Totnes: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Coordinates: 50°25′56″N 3°41′02″W / 50.43216°N 3.68391°W / 50.43216; -3.68391

Totnes High Street.jpg
The Eastgate over the High Street in 1983
Totnes is located in Devon

 Totnes shown within Devon
Population 8,000 (2001 census estimate)
OS grid reference SX805605
District South Hams
Shire county Devon
Region South West
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town TOTNES
Postcode district TQ9
Dialling code 01803
Police Devon and Cornwall
Fire Devon and Somerset
Ambulance South Western
EU Parliament South West England
UK Parliament Totnes
List of places: UK • England • Devon

Totnes (pronounced /ˈtɒtnɨs/ or /tɒtˈnɛs/) is a market town at the head of the estuary of the River Dart in Devon, England within the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is about 22 miles (35 km) south of the city of Exeter and is the administrative centre of the South Hams District Council.

Totnes has a long recorded history, dating back to 907AD when its first castle was built; it was already an important market town by the 12th century. Indications of its former wealth and importance are given by the number of merchants' houses built in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Today, the town, with its population of some 8,000, is a thriving centre for music, art, theatre and natural health. It has a sizeable alternative and "New Age" community, and is known as a place where one can live a bohemian lifestyle.[1]




Ancient and medieval history

According to the Historia Regum Britanniae written by Geoffrey of Monmouth in around 1136, "the coast of Totness" was where Brutus of Troy, the mythical founder of Britain, first came ashore on the island.[2] Set into the pavement of Fore Street is the 'Brutus Stone', a small granite boulder onto which, according to local legend, Brutus first stepped from his ship. As he did so, he was supposed to have declaimed:[3]

Here I am and here I rest. And this town shall be called Totnes.

The stone is far above the highest tides and the tradition is not likely to be of great antiquity, being first mentioned in John Prince's Worthies of Devon in 1697.[3] It is possible that the stone was originally the one from which the town crier, or bruiter called his bruit or news; or it may be le Brodestone, a boundary stone mentioned in several 15th century disputes: its last-known position in 1471 was below the East Gate.[3]

Despite this legendary history, the first authenticated history of Totnes is in 907 AD, when it was fortified by King Edward the Elder as part of the defensive ring of burhs built around Devon, replacing one built a few years earlier at nearby Halwell.[4] The site was chosen because it was on an ancient trackway which forded the river at low tide.[4] Between the reigns of Edgar and William II (959–1100) Totnes intermittently minted coins.[5]

The Brutus Stone in Fore Street

The name Totnes (first recorded in 979 AD) comes from the Old English personal name Totta and ness or headland.[6] Before reclamation and development, the low-lying areas around this hill were largely marsh or tidal wetland, giving the hill much more the appearance of a "ness" than today.

By the 12th century Totnes was already an important market town, due to its position on one of the main roads of the South West, in conjunction with its easy access to its hinterland and the easy navigation of the River Dart.[7]

By 1523, according to a tax assessment, Totnes was the second richest town in Devon, and the sixteenth richest in England, ahead of Worcester, Gloucester and Lincoln.[4]


Totnes' borough charter was granted by King John, probably around 1206; at any rate, the 800th anniversary of the charter was celebrated in 2006. Totnes lost its borough status in local government reorganisation in 1974. Totnes was served by Totnes electoral borough from 1295 until the reform act of 1867, but was restored by the 1884 Franchise Act. The constituency of Totnes was abolished a second time in 1983, and formed part of the South Hams constituency until 1997, when it was restored as the Totnes county constituency: as such it returns one MP to Parliament. In 2009, Totnes Rural was the only county division in Devon to elect a Green councillor.[8]

Totnes has a mayor who is elected by the sixteen town councillors each year.[9] Follaton House, on the outskirts of the town, is the headquarters of the South Hams District Council.[10] The town is twinned with the French town of Vire, after which Vire Island on the River Dart near the 'Plains' is named.


