Tiverton, Devon

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Tiverton is located in Devon
Location within Devon
Population19,544 (2011 census)
OS grid referenceSS955125
Civil parish
  • Tiverton
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode districtEX16
Dialling code01884
PoliceDevon and Cornwall
FireDevon and Somerset
AmbulanceSouth Western
UK Parliament
List of places
50°54′11″N 3°29′17″W / 50.903°N 3.488°W / 50.903; -3.488Coordinates: 50°54′11″N 3°29′17″W / 50.903°N 3.488°W / 50.903; -3.488

Tiverton (/ˈtɪvərtən/ TIV-ər-tən) is a town and civil parish in the English county of Devon and the main commercial and administrative centre of the Mid Devon district. It has also become a dormitory town for commuters to Exeter and Taunton. Tiverton had an estimated population of 20,411 in 2018. The total area of the two County Council Divisions (including Bampton, Halberton, Sampford Peverell, Uplowman and other small villages) had a total population of 38,191 in 2019.[1]


View from the bridge over the Exe which looks towards the historic St Peter's church.

The town's name is conjectured to derive from "Twy-ford-ton" or "Twyverton", meaning "the town on two fords", and was historically referred to as "Twyford". The town stands at the confluence of the rivers Exe and Lowman. Human occupation in the area dates back to the Stone Age, with many flint tools found in the area. An Iron Age hill fort, Cranmore Castle stands at the top of Exeter Hill above the town, and a Roman fort, or rather marching camp, was discovered on the hillside below Knightshayes Court near Bolham, just to the north of the town.

Tiverton formed part of the inheritance of Aethelweard, youngest son of King Alfred. Countess Gytha of Wessex controlled the town in 1066 and the Domesday Book indicates that William the Conqueror was its tenant-in-chief in 1086. Tiverton was also the seat of the court of the hundred of Tiverton.[2] It was the strategic site chosen by Henry I for a Norman castle, Tiverton Castle first built in 1106 as a motte-and-bailey type and extensively remodelled in the 13th and 14th centuries.[citation needed]

Tiverton has a medieval town leat, built for the town by Countess Isabella de Fortibus who was the eldest daughter of Baldwin de Redvers, 6th Earl of Devon and grew up at Tidcombe Hall, close to Tiverton. Isabella also controlled the Port of Topsham, Devon, through which much of Tiverton's woollen exports were transported, mostly to the Low Countries. Every seven years there is a Perambulation of the Town Leat ceremony to clear the path of the leat and ensure it is kept running. The leat can be seen in Castle Street, where it runs down the centre of the road, and at Coggan's Well, in Fore Street.[3]

Tiverton owes its early growth and prosperity to the wool trade, which caused the town to grow rapidly in the 16th and 17th centuries. Many wealthy wool merchants added to the town's heritage. John Greenway (1460–1529), for example, added a chapel and porch to St Peter's parish church in 1517, and a small chapel and almshouses in Gold Street which still stand – the Almshouse Trust still houses people today. Peter Blundell, another wealthy merchant, who died in 1601, bequeathed the funds and land for Blundell's School to educate local children. It was founded in Tiverton in 1604, and relocated to its present location on the outskirts of town in 1882, where it functions now as an independent school.[4] John Waldron (died 1579) founded Waldron's Almshouses, on Wellbrook Street, and his elaborate chest tomb survives in St Peter's Church.

