Torrington, England - Encyclopedia

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TORRINGTON (GREAT TORRINGTON), a market town and municipal borough in the South Molton parliamentary division of Devonshire, England, on the Torridge, 225 m. W. by S. of London by the London & South-Western railway. Pop. (1901), 3241. It stands on a hill overlooking the richly wooded valley of the Torridge, here crossed by three bridges. Glove manufactures on a large scale, with flour and butter making and leather dressing, are the staple industries. The town is governed by a mayor, 4 aldermen and 12 councillors. Area, 359 2 acres.

Torrington (Toritone) was the site of very early settlement, and possessed a market in Saxon times. The manor was held by Brictric in the reign of Edward the Confessor, and in 1086 formed part of the Domesday fief of Odo Fitz Gamelin, which* later constituted an honour with Torrington as its caput. In. 1221 it appears as a mesne borough under William de Toritone, a descendant of Odo and the supposed founder of the castle, which in 1228 was ordered to be razed to the ground, but is said to have been rebuilt in 1340 by Richard de Merton. The borough had a fair in 1221, and returned two members to parliament from 1295 until exempted from representation at its own request in 1368. The government was vested in bailiffs and a commonalty, and no charter of incorporation was granted till that of Queen Mary in 1554, which instituted a governing body of a mayor, 7 aldermen and 18 chief burgesses, with authority to hold a court of record every three weeks on Monday; law-days and view of frankpledge at Michaelmas and Easter; a weekly market on Saturday, and fairs at the feasts of St Michael and St George. This charter was confirmed by Elizabeth in 1568 and by James I. in 1617. A charter from James II. in 1686 changed the style of the corporation to a mayor, 8 aldermen and 12 chief burgesses. In the 16th century Torrington was an important centre of the clothing trade, and in 1605 the town is described as very prosperous, with three fairs, and a great market "furnished from far on every quarter, being the most convenient place for occasions of king or county in those parts." The Saturday market is still maintained, but the fairs have been altered to the third Saturday in March and the first Thursday in May. In 1643 Colonel Digby took up his position at Torrington and put to flight a contingent of parliamentary troops; but in 1646 the town was besieged by Sir Thomas Fairfax and finally forced to surrender. The borough records were destroyed by fire in 1724.

See Victoria County History: Devonshire; F. T. Colby, History of Great Torrington (1878).

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