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Tavistock is a market town within West Devon, England on the River Tavy, from which its name derives, and has a population of 11,018. It traces its history back at least to AD 961, when Tavistock Abbey, whose ruins lie in the centre of the town, was founded. Its most famous son is Sir Francis Drake
The area around Tavistock (formerly Tavistoke), where the River Tavy runs wide and shallow allowing it to be easily crossed, and near the secure high ground of Dartmoor, was inhabited long before the historical record. The surrounding area is littered with archaeological remains from the Bronze and Iron ages and it is believed a hamlet existed on the site of the present town long before the town's official history began, with the founding of the Abbey.
The abbey of Saint Mary and Saint Rumon was founded in 961 by Orgar, Earl of Devon. After destruction by Danish raiders in 997 it was restored, and among its famous abbots was Aldred, who crowned Harold II and William I, and died Archbishop of York. There is evidence to suggest that local specialty cream tea was first served here, to workers during the restoration. The abbey church was rebuilt in 1285 and the greater part of the abbey in 1457-58. Tea, the drink, did not appear in England until the eighteenth century.
In 1105 a Royal Charter was granted by Henry I to the monks of Tavistock to run a weekly "Pannier Market" (so called after the baskets used to carry goods) on a Friday, which still takes place today. In 1116 a three-day fair was also granted to mark the feast of Saint Rumon, another tradition that is still maintained in the shape of the annual "Goosey" fair. In 1552 two fairs on April 23 and November 28 were granted by Edward VI to the Earl of Bedford, then lord of the manor.
In the 17th century great quantities of cloth were sold at the Friday market and four fairs were held at the feasts of Saint Michael, Epiphany, Saint Mark, and the Decollation of John the Baptist. The charter of Charles II instituted a Tuesday market, fairs on the Thursday after Whitsunday and at the feast of Saint Swithin. In 1822 the old fairs were abolished in favour of six fairs on the second Wednesdays in May, July, September, October, November and December.
By 1185 Tavistock had achieved borough status and in 1295 became a parliamentary borough, sending two members to parliament. It was deprived of one member in 1867 and finally disenfranchised in 1885. In 1305, with the growing importance of the area as one of Europe's richest sources of tin, Tavistock was one of the four stannary towns appointed by charter of Edward I, where tin was stamped and weighed and monthly courts were held for the regulation of mining affairs.
The church of Saint Eustachius dates from 1318 and was dedicated by Bishop Stapledon. It was further rebuilt and enlarged into its current form between 1425 and 1450, at which time the Clothworkers' Aisle was included, an indication of the growing importance of the textile industry to the local economy - the trade was protected by a 1467 statute. It possesses a lofty tower supported on four open arches, one of which was reputedly added to accommodate the 19th century "tinners" or tin miners. Within are monuments to the Glanville and Bourchier families, besides some stained glass, one window being the work of William Morris. It also possess a roof boss featuring one of the so-called 'Tinner's Hares' a trio of rabbits/hares joined at and sharing three ears between them.
The town continued to prosper under the charge of the abbots, acquiring one of England's first printing presses in 1525. Tavistock remained an important centre of both trade and religion until the Dissolution of the Monasteries - the abbey was demolished in 1539, leaving the ruins still to be seen around the centre of the town.