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Tavistock Town Hall

Coordinates: 50°33′00″N 4°08′39″W / 50.5500°N 4.1442°W / 50.5500; -4.1442
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Tavistock Town Hall
Tavistock Town Hall
LocationBedford Square, Tavistock
Coordinates50°33′00″N 4°08′39″W / 50.5500°N 4.1442°W / 50.5500; -4.1442
ArchitectEdward Rundle
Architectural style(s)Gothic Revival style
Listed Building – Grade II
Official nameTown Hall
Designated7 September 1951
Reference no.1105832
Tavistock Town Hall is located in Devon
Tavistock Town Hall
Shown in Devon

Tavistock Town Hall is a municipal building in Bedford Square, Tavistock, Devon, England. The structure, which remains the main venue for civic events in the town, is a Grade II listed building.[1]


The guildhall

The first municipal building in the town was a medieval guildhall which dated back to the early 16th century: it hosted prisoners of war from the Parliamentary Army in harsh conditions in 1644 during the English Civil War.[2][3] After the old guildhall became seriously dilapidated, a new guildhall was commissioned by Francis Russell, 7th Duke of Bedford as part of a broader initiative to remodel the town centre: it was designed by John Foulston for use as a courthouse and police station as well as a prison and was completed in 1848.[4] In the mid-1850s the duke decided to extend his initiative by erecting a municipal structure for civic events: the site he chose, which lay to the northwest of the guildhall, was occupied by a residential area bounded by Mathew Street, Lower Brook Street and Lower Market Street.[5]

The new building was designed by Edward Rundle in the Gothic Revival style, built in locally-quarried stone and was officially opened on 2 February 1864.[5][6][7] The design involved an asymmetrical main frontage with five bays facing onto Bedford Square; the central bay featured an arched carriageway on the ground floor with a prominent oriel window and a gable above.[1] The other bays were fenestrated with mullioned windows on the ground floor and large round headed windows on the first floor. At roof level, there was a crenelated parapet and four dormer windows.[1] There was also a four-stage crenelated tower to the southeast of the main section.[1] Internally, the principal rooms were the main hall, which was panelled and featured a maple floor, and the mayor's parlour.[5]

The borough council, which had not met for many years, was abolished under the Municipal Corporations Act 1883.[8] However, following a significant increase in population, largely associated with the status of Tavistock as a market town, the area became an urban district in 1898.[9] The council used the town hall as a venue for civic events and located the council officers and their departments at purpose-built council chambers in Drake Road which were completed in the late 19th century.[10][11] The Russell family sold various properties in the town, including the guildhall, the town hall, the council chambers and various public amenities, including the corn market, to the urban district council for a price agreed by arbitration in order to meet death duty obligations in 1913.[12][13]

After the Plymouth Blitz, a series of bombing raids carried out by the Luftwaffe on Plymouth during the Second World War, the town hall was used as peripheral rest centre for Plymouth residents displaced by the destruction.[14] Then, in December 1943, soldiers of the 29th Infantry Division of the United States Army, who were preparing for Operation Overlord, hosted a party in the town hall for children from the Plymouth Road Primary School.[15] Significant visitors included the future Deputy Prime Minister, Michael Heseltine, who delivered a speech in the town hall in January 1966 as part of his successful campaign to be elected the local member of parliament in the 1966 general election.[16]

Works of art in the town hall include a series of portraits by Lady Laura Russell, the wife of Lord Arthur Russell;[17] the subjects of these portraits include the 4th, 6th and 7th Dukes of Bedford, the local members of parliament, John Pym, Sir John Salusbury-Trelawny, George Byng and Hugh Luttrell, and the naval and military commanders, Sir Francis Drake and Colonel John Russell.[18]


  1. ^ a b c d Historic England. "Town Hall (1105832)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 2 October 2021.
  2. ^ Mettler, Alex (28 March 2019). "Tavistock Guildhall". Tavistock Heritage Trust. Retrieved 2 October 2021.
  3. ^ Stoyle, Mark (1994). Loyalty and Locality: Popular Allegiance in Devon During the English Civil War. University of Exeter Press. p. 67. ISBN 978-0859894289.
  4. ^ Historic England. "Guildhall, Police Station, attached railings and boundary walls (1309358)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 2 October 2021.
  5. ^ a b c "Tavistock Town Hall". Tavistock Town Council. Retrieved 2 October 2021.
  6. ^ "Tavistock Conservation Area Character Appraisal" (PDF). West Devon Borough Council. 1 July 2009. p. 84. Retrieved 2 October 2021.
  7. ^ Cherry, Bridget; Pevsner, Nikolaus (2002). Devon (Pevsner Buildings of England). Yale University Press. p. 785. ISBN 978-0300095968.
  8. ^ Municipal Corporations Act 1883 (46 & 46 Vict. Ch. 18) (PDF). 1883. Retrieved 21 December 2021.
  9. ^ "Tavistock UD". Vision of Britain. Retrieved 2 October 2021.
  10. ^ Historic England. "Tavistock Town Council Offices (1162954)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 2 October 2021.
  11. ^ "No. 43373". The London Gazette. 3 July 1964. p. 5754.
  12. ^ "The 'Sale of the century' in 1911 that changed the face of Tavistock". Tavistock Times. 23 June 2011. Retrieved 2 October 2021.
  13. ^ "Tavistock Urban District Council Act 1912" (PDF). UK Government. Retrieved 21 July 2023.
  14. ^ Addison, Paul; Crang, Jeremy (2020). The Spirit of the Blitz: Home Intelligence and British Morale, September 1940 - June 1941. Oxford University Press. p. 330. ISBN 978-0198848509.
  15. ^ Bennett, G. H. (2009). Destination Normandy: Three American Regiments on D-Day. Stackpole. p. 29. ISBN 978-0811735353.
  16. ^ Hennessy, Peter; Shepherd, Robert (2019). Reflections: Conversations with Politicians. Vol. 2. Haus Publishing. ISBN 978-1912208579.
  17. ^ "Laura Russell and the Tavistock Town Hall Portraits". Tavistock Heritage Trust. Retrieved 2 October 2021.
  18. ^ "Tavistock Town Hall". Art UK. Retrieved 2 October 2021.