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Barnstaple ( ) is a town in the local government district of North Devonmarker in the county of Devonmarker in South West England. It lies west southwest of Bristolmarker, north of Plymouthmarker and northwest of the county town of Exetermarker.

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 Tawmarker, about 3 miles (5 km) from the Taw's seafall at the Bristol Channelmarker. 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, 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.


Heritage Centre
Barnstaple's population in the 1801 census was 3,748, in the 1901 census 9,698, and in the 2001 census, the population was 30,765. The town has swallowed the villages of Piltonmarker, 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 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 Brauntonmarker and Ilfracombemarker avoids travelling through the town centre. The bypass consists of 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 £42 million.

A view of 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 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 Theatremarker 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.

Butchers Row

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.
The interior of the Pannier Market

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 1855-56 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 (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 railway stationmarker 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
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 Fremingtonmarker since 1848 for goods traffic only. The station became "Barnstaple Junction" on 20 July 1874 when the railway opened the branch line through to , 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 to be used for the Barnstaple Western Bypass.

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

A separate "Barnstaple" station (renamed Barnstaple marker 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 and 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 is Junction 27 of the M5. away along the A361.


The nearest airport is Exetermarker

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, Massachusettsmarker in the USA, Uelzenmarker in Germany, Trouville-sur-Mermarker in France, and Susamarker 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 Devonmarker has an under-developed economy for a number of reasons. 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 (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 Brightonmarker, 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 Chivenormarker, west of the town, and North Devon District Hospitalmarker, 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 Devonmarker 46.6% of students achieved 5 GCSEs grade A* to C.The UKmarker average is 46.7%.

Percentage of students achieving 5 GCSEs grade A* to C
School Name Type 2004 2005 2006 2007
The Park Community School [37630] State 37% 38% 44% 41%
Pilton Community College [37631] State 50% 50% 48% 46%
West Buckland Schoolmarker [37632], Independent 75% 84% 89% 78%
Grenville College [37633], Independent 48% 63% 59% 66%

Tertiary Education

Petroc Barnstaplemarker is a large tertiary college providing a wide range of vocational and academic further education for 3000+ young people over 16.The college was due to spend £100m on a new campus, to be opened on Seven Brethren in 2011, but this fell through when the LSC removed its £75m funding in January 2009.



Cricket is played at Barnstaple and Pilton.



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


Many sports are available at the North Devon Leisure Centre.[37634] It is the home of Barnstaple Squash Club.There are numerous bowling greens and tennis courts.

Notable Residents

For full list, see :Category:People from Barnstaple


In Barnstaple

Around Barnstaple

See also


  1. Barnstaple History Website
  2. Civic Centre webcam
  3. BBC NEWS | Education
  4. BBC NEWS | Education | League Tables | The Park Community School
  5. BBC NEWS | Education | League Tables | Pilton Community College
  6. BBC NEWS | Education | League Tables | West Buckland School
  7. BBC NEWS | Education | League Tables | Grenville College
  8. BBC NEWS | England | Cornwall | £100m funds go-ahead for college
  9. New college plans
  10. [1]

External links

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