The River Dart at Totnes

The town is built on a hill rising from the west bank of the River Dart, which separates Totnes from the suburb of Bridgetown. It is at the lowest bridging point of the river which here is tidal and forms a winding estuary down to the sea at Dartmouth. The river continues to be tidal for about 1 mile (1.6 km) above the town, until it meets Totnes Weir, built in the 17th century.

Today there are two road bridges, a railway bridge and a footbridge over the river in the town. Totnes Bridge is the nearest bridge to the sea and is a road bridge built in 1826-28 by Charles Fowler.[11] At low tide the foundations of the previous stone bridge are visible just upstream—it was probably built in the early 13th century and widened in 1692. Before the first stone bridge was built there was almost certainly a wooden bridge here, and a tidal ford for heavy vehicles was just downstream.[12] In 1982 a new concrete bridge was built about 1,000 feet (300 m) upstream as part of the Totnes inner relief road. Its name, Brutus Bridge, was chosen by the local residents.[13] A further 0.5 miles (0.80 km) upstream, the railway bridge carries the National Rail London to Penzance Line over the river. Immediately upstream of the railway bridge is a footbridge, built in 1993 to provide access to the Totnes (Littlehempston) terminus of the South Devon Railway.[14]


Totnes has a sizeable alternative community, and the town is known as a place where one can live a New Age lifestyle.[15][16] There are a number of facilities for artists, painters and musicians, and there is a twice-weekly market offering antiques, musical instruments, second-hand books, handmade clothing from across the world, and local organically produced products. In 2007, Time magazine declared Totnes the capital of new age chic. In 2008, Highlife, the British Airways magazine, declared it one of the world's Top 10 Funky Towns.

In March 2007 Totnes was the first town in the UK to introduce its own local alternative currency, the Totnes pound, to support the local economy of the town.[17] Fourteen months later, 70 businesses within the town were trading in the "Totnes pound," accepting them as payment and offering them to shoppers as change from their purchases.[17] The initiative is part of the Transition Towns concept, which was pioneered by Rob Hopkins, who had recently moved to Totnes.[18]

Emphasising the town's continuing history of boatbuilding, between 1998 and 2001 Pete Goss built his revolutionary but ill-fated 120-foot Team Philips catamaran here.[19]


St Mary's Church

The Norman motte-and-bailey Totnes Castle, now owned by English Heritage, was built during the reign of William I, probably by Juhel of Totnes.[11] The late medieval church of St Mary with its 120 feet (37 m) high west tower, visible from afar, is built of rich red Devonian sandstone.[11] A prominent feature of the town is the Eastgate — an arch spanning the middle of the main street. This Elizabethan entrance to the walled town was destroyed in a fire in September 1990, but was rebuilt.

The Butterwalk

The ancient Leechwell, so named because of the supposed medicinal properties of its water, and apparently where lepers once came to wash, still provides fresh water. The Butterwalk is a Tudor covered walkway that was built to protect the dairy products once sold here from the sun and rain.[20] The town museum is in one of the many authentic Elizabethan Merchant's houses in the town, built around 1575.[21]


The A38 passes about 7 miles (11 km) to the west of Totnes, connected to the town by the A384 from Buckfastleigh and the A385 which continues to Paignton. The town also lies on the A381 between Newton Abbot and Salcombe. Totnes railway station is situated on the London to Penzance Line, and has trains direct to London and Plymouth. Nearby, Totnes (Littlehempston) railway station is at the southern end of the South Devon Railway Trust which runs tourist steam locomotives along the line that follows the River Dart up to Buckfastleigh. Since the River Dart is navigable to seagoing boats as far as Totnes, the estuary was used for the import and export of goods from the town until 1995, and there are still regular pleasure boat trips down the estuary to Dartmouth.


King Edward VI Community College more popularly known as Keviccs, is the local secondary school which shares its name with the former grammar school set up by King Edward VI over 450 years ago. At the western edge of the town is the Dartington Hall Estate, which includes the Schumacher College and Dartington College of Arts.