In about 1600 there were two major fires in the town, the first in 1596, allegedly started in a frying pan, destroying most of the town. The second, in 1612, was known as the "dog-fight fire" because a dog fight had distracted people who were supposed to be looking after a furnace.[5]

During the English Civil War in 1645 Tiverton Castle, held by the Royalists, was the scene of a relatively brief siege by Thomas Fairfax's Parliamentarian forces. The Parliamentarian forces entered Tiverton under Major General Massey on 15 October, the town's defenders fleeing before him towards Exeter. They left a defending force in the castle and church. Fairfax arrived from Cullompton on 17 October, set up his artillery and bombarded the castle for two days, ceasing fire for the sabbath in the afternoon of Saturday 18 October. On Sunday Fairfax had "several great pieces" of artillery brought up, ready for a renewed barrage on Monday, which commenced at 7 a. m. The siege was ended when a lucky shot broke one of the drawbridge chains and an alert squad of Roundheads gained swift entry. Fairfax then set up his winter quarters in Tiverton due to the inclement weather, requisitioning Blundell's School as his headquarters. He was joined there in December 1645 by Oliver Cromwell. They left to lay siege to Exeter in January 1646.[citation needed]

The town enjoyed prosperity from the wool trade in the early 18th century. However, a period of decline followed during the early Industrial Revolution. There were occasional riots, and societies of woolcombers and weavers were formed in an effort to protect jobs and wages. By the end of the century, due to imports of cotton and the expansion of industrialization elsewhere, along with the effect of the Napoleonic Wars on exports, the town's woollen industry was in terminal decline.[6] In June 1731 another fire destroyed 298 houses in the town, causing £58,000 worth of damage. After this, the streets were widened.[7] In May 1738, riots broke out in the town.

The industrialist John Heathcoat bought an old woollen mill on the river Exe in 1815, and following the destruction of his machinery at Loughborough by former Luddites who were thought to have been in the pay of the lacemakers of Nottingham, he moved his entire lace-making operation to Tiverton.[8] The factory turned the fortunes of Tiverton once again, and it became an early industrial centre in the South West. Trade was aided when a branch of the Grand Western Canal from Tiverton to Lowdwells was opened in 1814, with an extension to Taunton in 1838. This was followed by a branch of the Great Western Railway in 1848.[citation needed]

Although small, Tiverton had two members of Parliament. As one of the "rotten boroughs" it was often targeted by those seeking electoral reform. Lord Palmerston, or "Pam" as he was known locally, was an MP for Tiverton for a large part of the 19th century. In 1847, the Chartists, a radical group seeking to change the electoral system, stood one of their leaders, George Julian Harney, against Palmerston. He is widely reported as having gained no votes – but in fact he won the "popular vote" (a show of hands of the people of the town), and withdrew when Palmerston called a ballot, aware that he would lose in a vote by only 400 wealthy and propertied in the town out of a population of 7000. Broadening the franchise was of the Chartist objectives. After the Reform Act of 1867, Tiverton had just one MP. The seat was for a long period held by a member of the Heathcoat-Amory family, most recently by Derick Heathcoat-Amory who served as MP from 1945 to 1960. Up until 2010 David Heathcoat-Amory was the MP for Wells in nearby Somerset.[citation needed]

The town was the last in the Devon and Cornwall area to retain an independent police force, until 1945. In the second half of the 20th century, Tiverton once again slowly declined in prosperity, as the Heathcoat factory became ever more mechanised, and the Starkey Knight & Ford brewery was taken over by Whitbread as its regional brewery, but later closed, becoming just a bottling plant located on Howden (now Aston Manor cider makers). The factory then lay derelict for some years before being demolished to make way for a supermarket. The manufacture of agricultural machinery adjacent to the River Lowman dwindled, the railway closed in 1964 and the Globe Elastic plant in Kennedy Way also closed down in the 1980s. However, in this period a few far-sighted individuals, notably William Authers, secured some important assets for the future of the town. Tiverton Museum was opened during this time; the trackbed of the old railway was bought up and now remains as footpaths and an adventure playground; and the Grand Western Canal was saved from dereliction and revived as a country park.[citation needed]

During the 1990s, retailing in the town declined still further after the opening of the Southern Relief Road (now Great Western Way), which led to the closure of Fore Street in the town centre to all but pedestrians. The decline was reversed to a degree by various regeneration projects, and Tiverton's shops thrived in the late 1990s and early 2000s, especially on the main market days, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday. However, the decline resumed with the major recession of 2008–2009.[citation needed]


The new Tiverton Library and council offices

Tiverton's revival in recent years began with the construction of the A361 (known as the North Devon Link Road), in the late 1980s. In the 1990s, a new industrial estate was built at Little Gornhay on the north-eastern edge of the town, and a new junction was added to the Link Road, with a distributor road (now the A396) into the town, which has become its main gateway. Great Western Way, linking this road to the Exeter Road along the line of the old railway, was also constructed. These two roads opened up a new aspect of the town and paved the way for expansion.

