Tavistock Devon Family History Guide

Tavistock is an Ancient Parish and a market town in the county of Devon.

Other places in the parish include: Gulworthy and Ogbear.

Parish church:

Parish registers begin:

  • Parish registers: 1614
  • Bishop’s Transcripts: 1602

Nonconformists include: Bible Christian Methodist, Independent/Congregational, Methodist, Presbyterian Unitarian, Society of Friends/Quaker, Wesleyan Methodist, and Wesleyan Methodist Association.

Adjacent Parishes

  • Peter Tavy
  • Bere Ferrers with Bere Alston
  • Whitchurch
  • Brent Tor
  • Mary Tavy
  • Calstock
  • Lamerton
  • Buckland Monachorum

Historical Descriptions

The Imperial Gazetteer of England & Wales 1870

TAVISTOCK, a town, a parish, a sub-district, a district, and a hundred, in Devon. The town stands on the river Tavy, and on the Plymouth and Launceston railway, 16½ miles N of Plymouth; took its name from the Tavy, and was anciently called Tavystocke; belonged to Earl Orcar, father-in-law to King Edgar; acquired from Orcar, and from his son Ordulph, in 961-81, a magnificent abbey; derived from that abbey much and long consequence as a place of concourse; underwent many vicissitudes in the course of public events; was occupied by the royalists in 1643, and visited by Charles I. in 1644; numbers among its natives, Sir Francis Drake, who died in 1596, Sir J. Glanville, who died in 1600, Sir J. Maynard, who died in 1690, the poet Browne, who was born in 1590, and the recent graphic writer Mrs. Bray; and gives the title of Marquis to the Duke of Bedford. Its abbey was destroyed by the Danes in 997; was rebuilt with increased splendour; was invested, by Henry I., with jurisdiction over all Tavistock hundred; rose, in the early years of Henry VIII., to the status of a mitred abbey, with exemption from episcopal oversight: had a school for the study of Saxon, and the second printing-press set up in England; was given, at the dissolution, to Lord Russell, ancestor of the Duke of Bedford; was partly incorporated, about 1755, with an edifice called the Bedford hotel; and is now represented chiefly by the principal gateway, a small but picturesque adjoining tower, a pinnacled porch at the back of the hotel, a tower and an outhouse in the grounds of the vicarage, and the refectory converted into a Unitarian chapel.

The town stands in a fine hollow, surrounded by verdant hills; enjoys attractive environs, with great diversity of feature; is irregularly aligned; and consists, for the most part, of narrow streets with many old house s. The guildhall, on part of the site of the Abbey, was built in 1848. The rooms of the literary and philosophical institution, over the Abbey gateway, contain a public library and a museum. A spacious covered market, with shops, a reading room, and adjoining open yards, was constructed in 1863, at a cost of £25,000; and is in the late pointed domestic style. A bronze statue of the late Duke of Bedford was erected in 1864. The church is later English, was restored in 1846, and contains some good monuments. There are seven dissenting chapels, a mechanics; institution, a grammar-school, a national school, a British school, a school of art, a dispensary, a workhouse , and charities £216. A canal, 4 miles long, goes to the Tamar; sends off a branch of 2 miles to Millhill; makes a descent of 250 feet; traverses a tunnel 1¾ mile long; and was formed in 1803-17, at a cost of £68,000. The town has a head post-office,‡ a r. station with telegraph, two banking offices, and two chief inns; is a seat of petty-sessions and a polling place; publishes a weekly newspaper; has a weekly market on Friday, nine annual fairs, a very large ropery, and extensive iron-foundries and engine-works; and carries on trade in connexion with neighbouring mines. It was never chartered: is governed by a portreeve: sent two members to parliament occasionally from the time of Edward I., and always from that of Edward III. till 1867; and was reduced, by the reform act of 1867, to the right of sending only one. The borough boundaries include only part of the parish. Electors in 1833, 247; in 1863, 422. Pop. in 1851, 8,086; in 1861, 8,857. Houses, 1,133.

