Great Torrington & District Through Time
Series: Through Time
15th June 2014
Great Torrington, or Cheping Torrington as it was once known (Chipping being the old name for market) was a considerable town, even in medieval times. It grew steadily from its agricultural roots through an industrial phase and was at the centre of road, canal and railway links. In Victorian times it had mills for corn, sawmills, grist mills and tucking mills, lime kilns and a glove-making factory, which employed 1,000 people, mostly in their own homes. Then there was a fell mongers and skivers works for curing the chamois leather to supply the glove factory. In the twentieth century a giant milk and butter processing plant and glass works were built here. One of Devon's largest land owners, the Rolles, made their home here in the grandest house in North Devon, Stevenstone, and they still live in the area at Heanton Satchville. Further back in history, the town was the scene of a bloody battle during the Civil War, and must be the only town in England to have had its church accidentally blown up by gunpowder kegs when over 200 prisoners locked up inside killed. Many artefacts from Torrington's colourful past can still be found here: the castle walls, built first in the thirteenth century. The remains of the canal, built without act of Parliament by John Rolle, in 1823, has been preserved by the Torrington Commoners and makes an attractive walk alongside the River Torridge. Then there was an early narrow gauge railway built to bring china clay from the pits at Peters Marland to be distributed to the china companies in the Midlands.