Notable people

Notable people from Totnes include:

  • Charles Babbage had a strong family connection with the town and returned to attend the grammar school for a period before going up to Cambridge.
  • The novelist Desmond Bagley lived in Totnes from 1964 to 1976.
  • William Brockedon, Artist and inventor, 1787-1854. Son of Philip Brockedon, Clockmaker.
  • Pop music prankster Jimmy Cauty (one half of The KLF) was born in Totnes.[22]
  • Historian James Anthony Froude, author of ''History of England From the fall of cardinal Wolsey to the Defeat of the Spanish Armada, was born in Totnes.
  • His brother Richard Hurrell Froude was a theologian; he belonged to a group of Anglicans who initiated the Oxford Movement in 1833.
  • Humorous poet Matt Harvey is a resident.
  • Botanist Francis George Heath was born in Totnes.
  • Margaret Isherwood, writer on religion and education, lived in Totnes. She wrote several books including Searching for Meaning and The Root of the Matter.
  • Author Clare Jay lived in Totnes (Breathing in Colour - 2009) [1].
  • Hebrew scholar, Benjamin Kennicott was also born in Totnes.
  • Linguist Edward Lye, who wrote the first dictionary of Anglo-Saxon, was born in Totnes.
  • Rik Mayall previously lived in Totnes.[23]
  • Admiral Sir Frederick Michell KCB (1788-1873) died in Totnes.
  • John Prince was vicar of Totnes in the late 17th century, was author of The Worthies of Devon, a major biographical work. He was also involved in a scandal, the court records of which were made into a book and stage play in the early 2000s.
  • Joseph Mount, a musician who records under the name Metronomy, lived in Totnes for a while.
  • Playwright Sean O'Casey lived in the town from 1938 to 1964.
  • Sam Richards, musician and music teacher lives in Totnes
  • Critic, author and playwright Allen Saddler lives in Totnes.
  • Vian Smith was born in Totnes, lived in the area for most of his life (excepting war service), and wrote extensively on Dartmoor.
  • William Stumbels, a clockmaker lived and worked in Totnes in the 18th century. (His workshop was possibly at No. 4 Castle Street, within the town walls.) Two of his clocks: a longcase (grandfather) and a turret clock are displayed in the museum.[24]
  • Oliver St John represented the town in both the Short and the Long parliaments. One of the outstanding political leaders of the Pariamentary cause in the English Civil War. His reputation was made when he acted as lead counsel for John Hampden in the Ship Money case.
  • Novelist Mary Wesley, author of The Camomile Lawn, spent her final years in Totnes.
  • The explorer William John Wills of Burke and Wills expedition fame was born in Totnes. A memorial to Wills was erected using money from public subscriptions in 1864. It can still be seen on the Plains. There were originally two gas lamps attached to the monument, but both have since been removed.


