North Tawton is located within West Devon local authority area. Historically it formed part of North Tawton Hundred. It falls within Okehampton Deanery for ecclesiastical purposes. The Deaneries are used to arrange the typescript Church Notes of B.F.Cresswell which are held in the Westcountry Studies Library. The population was 1436 in 1801 1529 in 1901 . Figures for other years are available on the local studies website. The lay subsidy of 1524 valued the community at £Missing. In 1641/2 217 adult males signed the Protestation returns. It is recorded as a borough from 1271. The community had a grammar school from 1684. A market is recorded from 14c.-1600.
A parish history file is held in Okehampton Library. You can look for other material on the community by using the place search on the main local studies database. Further historical information is also available on the Genuki website.
Maps: The image below is of the North Tawton area on Donn's one inch to the mile survey of 1765.
On the County Series Ordnance Survey mapping the area is to be found on 1:2,500 sheet 65/3 Six inch (1:10560) sheet 65NE
The National Grid reference for the centre of the area is SS664017. On the post 1945 National Grid Ordnance Survey mapping the sheets are: 1:10,000 (six inch to a mile: sheet SS60SE, 1:25,000 mapping: sheet Explorer 113, Landranger (1:50,000) mapping: sheet 191. Geological sheet 324 also covers the area.
Illustrations: The image below is of North Tawton as included in the Library's illustrations collection. Other images can be searched for on the local studies catalogue.
A fair is known from: 14c.-1822. An extract from The glove is up! Devon's historic fairs, by Tricia Gerrish,is included by kind permission of the author.
NORTH TAWTON FAIR LOCATION: North of A3072, between Crediton and Okehampton.
ORIGINAL CHARTER: c.1270 A charter was granted to John Valletort, for 3 days at the feast of St Nicholas: 6th December.
North Tawton may have had a fair at the feast of St Nicholas before John Valletort's 1270 charter, and another: granted in 1374. There were fairs on the third Tuesday in April, 3rd October and 18th December, according to Owen's 1824 list. The April fair is given as the same date by 1890, but the other fairs are quoted as second Tuesday in October and the first Tuesday in December: the last of which must have been St Nicholas Fair. This had become a fatstock show by 1923.
Cattle, horses, sheep and cloth were all sold at North Tawton. Cattle were penned in the Square; this practice continued into the 20th century. There was also a fair at South Tawton, which lies closer to Okehampton, on the first Thursday following 9th July, when cattle were traded (*see South Zeal/South Tawton).
Extract from Devon by W.G.Hoskins (1954), included by kind permission of the copyright holder:
TAWTON, NORTH is one of those ancient, decayed market towns, of which there are so many in Devon. We find it called Cheping Tawton as early as 1199 (OE. ciePing=market). At some date also it was made a borough, governed by a portreeve elected annually, an office which lasted until the end of the 19th century. The town formerly had a considerable woollen industry which greatly declined, as it did all over Devon, in the second half of the 18th century Nevertheless, one woollen mill (at Taw Bridge) survived and gave considerable employment to the townspeople until recent years.
The railway did not reach North Tawton until 1865, and then had its inevitable effect on the economy of the town. The almost simultaneous closing of the woollen mill and the flour mills, which used to employ most of the people, gave the death-blow in recent years. There are fewer people in North Tawton today than there were in the 18th century.
The town has suffered greatly from extensive fires and is now mostly a rather drab collection of mid and late 19th century houses, coated with a grey roughcast. There are a few more pleasing houses, the most interesting being a late 15th century building of some pretensions in the Square, probably a small manor house originally. The church (St. Peter) is quite unexciting, with a squat W. tower (13th century) capped by a shingled spire (rebuilt, 1900). The rest of the church is 15th early 16th century with lofty granite arcades, and an inadequate, much restored chancel. Nearly all the fittings are Victorian, except a few vigorously carved 16th century bench-ends in the nave.
There are a number of interesting houses in the parish. Ashridge was a medieval "mansion" and shows some remains of this and of a chapel. Cottle's Barton, near the Taw, is an attractive stone-built Elizabethan "mansion," built in 1567 and somewhat restored (but not spoilt) in 1866.
At Nichols Nymet, which was a Domesday manor, are the remains of an oldbarton; and Crooke, which was also a Domesday manor, has the remains of a manor house and a medi-eval chapel. Greenslade, now a farmhouse, was a Domesday estate also.
North Tawton now includes, for civil purposes, the ancient parish of Broad Nymet which covered only 52 acres. The present Barton has a plain front of c. 1800 but is substantially a late 16th early 17th century building which originally faced the other way. The church (dedication unknown) is one of the rare ruined parish churches of Devon and is worth a pilgrimage to this rather remote spot. It is a late 13th century building, to which a S. porch was added in the 17th century. It became a sinecure rectory, and the church fell into disuse. It is an interesting little building and should be rescued from its desecration, but no one seems to care about its fate.