Visit Tavistock and the surrounding villages and stay in bed & breakfast accommodation:
Tavistock, Devon. A pleasant town of long and varied industrial history which has possibly Devon's most entertaining annual fair, the Goose Fair, held in the second week in October, which dates back to the 12th century. The town grew round a Benedictine abbey founded in the 10th century which was the wealthiest in the county by the Dissolution. The Dartmoor tin-rush brought it stannary status in 1305. After tin-mining declined c. 1500, it thrived as a cloth centre. Then, just as this industry was dying c. 1800, mining revived, this time for lead, zinc, iron, silver and, above all, copper, especially near Mary Tavy, 34 miles north east, and Blanchdown, 3 miles west, where, in the mid-l9th century, the Great Consols Mine was one of the biggest and richest in the world. By c. 1902 most of the mines were abandoned but the district still holds much haunting evidence of them.
Of the abbey mere fragments remain, some exposed, some incorporated in l9th-century buildings. It occupied the area round the Bedford Hotel (c. 1820), bounded, roughly, by the River Tavy, the Parish Church of St Eustachius and the Guildhall. The big church (mainly 15th-century) lacks marvellous contents but is strangely memorable with its simplicity, its high, narrow aisles, its finely carved pink alabaster monument (1600) to the lawyer, Sir John Glanville, and its east window of the north aisle by William Morris. Much of the town dates from the second mining boom, sponsored by the Russell family (Dukes of Bedford) who owned the place from 1539 to 1911. On the southern edge of the town beside the Plymouth road is an estate of workers' cottages built c. 1850 for £22 each. Near it (in the middle of the road junction) is an 1883 statue of Sir Francis Drake with reliefs of scenes from his life. He was born about 1 mile south west but the house has now vanished.
The Tavistock Canal can be followed on foot along its tow-path until it disappears into a tunnel. Dug 1803-17, closed in the l880s, it connected the town with the Tamar, and carried mineral ore from the Mary Tavy mines one way, coal and fertilizer the other. It went as far as the now-dead port of Morwellham, 3 miles south west, which was 240 ft above the quay, the barges being hauled up and lowered down an inclined plane by a water-wheel powered windlass. Centre of industrial nostalgia, Morwellham once handled ore from the richest copper lode in Europe and is being resurrected as an open air museum by Dartington Hall Trust. Tramway takes visitors underground in George and Charlotte copper mine, last worked in 1868. Ancient docks, quays, lime kilns, waterwheels and riverside and woodland walks add to attractions. Good for exploring, with Morwell Rocks rising dramatically from the Tamar's banks.
About 5 miles north east, just east of the A386 on the side of a bare hill named Gibbet, the roofless engine-house and chimney of the Wheat Betsy mine (lead, silver and zinc) is now cared for by the National Trust. Legend says medieval criminals were shut in cages on Gibbet Hill (1,158 ft) and left there to die. There are splendid contrasting views from its summit. On the north edge of Mary Tavy, Wheal Friendship was an immensely productive mine, mainly for copper, operated till 1925. Four m. NW. of Mary Tavy is one of the moor's most spectacular valleys, Tavy Cleave.
Nearby cities: Plymouth
Nearby towns: Callington, Launceston, Liskeard, Princetown
Nearby villages: Chaddlehanger, Gunnislake, Horrabridge, Lamerton, Mary Tavy, Milton Abbot, Moorshop, Two Bridges, Whitchurch, Yelverton
Have you decided to visit Tavistock or the surrounding villages? Please look above for somewhere to stay in:
- a Tavistock bed and breakfast (a Tavistock B&B or Tavistock b and b)
- a Tavistock guesthouse
- a Tavistock hotel (or motel)
- a Tavistock self-catering establishment, or
- other Tavistock accommodation