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The town is set within the boundaries of the dartmoor National Park. It is a compact, charming old town which in fact dates back to the dark ages, but which became an industrial centre in the thirteenth century when the area was the centre of the tin mining industry. (I will add a link on this.)
The town became rich through the woollen industry and through tin mining. And power for these industries was provided by the river which powered the many mills that once lined its banks. In fact some can still be seen, although now somewhat transformed.
Ashburton was designated as a stannary town, which meant that it was the place where tin was brought to be weighed, checked and stamped. This practice dates back to 1285, and its importance peaked in 1515 when almost 40% of Devon's tin was sold here.
There are several reminders of these times in the town. Behind the town hall is a small bridge from where you can see the leat that used to feed the town mill. You can also see the medieval overlapping slate fronted merchant houses and shop fronts in North Street and East Street, the old wool combers lofts near Victorian Inn, North Street, and the grooves worn by cart wheels into kerb stones at the far end of East Street, and the stone conduit erected to supply water to the town at the corner of east Street and Roborough Street. St Lawrence Chapel with its 90ft tower dates from 1314, and the parish church of St Andrew dates from the fifteenth century.
There are some intriguing traditions carried on in the town. The Saxon Office of Portreeve dates back to the year 820 when the first Portreeve was established as the representative of the crown in legal transactions. The Portreeve is still appointed today along with other ancient offices such as Ale Tasters and Bread Weighers, who are appointed each year in St Lawrence Chapel on the fourth Tuesday in November.
At the end of July there is an Ale Tasting and Bread Weighing ceremony which dates back to the 13th century, which is followed by a street parade. There is also a ten day carnival in the town which dates back to Victorian times.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stayed in the town while researching The Hound of the Baskervilles. (I will add a link on this.)
The Monster Raving Loony Party had their headquarters in The Golden Lion Hotel from 1990 to 2000. Obviously the cat, who took over control of the party after Screaming Lord Sutch, didn't like the food, and moved on.
Ashburton information: 01364 653426