Main Births etc
Coordinates: 51°04′56″N 4°02′56″W / 51.0823, -4.0489
Barnstaple Butchers Row.jpg
Butchers Row

Barnstaple is located in Devon

 Barnstaple shown within Devon
Population 34,000 
OS grid reference SS5633
Parish Barnstaple
District North Devon
Shire county Devon
Region South West
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district EX31
Dialling code 01271
Police Devon and Cornwall
Fire Devon and Somerset
Ambulance South Western
EU Parliament South West England
UK Parliament North Devon
List of places: UK • England • Devon

Barnstaple is a town and civil parish in the local government district of North Devon in the county of Devon, England, UK. It lies 68 miles (109 km) west southwest of Bristol, 50 miles (80 km) north of Plymouth and 34 miles (55 km) northwest of the county town of Exeter. The old spelling Barnstable[1] is now obsolete.

It is the main town of the district and claims to be the oldest borough in the United Kingdom. It was founded at the lowest crossing point of the River Taw, about 3 miles (5 km) from the Taw's seafall at the Bristol Channel. By the time of the Domesday Book, Barnstaple had its own mint. Its size and wealth in the Middle Ages was based on it being within the staple, a staple port licensed to export wool, though the town's name has a different derivation. The wool trade was further aided by the town's excellent port, with five ships being sent in 1588 to aid the fight against the Spanish Armada.

It was one of the boroughs reformed by the Municipal Reform Act 1835. Since 1974, it has been a civil parish with a town council.[2] It has a population of 34,000 (approx.).


Barnstaple has an eclectic and somewhat haphazard mix of buildings developed over hundreds of years with the 19th century probably now predominant. There are some remnants of early buildings as well as several early plaster ceilings. St.Anne's Chapel in the central churchyard is probably the best of the ancient buildings to survive. Queen Anne's walk and the Georgian Guildhall remain. The Museum has tessellated floors, locally made staircase and decorative fireplaces . (from "Some Men who Made Barnstaple..." 2010 by Pauline Brain).

Queen Anne's Walk

Barnstaple's population in the 1801 census was 3,748, in the 1901 census 9,698, and in the 2001 census, the population was 20,724.[3] The town has swallowed the villages of Pilton, Newport, and Roundswell through ribbon development between the 1930s and the 1950s.

In 1989, the A361 North Devon Link Road was constructed, linking Barnstaple with the M5 motorway, approximately 40 miles (65 km) to the east. Because Barnstaple is the main shopping area for North Devon, retail work is a contributor to the economy. Many generic chain stores are located in the town centre which is very typical of the area and on the Roundswell Business Park located on the western fringe of the town.

Traffic congestion in the town used to be quite severe, but in May 2007, the Barnstaple Western Bypass was opened so traffic heading towards Braunton and Ilfracombe avoids travelling through the town centre. The bypass consists of 1.6 miles (2.6 km) of new road and a 447 yards (409 m) long, five-span bridge. It was expected to have cost £42 million.

Barnstaple Long Bridge

As part of this work, the town's main square is receiving a facelift as the entrance to the town centre, and it is planned to pedestrianise The Strand .


The name is first recorded in the 10th century and derives from the Old English bearde, meaning "battle-axe", and stapol, meaning "pillar", referring to a post or pillar set up to mark a religious or administrative meeting place. The claim that the name derives from staple meaning "market", indicating that there was a market here from the foundation of the settlement, is incorrect, because the use of staple in that sense is not recorded in England before 1423.[4]

Barnstaple is still sometimes referred to as Barum. The origin of this name is obscure, but has been in use since pre-Saxon times and is probably of Roman origin. Mentioned by Shakespeare, the name Barum was revived and popularised in Victorian times, featuring in several novels of the time. The name is retained in the names of a football team, brewery, and several other local businesses. The former Brannam's pottery which was sited in Litchdon Street was known for its use of "Barum" scratched beneath its interesting local pottery products.

Barnstaple Castle[]

Barnstaple Castle Mound, 11th.c.

