Ancient market town, and still famous for it's Pannier and Farmers Market, Tiverton on the River Exe evolved from a pre-Saxon settlement to a key Devon Market town in the 16th century. Tiverton is the largest town in central/east Devon and in the past was a prime industrial centre in Devon, particularly for the wool trade, but also to the fore in both agriculture and in lace making. You can find out more about Tiverton's industrial and agricultural past in the superb social history extravaganza, The Tiverton Museum.
Like Castles, then don't miss a visit to Tiverton Castle, built in 1106. Tiverton's boom past is evident in it's large number of churches, some of them pretty old such as the 16th century Church of St Peter which has some exquisite gothic carvings. Tiverton is a grand walking spot with a difference. The charming Exe Valley Way passes through the town, on up to join the Two Moors Way, and there's a treat for canal fans. The Grand Western Canal reaches from Tiverton to Taunton, and you can walk this canal's attractive tow path.
Tiverton castle has changed hands quite a few times, and fell to the Parliamentarians during the English Civil War. Built in 1106, little remains of the original castle, as it was rebuilt in stone under the Courtneys' ownership. Today it's a mix of medieval and modern architecture - check out the medieval lavatory! In it's cross-section of 900 years of history, Tiverton Castles has some fine Civil War armoury on display.
For those who fancy touching a bit of English history and staying in a castle, you can here at Tiverton. There's some fine English Tourism Council 4 star graded apartments on-site. It's a beautiful spot, as Tiverton Castle is set within 3 acres of it's own land, plus there's a delightful old walled garden. Check out the Tiverton Castle Website for more details.
Tiverton Castle, Park Hill, Tiverton, Devon, EX16 6RP. Tel. 01884 253200.
Devon does well for museums taking time to explore social history, particularly that of 19th century industry, and in the case of Tiverton Museum it's the fascinating lace making industry at Heatcoats enormous lace making factory. Many would have heard of Honiton Lace, but lace was made here in Tiverton as well. The Tiverton Museum website is a good place to start, and if you check there link to the right you can access a host of archives, such as the log book at the Heathcote Factory or the superb days in the life of Elizabeth and John Poslett and their children in the Virtual Victorian section of the website - fantastic glimpse into late 18th/early 19th century life in Tiverton and work in the Lace making factory here.
This Tiverton Museum manages to make history interesting, because it digs deep into the lives of day to day people in the town. A refreshing change from the stuffed dummies and twee Victorian kitchens of many local museums. This museum is a hard hitting journey into the tedious work of constant cleaning, cooking, and very early starts for Victorian workers, in this case in lace making. There are 14 galleries in all, each focusing on different areas of Tiverton life in the past, from a Merchant's House to agriculture, lace making and Amory. They have the Tivvy Bumper engine here at Tiverton Museum, fantastic it is. This locomotive ran along the Grand Western Railway, and made it's last journey in 1965. Surrounding the locomotive are a selection of old photographs and an exhibition exploring both canal, transport and railway life in Tiverton. A superb social history exhibition indeed.
History comes alive in this museum, and the kids will love it, with photographs and stories of the lives of children particularly in the Victorian period. This museum connect, and is interesting. Thumbs up, and don't miss!
Tiverton and Mid Devon Museum, Beck's Square, Tiverton, Devon. EX16 6PJ. Tel: (0)1884 256295. Reasonable entrance prices, and good news - Disabled access is superb. With all galleries, except the Authers Gallery, fully accessible to wheelchair users, including the first floor which is reached by means of a lift. There's a programme for Group Visits and special activities for schools. Contact the museum for full details, and there are discounts for groups!
Tiverton is blessed with a rather good little cinema, The Tivoli on Fore Street. This cinema seats 300 people, and has an excellent choice programme of both art house, international and mainstream cinema. Check the Tivoli Cinema's website to the right for full details.
The Tivoli Cinema, 23 Fore Street, Tiverton, Devon.
There's something about Tiverton that is unique! It's a canal town and you can hook into some superb canal tow path walking along The Grand Western Canal. Not one of the better known British Canals, the Grand Western was built in 1814 mostly to serve the lime trade. Horse-drawn tub-boats were used and worked on the Grand Western Canal, which by 1838 extended all the way from Lowdwells to Taunton. It was a busy stretch of canal, with several tub-boat lifts (7 in all!), and there was an incline plane so it was hard work for the horses. The Grand Western Canal closed in 1869, much earlier than many of Britain's other much larger canals such as the Shropshire or Grand Union canals which were used as recently as the 1960s, and certainly during the Second World War.
Joy of joys though, today there are 11 miles the the Grand Western Canal still open, and this stretch has been preserved and not dried out due to it's natural water supply from local springs. A superb country park surround this stretch of the Grand Western Canal today, and there's lots going on. It's a perfect spot for picnics, fishing, cycling, walking or alternatively why not take a leisurely horse drawn Barge trip! Hop on the Tivertonian, a horse drawn barge with a licensed bar serving fine real ales, tea, coffee snacks and canal gifts. The most popular trip is the 2 1/2 hour return from Tiverton Wharf to East Manley where you can get off and take a turn to see the only aqueduct on the Grand Western Canal. Youcan hire a canal boat for wedding receptions and parties and birthdays as well. Check out their website!
Alternatively you might prefer a leisurely flat walk along the canal towpath of the Grand Western Canal. There are 16 miles/26 kms of glorious towpath here on this historic waterway. The landscape is gentle agricultural, passing through some most attractive Devon villages. It's nice easy flat walking as well. Highly recommended.
Grand Western Horseboat Company for Horse Drawn Barge Trips, The Wharf, Canal Hill, Tiverton, Devon, EX16 4HX. T: 01884 253345. You get a fascinating commentary as well on the history of the Grand Union Canal during your trip! The booking office on the above number is open Saturday to Thursday, closed Friday (except in busy July and August). As well as the Tiverton Wharf to East Manley 2 1/2 hour trip, there's the 3 1/2 trip one way from Tiverton Wharf to Sampford Peverell. Trips run from the end of March to the end of October. Check their website for full details and prices.
Castle image contributed by Humphrey Bolton. Grand Western Canal image contributed by Martin Bodman. Fore Street image contributed by Martin Bodman. All images are copyrighted but licensed for further reuse under the Creative Commons License.