  1. ^ Edwards, Adam (10 Nov 2007). "Property in Totnes: Wizards of the wacky West". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2009-08-15.  
  2. ^ Brown, Theo (1955). "The Trojans in Devon". Report & Transactions of the Devonshire Association 87: 63.  
  3. ^ a b c Brown, Theo (1955). "The Trojans in Devon". Report & Transactions of the Devonshire Association 87: 68–69.  
  4. ^ a b c Stansbury, Don (1998). "907-1523: The king's town". in Bridge, Maureen. The Heart of Totnes. Tavistock: AQ & DJ Publications. pp. 123–131. ISBN 0-904066-36-3.  
  5. ^ Hoskins, W. G. (1954). A New Survey of England: Devon. London: Collins. pp. 504–508.  
  6. ^ Ekwall, Eilert (1960). The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place-names (4th ed.). Oxford [Eng.]: OUP. pp. 478. ISBN 0 19 869103 3.  
  7. ^ Kowaleski, Maryanne (1992). "The port towns of fourteenth-century Devon". in Duffy, Michael, et al.. The New Maritime History of Devon; Volume 1: From early times to the late eighteenth century. London: Conway Maritime Press. pp. 63. ISBN 0-85177-611-6.  
  8. ^ "Devon County Council elections 2009". Devon County Council. 2009-06-05. Retrieved 2009-06-18.  
  9. ^ "Welcome to Totnes Town Council". Totnes Town Council. Retrieved 2008-07-02.  
  10. ^ "Follaton House, its History and Architecture". South Hams District Council. 2005. Retrieved 2008-07-02.  
  11. ^ a b c Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner (1989). The Buildings of England — Devon. Harmondsworth: Penguin. pp. 866–875. ISBN 0 14 071050 7.  
  12. ^ Russell, Percy (1984). The Good Town of Totnes (Second impression with Introduction ed.). Exeter: The Devonshire Association. pp. 26.  
  13. ^ Russell 1984, p.xv.
  14. ^ Taylor, Alan; Treglown, Peter (May 1999). South Devon Railway - A Visitors Guide. South Devon Railway Trust. pp. 23–28.  
  15. ^ Siegle, Lucy (2005-05-08). "Shiny hippy people". The Guardian.,,1623868,00.html. Retrieved 2008-07-02.  
  16. ^ Totnes, Devon: the home of boho chic (retrieved 4 December 2008)
  17. ^ a b Sharp, Rob (1 May 2008). "They don't just shop local in Totnes - they have their very own currency". The Independent. Retrieved 2008-07-02.  
  18. ^ "Take note - Totnes will be quids in!" in Totnes Times 7 March 2007, p.6
  19. ^ "Team Philips wreckage found on island". BBC Devon News. Wednesday 23 January 2002. Retrieved 2009-08-16.  
  20. ^ "Totnes Town Trail". South Devon Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Retrieved 2008-07-02.  
  21. ^ "Totnes Elizabethan House Museum". Devon Museums Group.,com_mumancontent/task,view/sectionid,23/. Retrieved 2008-07-02.  
  22. ^ Frame, Peter (1999) Rockin' Around Britain. Omnibus, p. 29
  23. ^ Knowhere: Totnes, Devon, Local Heroes, Famous Residents
  24. ^ Bellchambers, J. K. (1962) Devonshire Clockmakers. Torquay: The Devonshire Press

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel


Totnes, Devon is an English Market town. The village of Dartington is just outside Totnes, as is Dartington Hall.


Back in the 1920s, an Englishman who had been in India working with Tagore on rural renewal projects married an American heiress he had met when they were both studying at Cornell (see their biographies [1]). They bought Dartington Hall, one of the oldest and largest manor houses in England, and started an assortment of development projects [2] in the area — a textile mill producing tweeds, several sawmills, a cider company, a glassworks, and so on.

Among the things they started was Dartington Hall school (now closed), using fairly novel methods. A.S. Neill's Summerhill [3] is a better-known example with a similar approach. Aldous Huxley sent his kids to Dartington Hall and based some of the educational methods in his novel "Island" on Dartington.

  • Dartington Hall [4], now a conference center
  • Dartington College of Arts [5]
  • Theater, dance and music performances, see DartingtonARTS [6].
  • Furniture making courses [7]
  • Dartington International Summer School [8] of music
  • Totnes Castle, TQ9 5NU, [9]. Situated on a promontory, commanding the River Dart, Totnes Castle was built by the Normans at a point where three valleys meet. Earliest surviving parts of Totnes Castle date from the 11th century, in the form of earth works surrounding the site, with a later motte and bailey castle being constructed on the built-up earthworks. The stone work of Totnes Castle that has survived is likely to have been built over the framework of previous timber fortifications, as was common practice of this period. During the 13th century the large, circular shell keep was built on top of the motte, but was reconstructed at the beginning of the 14th century when other renovation work was carried out, including the rebuilding of the entrance arch and stairways within the thickness of the walls. Some small-scale additional work took place at a later date. This circular stone keep stands to parapet height even today, and remains almost complete with the various shaped arrow slits visible around the top. Moreover, within the shell keep, stone foundations of a square tower have also survived. Externally, a ditch separates the keep from the inner bailey. Although at one time this completely encompassed the motte, parts have now been filled in. The curtain wall around the inner bailey has largely disappeared, along with the domestic buildings contained within it, save for a few of the original foundations. Further protection was afforded to Totnes Castle by a moat, although again this been filled in over the years. Beyond the moat, an outer bailey would have provided farmland for Totnes Castle rather than any additional protection. Despite little remaining of the original motte and bailey castle, other than the earthworks, the stone enclosure of Totnes Castle's keep, built at the summit of the motte, has survived to the extent of being one of the best preserved in England. GBP3.00.  edit
  • Totnes Castle.  edit
  • Dartington Crystal [10], famous glassworks
  • Cider Press Center [11], a group of shops