A wooden castle was built by Geoffrey de Mowbray, Bishop of Coutances in the 11th century, clearing houses to make room for it. Juhel of Totnes (Judhael) later lived in the castle and established a priory just outside its walls. The castle's first stone buildings were probably erected by Henry de Tracey, a strong supporter of King Stephen. In 1228, the Sheriff of Devon had the walls of the castle reduced to a height of 10 feet (3 m). By the time of the death of the last Henry de Tracey in 1274, the castle was beginning to decay. The fabric of the castle was used in the construction of other buildings and by 1326 the castle was a ruin. The remaining walls blew down in a storm in 1601.[5] Now only the tree covered motte remains.[6]

Butchers Row[]

Built in 1855, Butchers Row consists of ten shops with pilasters of Bath Stone, and wrought iron supports to an overhanging roof. Only two of the shops remain as butchers although the new shops still sell local agricultural goods. There is one baker, one delicatessen, two fishmongers, a florist and a greengrocer.

Pannier Market[]

The interior of the Pannier Market

Barnstaple has been the major market for North Devon since Saxon times. Demands for health regulation of its food market in Victorian times saw the construction in 1855 to 1856 of the town's Pannier Market, originally known as the Vegetable Market and designed by R D Gould. The building has a high glass and timber roof on iron columns. At 107 yards (98 m) long, it runs the length of Butchers Row. Market days are Monday – Crafts and General (April to December), Tuesday – General and Produce (all year), Wednesday – Arts Collectables and Books (all year), Thursday – Crafts and General (all year), Friday – General and Produce (all year) and Saturday – General and Produce (all year).



Barnstaple railway station is near the end of the Long Bridge but on the opposite bank of the River Taw to the town centre. The town used to have several other stations but these have all closed since the publication of the Reshaping of British Railways report in the 1960s.

A map of Barnstaple from 1937, showing the railway lines.

The surviving station was opened on 1 August 1854 by the North Devon Railway (later the London and South Western Railway), although a service had operated from Fremington since 1848 for goods traffic only. The station became "Barnstaple Junction" on 20 July 1874 when the railway opened the branch line through to Ilfracombe, reverting to just plain "Barnstaple" again when this was closed on 5 October 1970. It is now a terminus and much reduced in size as part of the site is now used for the Barnstaple Western Bypass.

Ilfracombe Branchline in the late 1960s.

The Ilfracombe branch line brought the railway across the river into the town centre. Barnstaple Quay was situated close by the Castle Mound. It was closed in 1898 and replaced by a nearby Barnstaple Town station at North Walk which was also the terminus of the narrow gauge Lynton and Barnstaple Railway until this closed in 1935. The narrow gauge line's main depot and operating centre was at nearby Pilton. The station building still exists, and can be viewed on-line from a webcam mounted on Barnstaple Civic Centre.[7]

A separate "Barnstaple" station, renamed Barnstaple (Victoria Road) in 1949, was opened to the east of the town in 1873 as the terminus of the Devon and Somerset Railway, eventually a part of the Great Western Railway. A junction was later provided to allow trains access to Barnstaple Junction and these ran through to Ilfracombe. It was closed in 1970.

Buses & Coaches[]

The Barnstaple bus network is privatised and run by many bus operators including FirstGroup and the Stagecoach Bus Group. The main bus station is located on the junction with Summerland Street and Silver Street. National Express also run services from here.


Barnstaple's nearest motorway connection is Junction 27 of the M5, 35 miles (56.3 km) east, accessed via the A361.


The nearest airport is Exeter

Barnstaple Fair[]

The ceremonial opening of the fair survives from ancient times. The town council meets in the Guildhall, where various toasts are honoured with a spiced ale which, according to tradition, is made from a jealously guarded recipe handed on from generation to generation. Whilst the toasts are being honoured, "fairings", (a form of sweetmeat) are handed around.

On the reading of the Proclamation a large stuffed gloved hand garlanded with flowers is hung from a window of the Guildhall. The gloved hand represents the hand of friendship and the hand of welcome to the thousands that come to the fair. At 12 o'clock, a civic procession forms at the entrance to the Guildhall and the proclamation is read.

The fair begins on the Wednesday before 20 September each year.

