Home / Ashburton


The Town of Ashburton lies on the southern slopes of Dartmoor in the heart of South Devon.


Ashburton is not only a splendid gateway to Dartmoor and is an ideal base from which to explore the whole region from Moor to sea.


Ashburton`s position on the southern fringe of Dartmoor, a short distance from the River Dart, its makes it the perfect location for walking, pony trekking, canoeing and fishing.


Ashburton`s past prosperity is based on the mining of Dartmoor tin and the woollen industry, with the river providing ample power for the many mills that once lined its banks.

Ashburton’s unique history is believed to have begun in Saxon times although little is known about this period. Many finds have been unearthed around the Ashburton area, some dating back as early as 3000 B.C. but there is no evidence of a settlement here until around 500 B.C. This spot was most likely chosen for its presence of tin. This fact has shaped the history of Ashburton ever since.


The ancient stannary town dates from Saxon times and is one of only four stannary towns in Devon, the others being Chagford, Tavistock and Plympton.


The stannary towns were important centres for the trade of tin as all rough smelted tin had to be stamped before it was taken away for use. The process of weighing and checking the quality of tin was carried out at very few towns. The word stannary derives from the Latin stannum meaning tin.


Ashburton was designated a stannary town as early as 1285 AD. Its importance as the main stannary town peaked in 1515 when nearly 40% of Devon`s tin was sold through Ashburton. By the early 1700`s the trade had almost died out


The town also has an historical connections with the Civil War was it was a Royalist stronghold until their defeat in 1646 when General Fairfax took the town and set up his head quarters in the Mermaid Inn on North Street. This is now the ironmongers.
During the Napoleonic Wars Ashburton was a Parole Town this meant that the captured French Officers were housed with local people. These officers were then free to roam in Ashburton and the surrounding countryside. Their perimeters were designated by milestones set along the main routes in and out of the town.


The main shopping streets are North Street and East Street with cobbled streets and old houses Ashburton is a great place to just wander around


Ashburton has had a reputation for its pubs, inns and coaching houses for hundreds of years. Its importance as a stannary town and its location on the main road to London meant that it was a stopping of point for weary and hungry travellers.


Today you will find some of the original pubs and inns, a good selection of cafes and restaurants and bakers you will never be short of finding something to eat.


Ashburton can also offer to its visitors, hotels, bed and breakfast accommodation, self catering and near by for the more independent traveller numerous campsites.



Ashburton today has gained a reputation for being a centre for antique dealers and is now well known for the high number and high standard of its antiques and fine collectables outlets.


There is an auction room which has a monthly sale of art and antiques. You will also find shops selling second-hand and antiquarian books and art shops.






An important part of Ashburton’s history is the Office of Portreeve, not least because this ancient Saxon office is still kept alive today. Dating back to 820 AD, the office is the only one now held by Act of Parliament although it exists in eight other towns in England. The name itself is derived from the Saxon word for the market town`port` and `gerefa` meaning official.

The chief duty of a Saxon Portreeve was to represent the King in legal transactions and he was often the only person who could read and write, especially when all legal documents were in Latin.


Until the time of the Magna Carta, there was no check on the price or quality of bread and ale. Ashburton’s records show that its Ale Tasters fined brewers for selling bad ale dating back to the 13th century, soon after the first Ale Conners were appointed in London in 1276.


The Court Leet is compsed of freeholders of the town and is appointed each year at St Lawrence Chapel on the fourth Tuesday in November. Each year the portreeve is elected together with the bailiff, ale tasters, and bread weighers. The Court Baron, made up of tenants of the town, elects the viewers of the market, viewers of water courses, tree inspectors, searcher and sealer of leather, scavengers and pig drovers.


The Court Baron is made up of tenants of the town and elects the Viewers of the Market, Viewers of Water Courses, Tree Inspector, Searcher and Sealer of Leather, Scavengers and Pig Drovers.


Today the Portreeve’s position is mainly as a social head for the town, attending the many charitable fund-raising events.


The Town Hall was built in 1850 by Lord Clinton this `Italianate` building replaced the old wooden market hall, which existed in the middle of North Street and was demolished in 1848. Originally the ground floor was open and arcaded to house fish and butter markets, with a pannier market to the rear. The southern end together with the pannier market, was removed to widen King`s Bridge in the 1970`s. The ground floor now houses the town council office. The Arms of Lord Clinton are carved above the main entrance, which is fronted by impressive granite paving. The Library and the Tourist Information Centre are at the rear.


Click here to change this text

Click here to change this text