The demand for housing in the UK and particularly in the South-West has driven house prices up, and many now look to towns on the periphery of employment centres. Tiverton has become a popular dormitory town for commuters to Exeter and Taunton, and this growth has been supported by large housing projects to the north of the town by most national house builders including Westbury Homes, Barrett Homes and Bellway Homes. The resulting influx of population has led to further development of the town's services and shops. The town now has a newly built hospital, the Tiverton and District Hospital, funded by the Private Finance Initiative. The old hospital in the town centre has since been pulled down and redeveloped into a mixture of flats, houses and retail units. Tiverton's outmoded swimming pool was replaced with a new leisure centre near the main campus of the East Devon College, consisting of a swimming pool and gymnasion. East Devon College was renamed Petroc after amalgamation with North Devon College in 2009. It is now the largest further education college in the district. Mid Devon District Council has recently[when?] built new offices at Phoenix House, at the foot of Phoenix Lane, close to the site of a disused brewery. The building incorporates a new public library.

The Pannier Market in the town has recently been redeveloped at a cost of more than £3 million, alongside its car park and minor shopping precinct, increasing market capacity and allowing markets to be held more frequently.

In 2007 the former cinema, the Electric, was bulldozed for redevelopment as housing, while the only operative cinema, the Tivoli, which had previously been mostly run by volunteers, closed its doors and the site was put up for sale. After a well-supported public campaign, the Tivoli reopened on 28 June 2008, bought by Merlin Cinemas from former owners Eastmond and Hamlin Ltd. There is also a film club in Tiverton.

In December 2008, the local press reported that the town may need a new high school (funding for which was agreed in 2009), as well as two more primary schools. This came as the town council considered plans for a further two thousand homes, plus extra industrial estates, additional shops, new employment space and more community facilities. Some of this proposed expansion was opposed by local action groups throughout 2009. The proposed high school lost its funding amongst the first cuts of the new government in 2010, leaving it too small for the upcoming intake. A replacement high school is now being proposed to be built by Devon County Council across the road from the current site, next to the leisure centre, to include a theatre run by Tiverton Community Arts Theatre (TCAT) which currently operates in the existing high school hall.

Tiverton won one of the 15 positions in the Round 2 pilot scheme as a Portas Town.[9] The annual Mid Devon Show is held in the town.[10][11]


  • Blundell's School, an independent coeducational day and boarding school
  • Bolham Primary School
  • The Castle Primary School, formerly in the old Grammar School building, but replaced with a new build in 2017, the old building demolished.
  • East Anstey County Primary School
  • Halberton Primary School
  • Heathcoat Primary School
  • Petroc College, formerly East Devon College, a further education college sharing a campus with Tiverton High School
  • Rackenford Primary School
  • St John's Roman Catholic Primary School
  • Tidcombe Primary School, formerly a state school, now an academy.
  • Tiverton High School, the local community secondary school and a specialist visual arts college
  • Two Moors Primary School
  • Wilcombe Primary School, formerly a state school, now part of an academy with 12 other Devon primaries
  • Witheridge V. P. (C) School



Tiverton has easy access to the M5 motorway. The town's revival in recent years began with the construction of the A361 (known as the North Devon Link Road), in the late 1980s.