Roundhouse Cafe [12]

  • Barrell House, (Top of town, corner of castle street and high street).  edit
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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

TOTNES, a market town and municipal borough in the Totnes parliamentary division of Devonshire, England, on the Dart, 2 9 m. S.S.W. of Exeter, by the Great Western railway. Pop. (1901), 4035. It stands on the west bank of the river, and is joined by a bridge to the suburb of Bridgetown. It was formerly a walled town, and two of the four gates remain. Many old houses are also preserved, and in High Street their overhanging upper stories, supported on pillars, form a covered way for foot-passengers. The castle, founded by the Breton Juhel, lord of the manor after the Conquest, was already dismantled under Henry VIII.; but its ivy-clad keep and upper walls remain. The grounds form a public garden. Close by are the remains of St Mary's Priory, which comprise a large Perpendicular gatehouse, refectory, precinct wall, abbot's gate and still-house. A grammar school, founded 1554, occupied part of the Priory, but was removed in 1874 to new buildings. The Perpendicular church of St Mary contains a number of interesting tombs and effigies dating from the 15th century onwards, and much excellent carved work. The guildhall is formed from part of the Priory. Vessels of 200 tons can lie at the wharves near the bridge. The industries include brewing, flour milling, and the export of agricultural produce, chiefly corn and cider. Trout and salmon are plentiful in the river. The town is governed by a mayor, 4 aldermen and 12 councillors. Area 1423 acres.

Totnes (Toteneis, Totten) was a place of considerable importance in Saxon times; it possessed a mint in the reign of 'Ethelred, and was governed by a portreeve. In the Domesday Survey it appears as a me g ne borough under Juhel of Totnes, founder of the castle and priory; it had 95 burgesses within and 15 without the borough, and rendered military service according to the custom of Exeter. In 1215 a charter from John instituted a gild merchant with freedom from toll throughout the land. A mayor is mentioned in the court roll of 1386-1387, and a charter from Henry VII. in 1505 ordered that the mayor should be elected on St Matthew's day, and should be clerk of the market. The present governing charter was granted by Elizabeth in 1596, and instituted a governing body of a mayor, fourteen masters or councillors, and an indefinite number of burgesses, including a select body called "the Twenty-men." A fresh charter of incorporation from James II. in 1689 made no alterations of importance. The borough was represented in parliament by one member in 12 9 5, and by two members from 1298 until disfranchised by the act of 1867. A market on Saturday existed at least as early as 1255, and in 1608 is described as well stocked with provisions. The charter of Elizabeth granted a three days' fair at e the feast of SS Simon and Jude (Oct. 28), and in 1608 fairs were also held on May day and at the feast of St James (July 25).25). The market day has been transferred to Friday, but the May and October fairs are continued. The town was formerly noted for serges, and in 1641 the inhabitants represented their distress owing to the decline of the woollen trade. The industry is now extinct. During the Civil War General Goring quartered his troops at Totnes, and Fairfax also made it his temporary station.

See Victoria County History; Devonshire; The History of Totnes, its neighbourhood and Berry Pomeroy Castle (Totnes, 1825); William Cotton, A Graphic and Historical Sketch of the Antiquities of Totnes (London, 1858).

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Simple English

File:St Marys Church
St Marys Church, Totnes
Totnes is a town in South Devon, England. 7,800 people live there. It has many old buildings dating back to Tudor times, and it has the remains of a Norman castle. The town stands on the River Dart, at the highest point reached by the tide.

Totnes is well-known in Britain for its large New Age community, although some of these people are moving away from the town. The town has many interesting shops selling health food and books, and there are also many art and craft shops.

A local legend says that Totnes was begun by Brutus of Troy after the Trojan war. There is a stone in the high street called the Brutus Stone. This is where people say he first stepped on British soil.

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