infobox UK place
latitude= 50.43216
longitude= -3.68391
country = England
official_name= Totnes
population= 8000 (2001 census estimate)
shire_county = Devon
shire_district= South Hams
region= South West England
os_grid_reference = SX805605
dial_code= 01803
post_town= TOTNES
postcode_area= TQ
postcode_district= TQ9
constituency_westminster= Totnes

static_image_caption=The Eastgate over the High Street in 1983

Totnes (pronEng|ˈtɒtnɨs or IPA|/tɒtˈnɛs/) is a market town at the head of the estuary of the River Dart in Devon, England within the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is about convert|22|mi south of the city of Exeter and is the administrative centre of the South Hams District Council.

Totnes has a long recorded history, dating back to 907AD when its first castle was built; it was already an important market town by the 12th century. Indications of its former wealth and importance are given by the number of merchants' houses built in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Today, the town, with its population of some 8,000, is a thriving centre for music, art, theatre and natural health. It has a sizeable alternative and "New Age" community, and is known as a place where one can live a bohemian lifestyle.


According to the "Historia Regum Britanniae" written by Geoffrey of Monmouth in around 1136, "the coast of Totness" was where Brutus of Troy, the mythical founder of Britain, first came ashore on the island. [cite journal
author=Theo Brown
title=The Trojans in Devon
journal=Report & Transactions of the Devonshire Association
] Set into the pavement of Fore Street is the 'Brutus Stone', a small granite boulder onto which, according to local legend, Brutus first stepped from his ship. As he did so, he was supposed to have declaimed:cite journal
author=Theo Brown
title=The Trojans in Devon
journal=Report & Transactions of the Devonshire Association

Here I am and here I rest. And this town shall be called Totnes.
The stone is far above the highest tides and the tradition is not likely to be of great antiquity, being first mentioned in John Prince's "Worthies of Devon" in 1697. It is possible that the stone was originally the one from which the town crier, or "bruiter" called his "bruit" or news; or it may be "le Brodestone", a boundary stone mentioned in several 15th century disputes: its last-known position in 1471 was below the East Gate.

Despite this legendary history, the first authenticated history of Totnes is in AD 907, when it was fortified by King Edward the Elder as part of the defensive ring of burhs built around Devon, replacing one built a few years earlier at nearby Halwell. The site was chosen because it was on an ancient trackway which forded the river at low tide. Between the reigns of Edgar and William II (959–1100) Totnes intermittently minted coins.cite book
title=A New Survey of England: Devon
author = W. G. Hoskins

The name "Totnes" (first recorded in 979AD) comes from the Old English personal name "Totta" and "ness" or headland. [cite book
title=The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place-names
author=Eilert Ekwall
location=Oxford [Eng.]
isbn=0 19 869103 3
] Before reclamation and development, the low-lying areas around this hill were largely marsh or tidal wetland, giving the hill much more the appearance of a "ness" than today.

By the 12th century Totnes was already an important market town, due to its position on one of the main roads of the South West, in conjunction with its easy access to its hinterland and the easy navigation of the River Dart. [Cite book
last = Kowaleski
first = Maryanne
title = The New Maritime History of Devon Volume 1. From early times to the late eighteenth century
chapter = The Port Towns of Fourteenth-Century Devon
editor = Michael Duffy et al.
publisher = Conway Maritime Press
location = London
date = 1992
pages = 63
isbn = 0-85177-611-6

By 1523, according to a tax assessment, Totnes was the second richest town in Devon, and the sixteenth richest in England, ahead of Worcester, Gloucester and Lincoln.Cite book
last = Stansbury
first = Don
title = The Heart of Totnes
chapter = 907-1523: The King's Town
editor = Maureen Bridge
publisher = AQ & DJ Publications
location = Tavistock
date = 1998
pages = 123-131
isbn = 0-904066-36-3


Totnes' borough charter was granted by King John, probably around 1206; at any rate, the 800th anniversary of the charter was celebrated in 2006. Totnes lost its borough status in local government reorganisation in 1974. Totnes was served by Totnes electoral borough from 1295 until the reform act of 1867, but was restored by the 1884 Franchise Act. The constituency of Totnes was abolished a second time in 1983, and formed part of the South Hams constituency until 1997, when it was restored as the Totnes county constituency: as such it returns one MP to Parliament.

Totnes has a mayor who is elected by the sixteen town councillors each year. [cite web
title = Welcome to Totnes Town Council
publisher = Totnes Town Council
url =
accessdate = 2008-07-02
] Follaton House, on the outskirts of the town, is the headquarters of the South Hams District Council. [cite web
title = Follaton House, its History and Architecture
publisher = South Hams District Council
date = 2005
url =
accessdate = 2008-07-02
] The town is twinned with the French town of Vire, after which Vire Island on the River Dart near the 'Plains' is named.


