Totnes, Devon Family History Guide

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

Alternative names: Totness

Other places in the parish include: Totnes St John the Evangelist, Bridgetown, Bridgetown Pomeroy, and Little Totnes.

Parish church: St Mary

Parish registers begin: 1556. Separate registers exist for Totnes St John the Evangelist: 1844

Nonconformists include:

  • Baptist
  • Independent/Congregational
  • Presbyterian
  • Roman Catholic
  • Society of Friends/Quaker
  • Wesleyan Methodist

Parishes adjacent to Totnes

  • Dartington
  • Harberton
  • Ashprington
  • Littlehempston
  • Berry Pomeroy

Historical Descriptions

The Imperial Gazetteer of England & Wales 1870

TOTNES, a town, a parish, a sub-district, and a district, in Devon. The town stands on the river Dart and on the South Devon railway, 22¼ miles SSW of Exeter; was anciently called Totneis, Totonese, Toutaness, and Dodonese; is supposed to have got these names from words signifying "a rocky or projecting place;" dates from very ancient times; may, not improbably, have been a place of trade with the Phœnicians; is thought, by some, to have been the Roman Ad Durium Amnem, at the terminus of the Fosse way; was held at Domesday by Judhael de Totneis, and had then 110 burgesses; acquired from Judhael a castle, the keep of which still stands: acquired also a Benedictine priory from Judhael, and a Trinitarian house from Bishop Warlewast; was once surrounded with walls, some fragments of which still exist; numbers among its natives the Saxon scholar Lye, who died in 1769, the Hebrew scholar Kennicott, 1783, the theologian Furneaux, 1726, and the Australian explorer Wills, 1860; gave the title of Earl, in the time of James I., to G. Carew; is a borough by prescription, governed, under the new act, by a mayor, 4 aldermen, and 12 councillors; sent two members to parliament from the time of Edward I. till 1867, and was then disfranchised; is a seat of petty-sessions and county courts; occupies the acclivity and the brow of a steep hill, sheltered by higher grounds, yet commanding a fine view; is connected by a handsome bridge of 1828 with the suburb of Bridgetown, in Berry-Pomeroy parish; exhibits aspects of antiquity in some houses with slated fronts, with piazzas, and with projecting gables; and has a head post-office, a r. station with telegraph, two banking offices, two chief inns, a guildhall, an assembly-room, recreation grounds around the castle, a public walk along the river, a granite obelisk of 1864 to Wills, a fine later English church, three dissenting chapels, a mechanics institute, an endowed grammar-school with £70 a year, another endowed school with £40, a workhouse built in 1839 at a cost of £6,000, and charities £105 A weekly market is held on Saturday; a cattle market on the first Tuesday of every month; fairs on 12 May and 28 Oct.; and a considerable coasting trade, in vessels of 100 tons and under, is carried on. The borough limits include all T. parish and part of Berry-Pomeroy. Pop. in 1851, 4,419; in 1861, 4,001. Houses, 793.

The parish comprises 1,043 acres. Real property, £15,545; of which £137 are in gasworks. Pop. in 1851, 3,828; in 1861, 3,409. Houses, 652. The manor passed from Judhael to successively the De Braoses, the Zouches, the Valletorts, and the Edgcumbes; and belongs now to the Duke of Somerset. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Exeter. Value, £170. Patron, the Lord Chancellor. The sub-district contains 5 parishes. Acres, 12,876. Pop. in 1851, 6,394; in 1861, 5,881. Houses, 1,172. The district includes also Buckfastleigh, Ugborough, Harberton, Dartmouth, Brixham, and Paignton sub-districts; and comprises 98,342 acres. Poor rates in 1863, £12,052. Pop. in 1851, 34,022; in 1861, 32,942. Houses, 6,701. Marriages in 1863, 258; births, 1,022, of which 56 were illegitimate; deaths, 649, of which 205 were at ages under 5 years, and 23 at ages above 85. Marriages in the ten years 1851-60, 2,274; births, 9,313; deaths, 6,245. The places of worship, in 1851, were 31 of the Church of England, with 14,382 sittings; 12 of Independents, with 3,420 s.; 7 of Baptists, with 1,600 s.; 14 of Wesleyans, with 3,072 s.; 1 of Wesleyan Reformers, with 150 s.; 1 of Brethren, with 100 s.; 4 undefined, with 1,110 s.; and 1 of Roman Catholics, with 40 s. The schools were 27 public day-schools, with 2,209 scholars; 98 private day-schools, with 2,326 s.; 54 Sunday schools, with 4,315 s; and 3 evening schools for adults, with 82 s.

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

Parish Records

FamilySearch – Birth Marriage & Death records, Census, Migration & Naturalization and Military records – Free


Below is a list of people that were declared bankrupt between 1820 and 1843 extracted from The Bankrupt Directory; George Elwick; London; Simpkin, Marshall and Co.; 1843.

Adams Henry, Totness. Devon, merchant, Sept. 20, 1842.

Brimicombe William, Totness, Devonshire, plumber, Feb. 4, 1831.

Clay Gustavus, Totness, Devonshire, builder, July 13, 1822.

Cridland Henry, Totness, Devonshire, aaddler & harness maker, Dec. 16, 1842.

Fitze George, Totnes, Devonshire, grocer and tea dealer, Nov. 2, 1822.

Heath Edwin and John, Totness, Devonshire, linen drapers, Nov. 27, 1838.

Heyward Thomas Nosworthy, Totness. Devonsh., grocer & baker, Mar. 2, 1827.

Holditch Samuel, Totnes, Devonshire, merchant, Nov. 2. 1830.

Monteith James, Totnesl, Devonshire, mercer and draper, Dec. 10, 1841.

Phillips Bickford Hele; and John Serle ; Totnes, ship owners, Jan. 3, 1834.

Sanders Samuel, Totnes, Devonshire, coach builder, Feb. 26, 1833.

Snell William, Totness, Devonshire, linen draper, Dec. 16, 1831.

Watts John, Totnes, Devonshire, linen draper, Nov. 9, 1822.

Worth Wm. & Hen. Worth; Totnes, Devonshire, linen drapers, June 12, 1838.

Historical Newspapers

Western Morning News

Western Times

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette

North Devon Journal

Express and Echo


Vision of Britain historical maps


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