Totnes - Encyclopedia

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TOTNES, a market town and municipal borough in the Totnes parliamentary division of Devonshire, England, on the Dart, 2 9 m. S.S.W. of Exeter, by the Great Western railway. Pop. (1901), 4035. It stands on the west bank of the river, and is joined by a bridge to the suburb of Bridgetown. It was formerly a walled town, and two of the four gates remain. Many old houses are also preserved, and in High Street their overhanging upper stories, supported on pillars, form a covered way for foot-passengers. The castle, founded by the Breton Juhel, lord of the manor after the Conquest, was already dismantled under Henry VIII.; but its ivy-clad keep and upper walls remain. The grounds form a public garden. Close by are the remains of St Mary's Priory, which comprise a large Perpendicular gatehouse, refectory, precinct wall, abbot's gate and still-house. A grammar school, founded 1554, occupied part of the Priory, but was removed in 1874 to new buildings. The Perpendicular church of St Mary contains a number of interesting tombs and effigies dating from the 15th century onwards, and much excellent carved work. The guildhall is formed from part of the Priory. Vessels of 200 tons can lie at the wharves near the bridge. The industries include brewing, flour milling, and the export of agricultural produce, chiefly corn and cider. Trout and salmon are plentiful in the river. The town is governed by a mayor, 4 aldermen and 12 councillors. Area 1423 acres.

Totnes (Toteneis, Totten) was a place of considerable importance in Saxon times; it possessed a mint in the reign of 'Ethelred, and was governed by a portreeve. In the Domesday Survey it appears as a me g ne borough under Juhel of Totnes, founder of the castle and priory; it had 95 burgesses within and 15 without the borough, and rendered military service according to the custom of Exeter. In 1215 a charter from John instituted a gild merchant with freedom from toll throughout the land. A mayor is mentioned in the court roll of 1386-1387, and a charter from Henry VII. in 1505 ordered that the mayor should be elected on St Matthew's day, and should be clerk of the market. The present governing charter was granted by Elizabeth in 1596, and instituted a governing body of a mayor, fourteen masters or councillors, and an indefinite number of burgesses, including a select body called "the Twenty-men." A fresh charter of incorporation from James II. in 1689 made no alterations of importance. The borough was represented in parliament by one member in 12 9 5, and by two members from 1298 until disfranchised by the act of 1867. A market on Saturday existed at least as early as 1255, and in 1608 is described as well stocked with provisions. The charter of Elizabeth granted a three days' fair at e the feast of SS Simon and Jude (Oct. 28), and in 1608 fairs were also held on May day and at the feast of St James (July 25).25). The market day has been transferred to Friday, but the May and October fairs are continued. The town was formerly noted for serges, and in 1641 the inhabitants represented their distress owing to the decline of the woollen trade. The industry is now extinct. During the Civil War General Goring quartered his troops at Totnes, and Fairfax also made it his temporary station.

See Victoria County History; Devonshire; The History of Totnes, its neighbourhood and Berry Pomeroy Castle (Totnes, 1825); William Cotton, A Graphic and Historical Sketch of the Antiquities of Totnes (London, 1858).

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