The Bristol and Exeter Railway opened a station, known as Tiverton Road on 1 May 1844. It was renamed Tiverton Junction on 12 June 1848 when Tiverton railway station was opened nearer the town at the end of a branch from the Junction station. A second branch, the Exe Valley line reached this station from the south, branching off the London to Penzance main line at Stoke Canon and following the line of the River Exe; mainline trains were occasionally diverted via Tiverton if there was engineering work or damage on the section north of Stoke Canon. Another line was opened which headed north to join the Taunton–Barnstaple line at Dulverton. None of these lines remain.

In 1986, Tiverton Parkway railway station was opened on the main line on the site of the old Sampford Peverell station, to replace the old junction station a few miles down the line at Willand. As a parkway station, it is located six miles east of the town, alongside Junction 27 of the M5 motorway. Its proximity to the motorway – and the relative inaccessibility of Exeter St Davids railway station – means that the station is often used as a coach exchange when the line between Exeter and Plymouth is closed.


The Grand Western Canal from Taunton to Tiverton opened in 1838.


The town has a main football club in the form of Tiverton Town, also many amateur clubs including Elmore and Westexe Rovers. The town also has a rugby club and a number of cricket clubs. Tiverton White Eagles (TWEHC) is the local women's hockey club, which has three teams in various leagues.

Tiverton Gazette[edit]

The Tiverton and Mid Devon Gazette's former newsroom on Bampton Street.

The Tiverton Gazette is a weekly tabloid newspaper for Tiverton and the surrounding area. It has always been published on Tuesdays to coincide with a market day. It first appeared as the Tiverton Gazette and East Devon Herald in 1858. The founder, Robert Were, was only 22 years old and died just five years later. The newspaper split into three editions in 1872 – the Tiverton Gazette, Crediton Gazette and South Molton Gazette, but recombined in the mid–1890s as the Mid Devon Gazette. It then split into Town and Rural editions, before splitting three ways again.


Tiverton is a town in north-east Devon being 13 miles north of Exeter, 46 miles north-east of Plymouth and 18 miles west of Taunton. Ashley, to the south, and Bolham to the north are villages that have also become suburbs of Tiverton. The River Exe flows through the town.


Tiverton has an oceanic climate (Köppen climate classification Cfb).

Climate data for Tiverton
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 8
Average low °C (°F) 3
Source: Weather Channel[12]

Notable people[edit]

In birth order:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Devon Gov Area Profile". https://www.devon.gov.uk/communities/your-community/tiverton-profile. Retrieved 18 December 2019. External link in |website= (help)
  2. ^ Powell-Smith, Anna. "Tiverton - Domesday Book". opendomesday.org. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  3. ^ "Perambulation". Tiverton Town Council. Retrieved 8 January 2017.
  4. ^ Martin Dunsford, Historical Memoirs of Tiverton (Brice, Exeter, 1790)
  5. ^ "Historic Dates in Tiverton". Tiverton Town Council. Archived from the original on 15 April 2011. Retrieved 8 February 2011.
  6. ^ Martin Dunsford, Historical Memoirs of Tiverton (Brice, Exeter, 1790)
  7. ^ Risdon, Tristram (1811). Rees; et al. (eds.). The Chorographical Description or Survey of the County of Devon (updated ed.). Plymouth: Rees and Curtis. pp. 370–371.
  8. ^ W. Gore Allen, John Heathcoat and his Heritage (Christopher Johnson, London, 1958)
  9. ^ "Sub Article 1". www.tivertontoday.co.uk. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  10. ^ "Mid Devon Show to relocate to Knightshayes". Mid Devon Gazette. 29 July 2014. Retrieved 3 July 2016.
  11. ^ "Tiverton – Mid Devon Show". Heart of Devon. Retrieved 3 July 2016.
  12. ^ Tiverton travel information Weather Channel UK Retrieved 2009-04-04
  13. ^ "The Catcher in the Rye 'was inspired by Devon town of Tiverton'". independent.co.uk. 13 February 2016. Retrieved 4 April 2018.

External links[edit]