The market town of Totnes (population circa 8,500) is the second largest settlement in the South Hams behind Ivybridge. It lies at the head of the River Dart, occupies a central location within the South Hams and is home to South Hams District Council.
History of Totnes in Brief ...
Totnes was first documented in AD907 at the time of its fortification by King Edward the Elder, and its name was first recorded in AD979. By the 12th century, Totnes was already a thriving market town due to its pivotal location, and was granted a borough charter by King John in around 1206. By the early 1500’s Totnes was recorded as the second richest town in Devon.
There are many surviving testaments to Totnes’ prosperous past, including the late 15th century parish church of St Mary, the Guildhall founded in 1088, the Town Mill (currently housing the local tourist information centre) possibly dating from the 1500’s, Steamer Quay, the Elizabethan House Museum built in about 1575, 16th century Bogan House, and Totnes Bridge built in 1828. One of Totnes’ most striking features is the East Gate Arch on Fore Street which was once the entrance to the medieval town. It was largely reconstructed after a fire in 1990.
It's a Fact !
Charles Babbage, founder of the modern computer, had strong family ties to Totnes, and part of the local museum is dedicated to his life and work.
Novelist Mary Wesley, author of The Camomile Lawn, spent her final years in Totnes.
Philosopher & Poet Rabindranath Tagore held long association with the Elmhirsts of Dartington Hall, who, in the early 1900’s were amongst the leading philanthropists and social activists of the day. Today Dartington Hall Trust hosts one of the foremost literary festivals in the country.
Explore Totnes in South Devon
Totnes is renowned for being the ‘alternative’ capital of the south-west, and so you will find no shortage of alternative health therapies, arts and crafts outlets and vegetarian and wholefood shops and restaurants to choose from. The nearby Dartington Hall Trust hosts festivals and events throughout the year and its gardens, cinema, pub and Roundhouse café are open to visitors all year round. Dartington Shops, also part of the Trust, is a favourite year-round attraction for both locals and tourists alike.
History buffs will be pleased to learn that Totnes is believed to have more listed buildings per head than any other town, plus two museums to visit. The Norman motte and bailey castle together with nearby Berry Pomeroy castle (reputed to be the most haunted castle in the country), are both open to the public under English Heritage. Boating and paddling on the River Dart are also popular pass-times, and Dartmouth, Agatha Christies former home at Greenway (NT), and Dittisham, a picturesque riverside village, can be accessed by regular ferries from Steamer Quay (check seasonal times/availability). There are also regular river cruises and canoeing opportunities.
The Sharpham estate at nearby Ashprington draws many visitors for its wine and cheese tasting (both grown and produced on the estate). An alfresco café/restaurant is open to visitors during the summer months.
A regular steam train connects Totnes with Littlehempston and Buckfastleigh where you will find an otter and butterfly farm and nearby Buckfast Abbey.
There is no shortage of scenic walks in the surrounding area and, as a transition town, Totnes encourages cycling through the wide availability of cycle paths and routes throughout the locality.