The town is built on a hill rising from the west bank of the River Dart, which separates Totnes from the suburb of Bridgetown. It is at the lowest bridging point of the river which here is tidal and forms a winding estuary down to the sea at Dartmouth. The river continues to be tidal for about convert|1|mi above the town, until it meets Totnes Weir, built in the 17th century.

Today there are two road bridges, a railway bridge and a footbridge over the river in the town. Totnes Bridge is the nearest bridge to the sea and is a road bridge built in 1826-28 by Charles Fowler. At low tide the foundations of the previous stone bridge are visible just upstream—it was probably built in the early 13th century and widened in 1692. Before the first stone bridge was built there was almost certainly a wooden bridge here, and a tidal ford for heavy vehicles was just downstream. [cite book|last=Russell|first=Percy|title=The Good Town of Totnes|publisher=The Devonshire Association|location=Exeter|date=1984|edition=Second impression with Introduction|pages=26] In 1982 a new concrete bridge was built about convert|1000|ft upstream as part of the Totnes inner relief road. Its name, Brutus Bridge, was chosen by the local residents. [Russell 1984, p.xv.] A further convert|0.5|mi upstream, the railway bridge carries the National Rail London to Penzance Line over the river. Immediately upstream of the railway bridge is a footbridge, built in 1993 to provide access to the Totnes (Littlehempston) terminus of the South Devon Railway.cite book | last = Taylor | first = Alan | coauthors = Treglown, Peter | title = South Devon Railway - A Visitors Guide | publisher = South Devon Railway Trust | date = May 1999 | pages = 23-28 ]


Totnes has a sizeable alternative community, [cite web
last = Siegle
first = Lucy
title = Shiny hippy people
work =
publisher = The Guardian
date = 2005-05-08
url =,,1623868,00.html
accessdate = 2008-07-02
] and the town is known as a place where one can live a bohemian lifestyle.Fact|date=July 2008 There are a number of facilities for artists, painters and musicians, and there is a twice-weekly market offering antiques, musical instruments, second-hand books, handmade clothing from across the world, and local organically produced products.

Emphasising the town's continuing history of boatbuilding, between 1998 and 2001 Pete Goss built his revolutionary but ill-fated 120-foot Team Philips catamaran here.

In March 2007 Totnes was the first town in the UK to introduce its own local alternative currency, the Totnes pound, to support the local economy of the town.cite web
last = Sharp
first = Rob
title = They don't just shop local in Totnes - they have their very own currency
publisher = The Independent
date = 1 May 2008
url =
accessdate = 2008-07-02
] Fourteen months later, 70 businesses within the town were trading in the "Totnes pound," accepting them as payment and offering them to shoppers as change from their purchases. The initiative is part of the Transition Towns concept, which was pioneered by Rob Hopkins, who had recently moved to Totnes. ["Take note - Totnes will be quids in!" in "Totnes Times" 7 March 2007, p.6]


The Norman motte and bailey Totnes Castle, now owned by English Heritage, was built during the reign of William I, probably by Juhel of Totnes.cite book
title=The Buildings of England — Devon
author=Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner
isbn=0 14 071050 7
] The late medieval church of St Mary with its convert|120|ft high west tower, visible from afar, is built of rich red Devonian sandstone. A prominent feature of the town is the Eastgate — an arch spanning the middle of the main street. This Elizabethan entrance to the walled town was destroyed in a fire in September 1990, but was rebuilt.

The ancient Leechwell, so named because of the supposed medicinal properties of its water, and apparently where lepers once came to wash, still provides fresh water. The Butterwalk is a Tudor covered walkway that was built to protect the dairy products once sold here from the sun and rain. [cite web
title = Totnes Town Trail
publisher = South Devon Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty
url =
accessdate = 2008-07-02
] The town museum is in one of the many authentic Elizabethan Merchant's houses in the town, built around 1575. [cite web
title = Totnes Elizabethan House Museum
publisher = Devon Museums Group
url =,com_mumancontent/task,view/sectionid,23/
accessdate = 2008-07-02


The A38 passes about convert|7|mi to the west of Totnes, connected to the town by the A384 from Buckfastleigh and the A385 which continues to Paignton. The town also lies on the A381 between Newton Abbot and Salcombe. Totnes railway station is situated on the London to Penzance Line, and has trains direct to London and Plymouth. Nearby, Totnes (Littlehempston) railway station is at the southern end of the South Devon Railway Trust which runs tourist steam locomotives along the line that follows the River Dart up to Buckfastleigh. Since the River Dart is navigable to seagoing boats as far as Totnes, the estuary was used for the import and export of goods from the town until 1995,Fact|date=July 2008 and there are still regular pleasure boat trips down the estuary to Dartmouth.


King Edward VI Community College is the local secondary school which shares its name with the former grammar school set up by King Edward VI over 450 years ago. At the western edge of the town is the Dartington Hall Estate, which includes the Schumacher College and Dartington College of Arts.