Today the fair consists of rides and amusements located in the car park of the leisure centre.

Barnstaple Clock Tower, erected in 1862 as a memorial to Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria.

Twin towns[]

Barnstaple is twinned with Barnstable, Massachusetts in the USA, Uelzen in Germany, Trouville-sur-Mer in France, and Susa in Italy.


Barnstaple, as of 2005 estimates has grown little since the 2001 census. The estimated racial makeup of the town is as follows:

  • White British 98.7%
  • White Irish 0.2%
  • Mixed race 0.2%
  • Chinese 0.4%
  • Other 0.5%


North Devon is situated at a distance from the UK's traditional areas of industrial activity and population. Whilst the 1989 opening of the improved A361 (then "trunk") road connection to the motorway network has helped in some ways (notably weekend tourism), it had a detrimental effect on a number of distribution businesses. The latter previously viewed the town as a base for local distribution networks, a need that was removed with an approximate halving of travelling time to the M5.

Barnstaple gained a number of industrial companies in the late 1970s due to the availability of central government grants for the construction of factories and their operation on low or zero levels of local taxation. This was only partially successful, with few of these lasting more than the few years that grants were available. One success was the manufacturing of generic medicines by Cox Pharmaceuticals (now branded Actavis), who moved in 1980 from their traditional site in Brighton, Sussex. The most lasting consequence for the town was the development of, or increase to, the industrial estates at Seven Brethren, Whiddon Valley and Pottington.

Unemployment in North Devon is 1.8–2.4%, and the median per capita wage for North Devon is 73% of the UK national average (2005 data). The level of work in the informal/casual sector is high, partly due to the impact of seasonal tourism like much of the South West of England.

The largest employer in the region by far is local and central Government. The two main central government-owned employers in the area are the Royal Marines Base Chivenor, 3 miles (4.8 km) west of the town, and North Devon District Hospital, 1 mile (1.6 km) to the north.


Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon

Barnstaple is well served by all types of education. There are a selection of well-regarded primary and secondary state schools, independent schools and a tertiary college in the Barnstaple area.

Secondary education[]

In 2007 the county of Devon 46.6%_Education-8|[8] of students achieved 5 GCSEs grade A* to C. The UK average is 46.7%._Education-8|[8]

Percentage of students achieving 5 GCSEs grade A* to C
School Name Type 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
The Park Community School State 37% 38% 44% 41% 38% [9]
Pilton Community College [1] State 50% 50% 48% 46% 47% [10]
West Buckland School, 8 miles (12.9 km) Independent 75% 84% 89% 78% 87% [11]
Grenville College, 9 miles (14.5 km) Independent 48% 63% 59% 66% 54% [12]

Tertiary education[]

Petroc (formerly North Devon College) is a large tertiary college providing a wide range of vocational and academic further education for more than 3,000 young people over 16. The college was due to spend £100 million on a new campus, to be opened on Seven Brethren in 2011,[13][14] but this fell through when the LSC removed its £75 million funding in January 2009.[15] Petroc was launched in September 2009 – a year after NDC merged with Tiverton's East Devon College.[16]



Cricket is played at Barnstaple and Pilton.[17]


Barnstaple has a Non-League football club Barnstaple Town F.C. who have played at Mill Road, since 1904.


Senior rugby union is available in the town at Barnstaple RFC[18] whose first team play in the National 3 South West league. This is the fifth tier of rugby union in England.


Many sports are available at the North Devon Leisure Centre.[19] It is the home of Barnstaple Squash Club.[20] There are numerous bowling greens and tennis courts.[21] In February 2010 a Cornish Pilot Gig Rowing Club was established, bringing this sport to Castle Quay in the centre of Barnstaple.[22]

Notable residents[]

For full list, see Category:People from Barnstaple


AP Icon.PNG Abbey/Priory/Cathedral
Accessible open space Accessible open space
Themepark uk icon.JPG Amusement/Theme Park
CL icon.PNG Castle
Country Park Country Park
EH icon.png English Heritage
FC icon.png Forestry Commission
Heritage railway Heritage railway
Historic house Historic House
Museum (free)
Museums (free/not free)
National Trust National Trust
Zoo icon.JPG Zoo

