North Tawton lies in the Taw Valley and is an old town lying approximately 6½ miles north-east of Okehampton and 10 miles west of Crediton. Okehampton and Crediton are both ancient market towns in Devon. The River Taw runs to the west of the town and gives its name to the parish. Tawton is believed to have derived from a "farmstead or village on the River Taw". The term "taw" from its connection with the river and "ton" meaning settlement or village. There is also a South Tawton which as its name suggests is south of the parish.
Mentioned in the Doomsday Book of 1086, settlement in the area goes back way before this. The Romans occupied North Tawton and you can read about its Roman Fort on a page entitled Roman Fort and Marching Camps.
North Tawton is perhaps famed for the the BUDD family, particularly for William BUDD (1811 - 1880) son of surgeon Samuel BUDD, who discovered that typhoid was carried in water and a contagious disease - he published a book in 1873 entitled "Typhoid Fever" and went on to become a professor at Bristol.
St Peter's Church and Religion
Within the church yard of North Tawton's parish church of St. Peter's, lies the evidence of early settlement, with the shaft of a cross that dates from Roman times. Most of the church dates from the C15th, although the tower was built in the C13th and has a quite distinctive and unusual shaped spire, as can be seen in the picture above.
Probably somewhat unique to the parish is the succession of vicars that came from the HOLE family between 1716 and 1916. There is a stained glass window in the church in memory of Rev. Richard HOLE who was the vicar of the parish for 66 years until the middle of World War I, ending an era of 200 years, apart from a gap of five years. (Mee, 1965)
Kelly (1893) tells us that in 1834 a congregational chapel was constructed in the parish for use by the Bible Christians and there was also a meeting room for the Plymouth Brethren.
Information from Historical North Tawton (Source: Devon Local Studies Library) shows that the parish was recorded as a borough from 1271. Records also show that the town hosted a market from the C14th to 1600 and a fair from the C14th to 1822. Evidence shows that these were still in existence in 1893 when Kelly mentions them in his trade directory. A market was held in the parish each Thursday, inevidtable for the selling of local produce. The chief crops grown in the parish were wheat, oats, barley and roos. Fairs for cattle and horses and great markets were also held a number of times each year. The annual fairs were held on the third Tuesday in April, second Tuesday in October and the first Tuesday in December. The great markets were also held on the last Thursdays in February and June and the first Thursday in August.
North Tawton appears to have grown out of the industrial revolution into quite a centre for the woollen industry. Having its own railway station after the introduction of railways, this probably helped in the towns expansion. Kelly (1893) tells us of the large woollen mills in the town at that time, being a branch of the main factory in Halifax owned by Messrs. J. Shaw and Sons Ltd concerned in the manufacturing business of blankets and serges. This company employed about 150 people in the parish. There were also flour mills in North Tawton owned by Mr. J. C. TAVENER.
North Tawton also appears to have had its own Police Station with Sergeant William KEMBLE being listed as in charge in Kelly's (1893) Trade Directory. County Court sessions were also held in the parish on the first Thursday every other month.
A number of Public Houses were listed in White (1850) and Kelly's (1893) which include the following and their publicans:
North Tawton had a number of schools. In 1863 a school was erected on land given by the Earl of Portsmouth, for the education of sons of the middle classes. The Head Master was Charles George LOVESEY. A Board school for older children was built in the parish in 1875, to accommodate 300 boys and girls. Average attendance was only about half the anticipated with only about 80 boys and 75 girls attending on a regular basis. Master at the board school was James Chanter PIERCE and the mistress Sarah Louisa PIERCE. A separate board school (infants) was acquired in 1875 for the education of 125 children, with average attendance being 92. Miss Annie NEWMAN was the school mistress for the younger children.
Source: 1801-1991 Census ©Crown Copyright
Data originally from Devon Facts and Figures part of the Devon County Council website. [no longer available]
Map of the Area