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Princetown community page

Princetown is located within West Devon local authority area. Historically it formed part of Lifton Hundred. It falls within Tavistock 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.

A parish history file is held in Princetown 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 Princetown 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 106/8,12 Six inch (1:10560) sheet 106NE,SE
The National Grid reference for the centre of the area is SX590735. On the post 1945 National Grid Ordnance Survey mapping the sheets are: 1:10,000 (six inch to a mile: sheet SX57SE, 1:25,000 mapping: sheet Outdoor Leisure 28, Landranger (1:50,000) mapping: sheet 191. Geological sheet 338 also covers the area.

Illustrations: The image below is of Princetown as included in the Library's Etched on Devon's memory website. Other images can be searched for on the local studies catalogue.


Extract from Devon by W.G.Hoskins (1954), included by kind permission of the copyright holder:

PRINCETOWN is in the parish of Lydford, a grim little town some 1,400 ft. above sea level, with an abominable climate of fog, snow, wind, and more than 80 in. of cold rain over 100. It stands on a cot between the two Hessary Tors, exposed to the bitter N. and E. winds, the least suitable place that could ever have been chosen for a town. But the site was dictated by Sir Thomas Tyrwhitt so as to be near his granite quarries.

As early as 1780 a farm, named Prince Hall, was reclaimed on the site of an ancient tenement near Two Bridges, and in 1785 Mr. Tyrwhitt (later Sir Thomas), who had been appointed Lord Warden of the Stannaries, set about improving the moor at a place which he named Tor Royal, about 1.5 m. SE. of Princetown. Here he made a productive estate and built a house in 1798. (Rowe, Perambulation of Dartmoor, 255) He was later instrumental in building the road from Tavistock to Princetown, and the other good roads that now cross the Moor and make it (or some of it) accessible to the motorist.

It was Sir Thomas Tyrwhitt who proposed that a prison be built on the Moor to house the thousands of captives of the Napoleonic Wars, who had become too numerous to lodge in the prisons and prison-ships at Plymouth. The site was given by the Prince of Wales, who held the lands of the Duchy of Cornwall to which all the Moor belonged: hence the name Princetown. The prison was built in 1806 (architect, Daniel Alexander) at a cost of £130,000 and at one time between seven and nine thousand prisoners were crammed into it.

A small town grew up near the prison. Two large inns were built during the war; one of them is the present Duchy Hotel. Many of the prisoners had prize-money to come from their own country; many others made their own in their hammocks at night, even forging Bank of England and local bank notes, which they passed off in the great daily market held in the prison. With the closing of the prison in 1816 the town almost collapsed, but the completion of the Dartmoor Railway in 1823 brought back many people to the granite quarries. The prison remained derelict until 1850, when it was reopened for prisoners serving long sentences. It has since been considerably extended.

Creator: Devon Library and Information Services
Title: Princetown community page
Imprint: Exeter : Devon Library and Information Services
Date: 2004
Format: Web page : HTML
Series: Devon community web pages ; GAZPRI
Ref. no.: WEB GAZPRI
Coverage: Devon . Princetown . History . Web pages

Last Updated: 25/05/2005

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