In Barnstaple[]

Around Barnstaple[]

  • UKAL icon.pngTarka Trail – The cycling and walking trails were established by Devon County Council, to celebrate Henry Williamson's 1927 novel Tarka the Otter. The book depicts Tarka's adventure travelling through North Devon's countryside.
  • NTE icon.png Arlington Court, 8 miles (13 km)
  • NTE icon.png Lundy Island | Ferry sails from Bideford, 10 miles (16 km)
  • NTE icon.png Watersmeet House 20 miles (32 km)
  • UKAL icon.png The South West Coast Path National Trail runs through the town, and gives access to walks along the spectacular North Devon coast.
  • HR icon.svg Lynton & Barnstaple Railway, 15 miles (24 km)


Barnstaple has cool, wet winters and mild, wet summers. Temperatures range from 9 C (48 F) in January to 21 C (70 F) in July. October is the wettest month with 103 mm (4.1 in) of rain. The record high is 34 C (94 F), and the record low is −9 C (16 F). Barnstaple gets 862 mm (33.9 in) of rain per year, with rain on 138 days.

Climate data for Barnstaple, United Kingdom
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 16
Average high °C (°F) 9
Average low °C (°F) 4
Record low °C (°F) −6
Rainfall mm (inches) 75
Avg. rainy days 15 10 12 10 11 9 9 10 11 13 14 14 138
humidity 83 82 80 77 76 78 79 79 79 81 83 83 80
Source #1: Weather2[23]
Source #2:[24]

See also[]

  • Barnstaple Castle
  • Henry de Bracton


  1. ^ e.g. in Daniel Defoe:a tour through the whole island of Great Britain
  2. ^ Barnstaple History Website
  3. ^ Office for National Statistics : Census 2001 : Parish Headcounts : North Devon Retrieved 28 January 2010
  4. ^ Watts, Victor, ed. (2010), "Barnstaple", The Cambridge Dictionary of English Place-Names, Cambridge University Press 
  5. ^ Ford, David Nash. "History of Barnstaple Castle in Devon". Retrieved 13 December 2007. 
  6. ^ Fry, Plantagenet Somerset (1980). The David & Charles Book of Castles. Newton Abbot: David & Charles. p. 184. ISBN 0-7153-7976-3. 
  7. ^ "Civic Centre webcam". Retrieved 20 May 2012. 
  8. ^ _Education_8-0|a _Education_8-1|b "BBC News, School league tables 2007, Devon LA". BBC News. Retrieved 26 April 2010. 
  9. ^ "Education | League Tables | Park School". BBC News. 15 January 2009. Retrieved 20 May 2012. 
  10. ^ "Pilton Community College". BBC News. 15 January 2009. Retrieved 26 April 2010. 
  11. ^ "West Buckland School". BBC News. 15 January 2009. Retrieved 26 April 2010. 
  12. ^ "Grenville College". BBC News. 15 January 2009. Retrieved 26 April 2010. 
  13. ^ "£100M Funds Go-Ahead For College". BBC News. 31 January 2008. Retrieved 26 April 2010. 
  14. ^ New college plans
  15. ^ "Projects threatened by £56m cuts". BBC News. 8 June 2009. Retrieved 26 April 2010. 
  16. ^ Montgomery, Angus (23 September 2009). "Interbrand renames North Devon College as Petroc | News". Marketing Week. Retrieved 20 May 2012. 
  17. ^ Play-Sport New Media (13 June 2002). "Play-Cricket the ECB Cricket Network". Retrieved 20 May 2012. 
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ "Welcome to Barnstaple Squash Club". Retrieved 20 May 2012. 
  21. ^ "Tarka Tennis indoor center Barnstaple North Devon". Retrieved 20 May 2012. 
  22. ^
  23. ^ "Climate Profile for Barnstaple". Aug 2011. Retrieved 3 August 2011. 
  24. ^ "Temperature Barnstaple – climate Barnstaple England – weather Barnstaple". Aug 2011. Retrieved 3 August 2011. 

External links[]

Template:Settlements in North Devon

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