/ˈbɑːnstəbl/) is a town in the county of Devon
in the south west of England
. It is the main town in the local government district
of North Devon
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 kilometres) 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 'wool staple', a town licensed to export wool, and its importance is still obvious in the town's name. 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.
Barnstaple's population in the 1801 census was 3,748, in the 1901 census 9,698, and in the 2001 census 30,765. The town has swallowed the villages of Pilton, Newport, and Roundswell through ribbon development from the 1930s to the 1950s. In April 2006 the population was 34,000.
In 1989 the A361 North Devon Link Road was constructed, linking Barnstaple with the M5 motorway, approximately 40.4 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 chain stores are located in the town centre 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 an additional 1.6 miles (2.7 kilometres) of new road, and a 447 yards (409 m) long, five-span bridge. It was expected to have cost £42m.
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. Following this scheme, plans are also being formulated for a regeneration of the town centre, due to commence in 2012, and scheduled to cost around £300 million. The regeneration will centre on the Queen's Theatre and surrounding areas, with new shopping complexes, houses, flats and communal areas.
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.
Built in 1855, Butchers Row consists of 10 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
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 1855-56 of the town's Pannier Market, originally known as the Vegetable Market and designed by RD Gould. The building has a high glass and timber roof on iron columns. At 107 yards (97.5 m) long, it runs the length of Butchers Row. Market days are Tuesday, Friday and Saturday. According to the UK newspaper 'The Independent
' the Pannier Market is voted one of the top ten food markets in Britain.
Barnstaple has had a number of mainline railway stations, although since the Beeching Axe
fell in the 1960s, only one of these is still in use:
- Barnstaple railway station was opened on 1 August 1854 by the North Devon Railway (later the London and South Western Railway), although a goods 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 it closed on 5 October 1970. Located to the south of the town and the River Taw, now a terminus, the station is much reduced in size, and part of the site is now to be used for the bypass.
- Also built by the North Devon Railway in 1854, Barnstaple Quay was renamed Barnstaple Town in 1886. In 1898, the station was moved to its present site, at North Walk, to accommodate passenger exchange to the narrow gauge Lynton & Barnstaple Railway. The station building still exists, and can be viewed on-line from a webcam mounted on Barnstaple Civic Centre.
- Barnstaple Town (1847–1970), situated close by the Castle Mound was a through station on the Ilfracombe line, running along the north bank of the Taw. Between 1898 and 1935, it was also the terminus of the Lynton and Barnstaple Railway, with the narrow gauge line's main depot and operating centre at nearby Pilton.
- Barnstaple (Victoria Road) (1873–1970) (just Barnstaple until 1949) was built to broad gauge standards as a terminus of the Devon and Somerset Railway (later the Great Western Railway) to the east of the town, with a connection to Barnstaple Junction.
Britain in Bloom
Barnstaple won the Britain in Bloom
competition, in the category of Town (Population : 6001 - 12,000) in 1995, 1997, 1999 and 2003. The town also won the Abbis Cup in 1996 and 1998 for Regional Supreme Champion (any size town), the Nations in Bloom — Best Town in the World in 1996, the Entente Florale — Best Town in Europe in 1996, and World in Bloom in 1998.
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, 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
has an under-developed economy for a number of reasons. Firstly it is situated at a distance from the UK's traditional areas of industrial activity and population. Whilst the 1989 opening of the improved A361
) 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, west of the town, and North Devon District Hospital, to the north.
Barnstaple is well served by all types of education. There is a selection of well regarded primary and secondary state schools in the Barnstaple area.
In the county of Devon 55.9% of students achieved 5 GCSEs grade A* to C. The UK average is 55.7%.
Barnstaple's State Secondary Schools
- The Park Community School - 50% This school is a specialist technology college.
- Pilton Community College - 55% This is a specialist language school.
North Devon College is a large tertiary college providing a wide range of vocational and academic further education for young people over 16.
Barnstaple's Independent Schools
There are several independent schools in the area, including West Buckland School, to the east, and St. Michael's School at Tawstock, to the south. Close by there are also Edgehill and Grenville colleges on the outskirts of Bideford.
Senior rugby union is available in the town at Barnstaple RFC who play in south west 1 league Barnstaple Town FC play football in the Western League.
Many sports are available at the North Devon Leisure Centre. It is the home of Barnstaple Squash Club
Cricket is played at Barnstaple and Pilton
There are numerous bowling greens and tennis courts
- For full list, see People from Barnstaple