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South West Tiverton, Devon

An Overview

At the junction of the Rivers Exe and Lowman on the eastern edge of Exmore, Tiverton is a busy market town serving mid Devon.


It is remarkably unspoilt with many Georgian and Victorian buildings. Two walking trails explore the town.

The Romans had an auxillary fort here and the Saxons settled in the C7th. The Normans arrived and stamped their authority over the area by replacing the wooden Saxon church by a stone church, and building a castle next to it.


Tiverton’s wealth came from the wool trade, with wool being carried by a leat to the port at Topsham. This can still be seen running down the centre of Castle Street and at Coggan's Well, in Fore Street


Wool money was used to rebuild St Peter’s Church.


Almshouses were built on Gold Street and Wellbrook Street.


Wealthy merchant, Peter Blundell, bequeathed funds and land to build Blundell’s School to educate local children. It is still an independent day and boarding school.

There were major fires in 1596 and again in 1612 which destroyed much of the town.

As the population of Tiverton grew, St George’s Church was built in the early C18th as a Chapel of Ease for St Peter’s Church and was regarded as one of the finest Georgian Churches in England, although it is now closed for worship.

Following the decline of the wool trade in the early C18th, John Heathcoat bought an old woollen mill on the River Exe in 1815. The machinery in his lace factory in Loughborough had been destroyed by former Luddites thought to be in the pay of Nottingham Lacemakers. He began lace making and at least 100 families followed him and he built terraces of houses for his workforce as well as a factory school. Tiverton became a major industrial centre again . Goods were taken out on the Grand Western Canal which had opened in 1814 and later by the Great Western Railway when that arrived in 1848. The factory still produces fabrics today and has a retail shop in the town.

St Paul’s Church was built in the mid C19th on a site given by John Heathcote near his factory.


The splendid Town Hall dates from that time.


The town is now mainly a dormitory town for Exeter and Taunton.

The Museum of Mid Devon Life tells the story of the social and economic history of the area.

Part of the Grand Western Canal is now part of a Country Park with horse drawn barge trips in the summer months.


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Exploring Tiverton on Foot

Tiverton is a compact town centre and can easily be explored on foot. Tiverton Civic Society have placed blue plaques on many of the important buildings. Using the two town trails, I planned a route covering the more important sights.

Walking map Tiverton.jpg

For convenience I began on Fore Street, the main shopping street with views down to the Town Hall with the Memorial Hall behind.


The disused St George’s Church can be seen, now increasingly hidden behind trees and shrubs.


The road drops down Angel Hill, with the junction to St Peter Street


Crossing the bridge over the River Exe, the leat from Heathcoat’s mill can be seen joining the river.


St Paul’s Church surrounded by very pleasant Victorian housing built by Heathcoat for his workers now comes into view.


here is little information about the church either on the web or in the church. It is a huge and very light church, with a very modern feel.



I retracing my steps to St Peter Street, with the timber frame Slee Almshouses and the Great House beyond. This was built by a wealthy clothier and wool merchant, George Slee, replacing his home that had been lost in the fire of 1598. He also financed the building of the almshouses in 1613, to provide homes for ‘six poor widows or maidens of the town’. They are now managed by Tiverton Almshouse Trust and have been converted into four flats.


Further up the street is the Methodist Chapel, dating from 1814.


Across the road is the tiny New Apostolic Church.



Further up, St Peter Street is lined by well kept and attractive C19th house.


At the top of the street is St Peter’s Church a splendid red sandstone building set in a big churchyard and surrounded by trees. It was rebuilt in the early C16th .


John Greenaway who was a wealthy wool merchant and an important important member of the Draper's Company, with trading interests in King's Lynn and London. He retired to Tiverton, founding almshouses on Gold Street and the carved south porch and south chapel as his chantry chapel.


The exterior of the porch and chapel are adorned with very detailed carvings of ships and nautical symbols, a reference to the source of Greenway's wealth. Unfortunately the church is no longer left open during the day.




Near the church is Tiverton Castle, which was built as a wooden castle in 1107 and later replaced by a stone castle. It has been altered and extended many times. It was the seat of the Earls of Devon for several centuries. It was a Royalist stronghold in the Civil War but besieged by the Parliamentary Army under Sir Thomas Fairfax. A lucky cannon shot hit the drawbridge chain, allowing the parliamentarians to enter and seize the castle.

It is now a private house entered via a splendid gatehouse and open two afternoons a week .



After admiring the outside of the Castle, I headed back down for Newport Street and past the Baptist Church and Church Hall. A Baptist Community was established in the town by the start of the 1600s although the present building is mid C19th. (Christians of all denominations have always been well looked after in Tiverton)



Castle Street is lined with attractive terraced housing and the Masonic Hall is here.


The original leat used to carry good to the port at Topsham can still be seen running down the centre the street.


Off Castle Street is the wonderfully named Hit of Miss Alley, which was originally the tilt yard for Tiverton Castle. It now leads to Castle View Dental Practice and rather scruffy courtyard in front of it.



Castle Street climbs up, becoming renamed Bartow’s Causeway, which is much narrower with more modern houses.


At the top is People’s Park which was formed to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria. This is a large open area with grass and trees. It has a green area with trees, grass and children’s playground. The leisure centre is here.


It was turn round point and time to head back to Bampton Street and the town centre past more C19th housing.




The Market House on Banmpton Street opened in 1732 for the sale of corn. John Wesley preached here several times In later years it became the offices and sale room of a local of an auctioneer. It now houses the offices of the Tiverton Almshouses Trust are on the first floor..


Bampton Street joins Gold Street, which has been described as the ‘trendiest street in Tiverton’. As well as a wide range of shops, the John Greenway Almshouses and Chapel are here. The original C15th buildings were destroyed in the great fire of 1732 and were rebuilt. The only bits of the original to survive are the two statues of St Perter with the keys of heaven and St Paul





Gold street drops down to cross the River Lowman.


The triangular Lowman Green Clock Tower at the junction of Gold Streer, Chapel Street and Station Road dates from 1908.


On the opposite side of the road is a statue of Edward the Peacemaker, which was presented to the town by Thomas Ford, a JP, to commemorate the death of Edward VII.


This wa a very well worth while walk, covering most of the main areas if interest in the town as well as lot of history.
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