TAVISTOCK, a market town in the Tavistock parliamentary division of Devonshire, England, in the valley of the Tavy, on the western border of Dartmoor; 165 m. N. of Plymouth, on the Great Western and the London and South Western railways. Pop. of urban district (1901), 4728. There are some remains (including a portion in the square, now used as a public library established in 1799) of the magnificent abbey of St Mary and St Rumon, founded in 961 by Orgar, earl of Devon. After destruction by the Danes in 997 it was restored, and among its famous abbots were Lyfing, friend of Canute, and Aldred, who crowned Harold II. and William, and died archbishop of York. The abbey church was rebuilt in 1285, and the greater part of the abbey in 1457-58. The church- of St Eustachius dates from 1318, and possesses a lofty tower supported on four open arches. Within are monuments to the Glanville and Bourchier families, besides some good stained glass, one window being the work of William Morris. Kelly College, near the town, was founded by Admiral Benedictus Marwood Kelly, and opened in 1877 for the education of his descendants and the orphan sons of naval officers. Mines of copper, manganese, lead, silver and tin are in the neighbourhood, and the town possesses a considerable trade in cattle and corn, and industries in brewing and iron-founding. The mining industry generally has declined, but there is a trade in arsenic, extracted from the copper ore.
The early history of Tavistock (Tavistoke) centres round the abbey of St Rumon. Both town and abbey were sacked by the Danes in 997, but were shortly afterwards rebuilt, and the latter at the time of the Conquest ranked as the wealthiest house in Devon, including the hundred and manor of Tavistock among its possessions. Tavistock was governed from before the Conquest by a portreeve, who in the 14th century was assisted by a select council of burgesses, styled in 1660 " the Masters of the Toune and Parish of Tavistock." It returned two members to parliament as a borough from 1295 until deprived of one member by the act of 1867, and finally disfranchised by that of 1885, ,but no charter of corporation was granted until 1683, when Charles II. instituted a governing body of a mayor, twelve aldermen and twelve assistants; with a recorder, deputy recorder, common clerk and two sergeants-at-mace. A market on Friday and a three days' fair at the feast of St Rumon were granted by Henry I. to the monks of Tavistock; and in 1552 two fairs on April 23 and November 28 were granted by Edward VI. to the earl of Bedford, then lord of the manor. In the 17th century great quantities of cloth were sold at the Friday market, and four fairs were held at the feasts of St Michael, the Epiphany, St Mark, and the Decollation of St John the Baptist. The charter of Charles II. instituted a Tuesday market and fairs on the Thursday after Whitsunday and at the feast of St Swithin. In 1822 the old fairs were abolished in favour of six fairs on the second Wednesdays in May, July, September, October, November and December. The Friday market is still held. Tavistock was one of the four stannary towns appointed by charter of Edward I., at which tin was stamped and weighed, and monthly courts were held for the regulation of mining affairs. It was also the site of one of the earliest printing-presses, and copies of the stannary laws and of a translation of Boethius issued from the Tavistock press in the reign of Henry VIII. are preserved in Exeter College library. The decay of the woollen industry at Tavistock was attributed by the inhabitants in 1641 to the dread of the Turks at sea and of popish plots at home. The trade is now extinct. The copper-mining industry has much declined. The Royalist troops were quartered here in 1643 after the defeat of the Parliamentary forces at Bradock Down.
See Victoria County History, Devonshire; A. J. Kempe, Notices of Tavistock and its Abbey (London, 1830); R. N. Worth, Calendar of Tavistock Parish Records (Plymouth, 1887).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)