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Ancient Stannary Town of Ashburton

Ashburton lies on the southern slopes of Dartmoor in the heart of the South Devon countryside. Flanked by the Devon Expressway, that extends the M.5 to the historic naval port of Plymouth, it is situated roughly half way between Plymouth and Exeter.

Ashburton is not only a splendid gateway to Dartmoor, but is also the ideal base from which to explore the whole region from Moor to sea.

The scenery in the area is glorious in all the weather's moods and offers visitors opportunities for walking, pony trekking, canoeing, fishing and - if you like - just pottering. There are a variety of good food outlets, whether for retail or dining purposes, with inns that are mellow and welcoming and the pace of life bids you gently to unwind.

This ancient stannary town dates from Saxon times and has spread out from its centre along the courses of the little river Ashburn and its tributary, the Balland Stream.

Spanning the centuries are many beautiful and intriguing buildings. Today, Ashburton is a blend of its richly historic past and its bustling, market-town present. Look inward and you see a range of shops and services to meet your every need; look upward and outward and there stand the green hills of South Devon, ever peaceful and unchanging.

Churches and Architecture

Ashburton's extensive history is today best seen through its buildings and architecture. The historical architectural diversity is evident throughout the town, with some buildings dating back over 1000 years.

Most notable for its History is the Chapel of St Lawrence which is now a heritage centre and has its own page on this site. There are now only three working churches in Ashburton, all shown below and all very different in their architecture and history.

The Parish Church of St Andrew

The Church is a distinguished building with an impressive exterior and a magnificent tower 92 feet high. Near the base of the tower is the grave of a French Officer Prisoner of War who died just one month after the Battle of Waterloo, a reminder that many French prisoners were billeted here on parole during the Napoleonic Wars.

The Church was erected at the end of the twelfth century and entirely re-built in the fifteenth. The excellent proportions outside are reflected in the interior. Noteworthy is the long wagon roof, the arches and piers of the nave (one pier is a monolith), the memorial to Lord Dunning (penned by his friend the lexicographer, Samuel Johnson), the first Lord of Ashburton, in the South Transept Chapel and the ancient Parish Chest in the North Transept Chapel.

Well-to-do members of the tinners and wool merchant guilds, both of which had Guild Chapels in the transepts, made the re-building of the church possible.

Ashburton's Methodist Church

When John Wesly, the founder of the Methodist Church, originally passed through Ashburton he declared it was "the most heathen town he had ever visited". (Although to be fair he was inclined to say this about most towns he passed through!)

Eventually a 'House Church' was established on Woodland Road which led to the building of the Ashburton Methodist Church in 1835.

Today the church is not only used for worship, weddings and funerals, but also for play-groups, theatre societies and community groups.

In 1882, when the Benedictine monks came to Buckfast, there was not one Catholic in Ashburton to greet them.

Two decades later, however, the situation was different, and it was then that Abbot Boniface Natter decided to revive Catholic life in the vicinity.

The first Mass was celebrated in 1911 in a temporary chapel in a barn in Roborough Lane.