Notable people

Notable people from Totnes include:
* The explorer William John Wills of the Burke and Wills expedition fame was born in Totnes. A memorial to Wills was erected using money from public subscriptions in 1864. It can still be seen on the Plains. There were originally two gas lamps attached to the monument, but both have since been removed.
* Charles Babbage had a strong family connection with the town and returned to attend the grammar school for a period before going up to Cambridge.
* Admiral Sir Frederick Michell KCB (1788-1873) died in Totnes.
* Hebrew scholar, Benjamin Kennicott was also born in Totnes.
* William Stumbels, a clockmaker lived and worked in Totnes in the 18th century. (His workshop was possibly at No. 4 Castle Street, within the town walls.) Two of his clocks: a longcase (grandfather) and a turret clock are displayed in the museum. [J. K. Bellchambers: Devonshire Clockmakers, The Devonshire Press Limited, Torquay; 1962]
* John Prince was vicar of Totnes in the late 17th Century, was author of "The Worthies of Devon", a major biographical work. He was also involved in a scandal, the court records of which were made into a book and stage play in the early 2000s.
* Pop music prankster Jimmy Cauty (one half of The KLF) was born in Totnes. [Peter Frame, "Rockin' Around Britain"; Omnibus 1999, p29]
* Novelist Mary Wesley, author of "The Camomile Lawn", spent her final years in Totnes.
* Humorous poet Matt Harvey is a resident.
* William Brockedon, Artist and inventor, 1787-1854. Son of Philip Brockedon, Clockmaker.
* Joseph Mount, a musician who records under the name Metronomy, lived in Totnes for a while.
* The novelist Desmond Bagley lived in Totnes from 1964 to 1976.
* Historian James Anthony Froude, author of ""History of England From the fall of cardinal Wolsey to the Defeat of the Spanish Armada", was born in Totnes. His brother Richard Hurrell Froude was a theologian; he originated the Tractarian or Oxford Movement which created the High Church.
* Botanist Francis George Heath was born in Totnes.
* Margaret Isherwood, writer on religion and education, lived in Totnes. She wrote several books including "Searching for Meaning" and "The Root of the Matter".
* Linguist Edward Lye, who wrote the first dictionary of Anglo-Saxon, was born in Totnes.
* Playwright Sean O'Casey lived in the town from 1938 to 1964.
* Critic, author and playwright Allen Saddler lives in Totnes.
* Vian Smith was born in Totnes, lived in the area for most of his life (excepting war service), and wrote extensively on Dartmoor.
* Rik Mayall previously lived in Totnes. [ [ Knowhere: Totnes, Devon, Local Heroes, Famous Residents ] ]


External links

* [ Totnes Tourist Information]
* [,,1979229,00.html Battle to save celebrated cradle of cutting edge art (The Guardian)]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Totnes — Totnes …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Totnes — es una comunidad de transición en el sur de Inglaterra en el Reino Unido, ubicado en el condado de Devon. Aunque solo tiene diez mil habitantes también tiene un colegio de arte y es conocido por su cultura alternativa. Enlaces externos Wikimedia… …   Wikipedia Español

  • Totnes — (spr. tóttnĕs), Stadt (municipal borough) in Devonshire (England), am schiffbaren Dart, mit schöner Kirche (11. Jahrh., 1886–89 restauriert), Klosterruinen, Schloßruine, einer Lateinschule, Gewerbeschule, Lachsfischerei und (1901) 4035 Einw.… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Totnes — 50.431388888889 3.6911111111111 Koordinaten: 50° 26′ N, 3° 41′ W …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Totnes — Original name in latin Totnes Name in other language Totenais, Totnes, Totnis, Tottaness, Тотнес, Тотнис State code GB Continent/City Europe/London longitude 50.43107 latitude 3.6843 altitude 6 Population 8106 Date 2011 03 03 …   Cities with a population over 1000 database

  • Totnes — ▪ England, United Kingdom       town (“parish”), South Hams district, administrative and historic county of Devon, England, on the River Dart. Totnes dates from Saxon times and is listed in Domesday Book (1086). Its earliest charter is dated 1205 …   Universalium

  • TOTNES —    (4), a quaint old market town of Devonshire, overlooking the Dart, 29 m. SW. of Plymouth; has interesting Norman and other remains; a centre of agricultural industry …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • Totnes Castle — is one of the best preserved examples of a Norman motte and bailey castle in England. It is situated in the town of Totnes on the River Dart in Devon.The castle occupies a commanding position atop a large hill above the town, and guards the… …   Wikipedia

  • Totnes pound — The Totnes pound is an alternative local currency [ The town already has its own currency, the Totnes pound in [ Devon town bids for eco status] (retrieved 20 June 2008)] , intended to… …   Wikipedia

  • Totnes (Littlehempston) railway station — Infobox UK heritage station name = Totnes Littlehempston preservation = South Devon Railway platforms = 1 locale = Totnes borough = South HamsTotnes (Littlehempston) station, previously known as Totnes Riverside station and Littlehempston… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.