In the 16th century Bideford was Britain's third largest port. It was rumoured that Sir Walter Raleigh landed the first shipment of tobacco there, although this is a myth, as Raleigh was not, contrary to popular belief, the first to bring tobacco to England. In honour of Raleigh, several roads and a hill have been named after him in Bideford. Today the narrow town centre streets lead down to a tree-lined quay, which bustles with fishing vessels, cargo and pleasure boats. Clay is the principal export loaded onto boats at Bideford. The quay was refurbished, with completion in 2006, to provide flood defence and also to incorporate large fountains and modern public toilets.
This area of North Devon was home to the author Charles Kingsley, and is where he based his novel Westward Ho!. A small seaside town, named after the book, was built after the book's publication. Westward Ho!, which is the only town in the United Kingdom that officially contains an exclamation mark in its name, is approximately three miles (5 km) from Bideford. A statue has been erected in honour of Kingsley by the town park's car park.
The city of Biddeford, Maine, USA, was named after the English town, using the original old English spelling. Also, the town of Bideford in the province of Prince Edward Island, Canada, is named after the English town.
Bus services linking Bideford with other local towns and villages are provided by a number of firms: the main bus companies operating in the area are First Devon and Cornwall, Stagecoach Devon and Beacon Bus. Many services are subsidised by Devon County Council.
In 1855 the Bideford Extension Railway opened, linking the town with Fremington, Barnstaple and beyond. In 1872 the railway was extended to Great Torrington and Bideford's railway station was replaced with a new one nearer the town centre. Bideford's passenger train services ceased in 1965 and freight trains ceased in 1982 Much of the course of the former railway has been re-used as part of the popular Tarka Trail footpath and cycleway. Parts of the route are also shared by the long-distance South West Coast Path footpath.
The Bideford and Instow Railway Group plans to reopen the railway between Bideford and Barnstaple. It currently operates the heritage railway Torridge Train along a short length of track at Bideford. The new Barnstaple Western Bypass is designed to allow the Barnstaple to Bideford section to be restored.
The railway fell into financial difficulties until in the First World War the War Department requisitioned all of its equipment for use in France. Bideford's 13th century Long Bridge was temporarily converted into a railway bridge to carry the locomotives and rolling stock onto the main line railway near Bideford Station.
East-the-Water has its own primary school, local shops, a few factories, approximately 6 bars and pubs, a small health centre and a small industrial area consisting largely of locally owned businesses. The community also has its own community centre and association, both of which are self funding and run by a committee of local residents. A key historical feature is Chudleigh Fort, built by the Parliamentarian Major-General Chudleigh during the English Civil War. The area is surrounded by agricultural land.
There are many pubs in East-the-Water which include The Blacksmiths and The Swan which is well known for its award winning food.
Torridge District Council is the next level of local government and most decisions are made by Devon County Council . The local MP is the Conservative Geoffrey Cox and the MEP local aristocrat Tory Giles Chichester.
One of the plans is here
For more information and Latest images on the New School Build Visit http://www.bideford.devon.sch.uk/newschool/index.html
The South West Coast Path National Trail runs through the town, and gives access to walks along the rugged North Devon coast.
Skating is quite big in Bideford. Bideford has its own skate Shop and a good Skatepark,it also has some bowls on the outside of Bideford.
Bideford has two main local newspapers, both published weekly: the North Devon Gazette and the North Devon Journal. The Gazette was founded in Bideford, and was originally known as the Bideford Gazette. It is now a free newspaper, delivered to most local homes, and is now based in Barnstaple. The regional daily paper, the Western Morning News, is also available. A local newsletter, the Bideford Buzz, is published monthly by a team of volunteers.
Stuart Anstis, one time lead guitarist with black metal band Cradle of Filth went to School in Bideford, and now runs a guitar shop there. Derry Brownson, formerly of the band EMF is frequently seen around town. Celebrated actor Joss Ackland, star of one of the Miss Marple mysteries (They Do It With Mirrors), also lives hereabouts. T. V. Smith and Gaye Advert, from the punk band The Adverts, hail from this town. Crime fiction author Hilary Bonner was also born and raised in the town.
In a memorable Monty Python sketch John Cleese (playing the role of Hitler) is heard to say " Ah yes, ve make a little hike for, for Bideford." to which Eric Idle (playing the role of typical tourist Mr. Johnson) replies "Oh well, you'll want the A39 then...no, no, you've got the wrong map there, this is Stalingrad, you want the Ilfracombe and Barnstaple section."
Numerous mentions of Bideford have been made in episodes of 'Never Mind the Buzzcocks'. Davey Snead and Paul Johnson are amongst the local celebrities who large it up big time throughout the weekends: they're kind of a big deal.
On 20 October, 2006 British ex-pat David Riley came to mark the “20-year link” between Manteo, North Carolina on Roanoke Island and Bideford. Bideford town clerk George McLauchlan, told him locals had never heard of Manteo and the only town Bideford was twinned with was in France. Mr Riley handed over a clock to "celebrate" the twenty year link, while Manteo Town manager Kermit Skinner said the link started in the 1980s during the 400th anniversary of Walter Raleigh’s voyages to America. It turns out the 'twinning' of Bideford with Manteo was established 20 years ago. But the story goes back much further, 500 years, to the mysterious disappearance of a colony of more than 100 people on Roanoke Island, many of whom were migrants from Bideford. The colony was established by Richard Grenville, who bought back two native Indians, one of them Manteo which gave the North Carolina town its name.