, Countess of Richmond and mother of Henry VII., who frequently resided here, and was given by Queen Mary to the Bassets. It now belongs to the Hon. M. Rolle. During the civil war the town changed hands several times, but was finally taken by Sir Thomas Fairfax for the parliament in 1646, when the church was blown up, and rebuilt in 1651. The castle site is now used as a bowling-green; and close by is a column, erected in commemoration of the battle of Waterloo.

From the time of Edward I. to Edward III., the borough returned two members to parliament, but in 1368 petitioned to be relieved of the burden; it is, however, a polling-place for the northern division of the county. The town occupies an eminence near the banks of the river Torridge, by the side of which a canal, nearly five miles long, was cut in 1823 by the late Lord Rolle, to below Weare Gifford. There are bridges to Taddiport and Frithelstone, and a lofty stone aqueduct of five arches at Beam. The streets are partially paved, and lighted with gas. The population in 1851 was 3,308, and in 1861, 3,298. The public buildings are the town-hall, on arches; the new market-house, with hall above, erected by the town council in 1842; the union workhouse, built in 1837; a savings-bank, two branch banks, and literary and mutual improvement societies, each with library and reading-room.

The woollen manufacture has become extinct, but the making of gloves and tanning is carried on. The town was first incorporated by Queen Mary, and, under the Municipal Act, is governed by a mayor, 4 aldermen, and 12 councillors. The only municipal revenue arises from tolls, fairs, and markets. Petty sessions for the division are held every alternate Saturday, and for the borough every third Wednesday. The county-court sits alternate months. The poor-law guardians meet every other Saturday, and the Poor-law Union comprises 23 parishes. It is also the head of a superintendent registry district.

Torrington gives name to a deanery in the archdeaconry and diocese of Exeter. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Exeter, value £162, in the patronage of Christ Church, Oxford. The church, dedicated to St. Michael, was substantially restored in 1863. St. Giles-in-the-Wood, the living of which is a perpetual curacy, value £95, was originally a daughter church of Torrington, but is now a separate parish. There are chapels for Wesleyans, Independents, and Baptists, also National and blue-coat schools, the latter endowed with an income of about £50, by the late Lord Rolle, who also founded almshouses for ten poor persons. The parochial charities produce about £300 per annum. A cemetery, with lodge and chapels, has recently been formed without the town. Mr. Rolle's hounds hunt round here. Torrington gave title of earl to General Monk, and gives that of viscount to the Byngs. Market-day is on Saturday. Three fairs are held annually in May, July, and October. There is a large cattle market in March, and a monthly cattle market has been recently established. "

Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2003