The parish comprises 10,700 acres. Real property, £96,214; of which £72,116 are in mines, £353 in the canal, and £110 in gasworks. Pop. in 1851, 8,147; in 1861, 8,965. Houses, 1,152. A section, with a pop. of 1,323 in 1861, was constituted a separate charge, under the name of St. Pauls, in 1858. The head living is a vicarage, and that of St. P. is a p. curacy, in the diocese of Exeter. Value of the former, £298 of the latter, £150. Patron of both, the Duke of Bedford. The sub-district contains 4 parishes, and comprises 26,312 acres. Pop., 17,864. Houses, 2,870. The district comprehends also Milton-Abbot, Lifton, and Buckland-Monachorum sub-districts; and comprises 158,567 acres. Poor rates in 1863, £12,372. Pop. in 1851, 32,386; in 1861, 35,265. Houses, 6,073. Marriages in 1863, 210; births, 1,259, of which 73 were illegitimate; deaths, 706, of which 270 were at ages under 5 years, and 20 at ages above 85. Marriages in the ten years 1851-60, 1,888; births, 10,292; deaths, 5,590. The places of worship, in 1851, were, 29 of the Church of England, with 7,912 sittings; 2 of Independents, with 1,048 s.: 4 of Baptists, with 710 s.; 1 of Quakers, with 340 s.; 1 of Unitarians, with 224 s.; 18 of Wesleyans, with 3,147 s.; 20 of Bible Christians, with 1,799 s.; 2 of the Wesleyan Association, with 309 s.; and 5 undefined, with 100 s. The schools were 31 public day-schools, with 2,321 scholars; 37 private day-schools, with 1,141 s.; 49 Sunday schools, with 3,455 s.; and 2 evening schools for adults, with 20 s.-The hundred contains three parishes. Acres, 18,529. Pop., 10,155. Houses, 1,400.

Source: The Imperial Gazetteer of England & Wales [Wilson, John M]. A. Fullarton & Co. N. d. c. [1870-72].

Parish Records

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Birth Marriage and Death Records

England, Devon Bishop's Transcripts, 1558-1887

England, Devon and Cornwall Marriages, 1660-1912

England, Devon, Parish Registers, 1538-1912

England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975

England Deaths and Burials, 1538-1991

England Marriages, 1538–1973 

England and Wales Birth Registration Index, 1837-2008

England and Wales Death Registration Index 1837-2007

England and Wales Marriage Registration Index, 1837-2005

England and Wales Non-Conformist Record Indexes (RG4-8), 1588-1977


Great Britain Deaths and Burials, 1778-1988

Great Britain Marriages, 1797-1988

Great Britain, Births and Baptisms, 1571-1977

United Kingdom, Maritime Births, Marriages, and Deaths, 1787-1933

Grave Indexes

BillionGraves Index

Find A Grave Index

Migration and Naturalisation Records

Migration Records at FamilySearch

Newspaper Archives

British Newspaper Archive, Family Notices

British Newspaper Archives, Obituaries

Census Records

England and Wales Census, 1841

England and Wales Census, 1851

England and Wales Census, 1861

England and Wales Census, 1871

England and Wales Census, 1881

England and Wales Census, 1891

England and Wales Census, 1901

England and Wales National Register, 1939

Probate and Court Records

England and Wales, National Index of Wills and Administrations, 1858-1957

Military Records

Great Britain, War Office Registers, 1772-1935

United Kingdom, Chelsea Pensioners' Service Records, 1760-1913

United Kingdom, Merchant Navy Seamen Records, 1835-1941

United Kingdom, Militia Service Records, 1806-1915

United Kingdom, Royal Hospital Chelsea: Discharge Documents of Pensioners 1760-1887 (WO 122)

United Kingdom, World War I Service Records, 1914-1920

United Kingdom, World War I Women's Army Auxiliary Corps Records, 1917-1920


Vision of Britain historical maps


County: Devon
Civil Registration District: Tavistock
Probate Court: Court of the Bishop (Consistory) of the Archdeaconry of Totnes
Diocese: Exeter
Rural Deanery: Tavistock
Poor Law Union: Tavistock
Hundred: Tavistock
Province: Canterbury