Holsworthy, Devon

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Holsworthy Town.jpg
Town View
Holsworthy is located in Devon
 Holsworthy shown within Devon
Population 2,641 (2011 Census)
District Torridge
Shire county Devon
Region South West
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district EX22
Dialling code 01409
Police Devon and Cornwall
Fire Devon and Somerset
Ambulance South Western
EU Parliament South West England
UK Parliament Torridge and West Devon
List of places

Coordinates: 50°49′00″N 4°21′00″W / 50.8167°N 4.35°W / 50.8167; -4.35

Holsworthy is a market town and civil parish in the north west of Devon, England.


The town is situated near the county border with Cornwall, nine miles from the coastal resort of Bude, 18 miles from Bideford and 27 miles from North Devon's most populous town, Barnstaple. In the other direction Launceston, Cornwall is some 13 miles away. Other nearby settlements include Milton Damerel, Pyworthy, Chilsworthy, Brandis Corner and Bradworthy.[citation needed]

The town is on the intersection of the A388 and A3072 roads, and lies on the River Deer, a tributary of the Tamar. The population increased by 15% from 1981 to 1999. The census figure for 2001 was 2,256.rising to 2641 at the 2011 census. The ward had a population of 3,947 at the same census.[1]

Great Tree Plaque


Holsworthy is a historic market town mentioned in the Domesday Book as having been part of the estate of Harold Godwinson. The town has occupied a hilltop site since Saxon times, and in 1154 became a safe trading centre (known as a port town). The date of the original charter for the market and charter fair is between 1154 and 1185. At that time, the spokesman for the inhabitants was known as the portreeve and the ruling council as the court leet. The Court Leet used to hold its tribunals beneath the Great Tree. There is a metal plaque in Stanhope Street marking the site of the tree.[citation needed]

A second charter was granted by King James I in 1614 and this is proclaimed by the town crier on the Wednesday of St Peter’s Fair. Holsworthy is twinned with Aunay-sur-Odon, Calvados, France.[2]

Church of St Peter and St Paul[edit]

View of the Church

The Church of St Peter and St Paul is the parish church, and there has been a church on the site since around 1130.[3]

Carvings from the original church were incorporated into the porch of the present church. It is famous for being one of the few in the country with the Devil depicted in stained glass.[2] It also gained fame from Samuel Sebastian Wesley's music, Holsworthy Church Bells — composed for the chiming drum.[2] The tower was built around 1450 atop a live human sacrifice to ensure a strong foundation.[4]

Festivals and events[edit]

View of the market
The Memorial Hall

It has a thriving outdoor pannier market every Wednesday, along with one of the largest livestock markets in South West England. The livestock market had been held on the same site from 1905 until 2014 when the site was sold for retail and residential development and the livestock market moved to an new out-of-town site.[5]

  • Craft fairs held 4 times a year in the Memorial Hall.
  • Farmers' market held every Wednesday.
  • A vintage car rally is held every June.
  • St Peter’s Fair is held every July, lasts for one week, and there is live entertainment/music. The fair was originally held in what is now the churchyard of St Peter and St Paul's Church. Over time, it became the custom to hold the fair on the feast day of the saint that the church was dedicated to, so the fair was named after St. Peter. It had to move in 1285 due to the Statute of Winchester, and because the Gregorian calendar was altered in 1752 by the omission of 11 days, the fair has been held 11 days after the feast day of St. Peter (29 June).

During Fair Week, the annual presentation of the Pretty Maid takes place. This ceremony, which dates back to 1841, was created when a legacy left by the Reverend Thomas Meyrick was established that stipulated that the annual income of the legacy was to be paid to a young maid from Holsworthy.

A highlight of the town's calendar and of the local farming community is the one day Holsworthy and Stratton Agricultural Show [6] which is held annually on usually the third Thursday in August. The show began in 1883 as the Holsworthy and Stratton Agricultural Exhibition and for many years the venue alternated between Stratton and Holsworthy, but following the end of World War II a permanent show ground was purchased. The latest move to Killatree, approximately 2 mile west of Holsworthy, has provided a much larger and more suitable site. The show used to be held in May and was Devon’s first agricultural show of the season.

Holsworthy Carnival is held every November. This is Devon’s last carnival of the season.

World War Two[edit]

View of church window
View of church window

During World War II, POW Camp No. 42 (Exhibition Field Camp)[7] was situated at what is now Stanhope Close. The Church of St Peter now displays a crucifix, carved by a German POW, and also two hand painted stained glass windows made by Italian POWs, used in a hut which served as their Roman Catholic church.


Holsworthy is home to the only centralised anaerobic digestion facility in the UK. Turning dairy farm slurry into biogas, the plant has an installed capacity of 2.1 MW. There are proposals to provide low cost heat to the householders of the town from the plant.[8]


Schools in the town include Holsworthy Community College.

Sport and leisure[edit]

Holsworthy has a thriving Cricket Club, as well as a Bowling Club, which both play in Stanhope Park. Holsworthy has a Non-League football club Holsworthy A.F.C. who play at Upcott Field.[9]


Derriton Viaduct

Holsworthy has two main bus services:

  • X9 - Exeter to Bude - Operated by Stagecoach.
  • 85 - Holsworthy to Barnstaple - operated by Stagecoach.

The railway arrived in 1879, and was operated by the Devon and Cornwall Railway Company. Holsworthy railway station was closed in 1966, but the viaducts built either side of Holsworthy remain.

Notable people[edit]

In order of birth.


  1. ^ "population of parish & ward 2011.Retrieved 15 Feb 2015". 
  2. ^ a b c "Devon Town Focus, Holsworthy". Retrieved 26 January 2015. 
  3. ^ "Holsworthy Church UB - History". Virworthy Wharf. 23 September 2014. 
  4. ^ Speth, G. W. (30 October 1893). Two Lectures on the Folk-Lore of Masons. Margate (published 1894). pp. 6–7. Retrieved 26 December 2014. 
  5. ^ "Last auction held at Holsworthy Market". BBC News: Devon. 20 August 2014. 
  6. ^ Show's website: http://www.holsworthyandstrattonagriculturalshow.co.uk/index.html
  7. ^ German Prisoners of War in Britain
  8. ^ Holsworthy Biogas Plant
  9. ^ JSM (2012-12-26). "How to find us - Holsworthy A.F.C". Holsworthy A.F.C. Retrieved 2012-12-30. 
  10. ^ "Admiral Benedictus Marwood Kelly". The London Gazette. p. 6603. 29 November 1867. Retrieved 26 December 2014. 
  11. ^ Flew's ODNB entry: Retrieved 18 September 2011. Subscription required.


External links[edit]