Tavistock Abbey (Ruin), Tavistock, Dartmoor National Park

Tavistock Abbey (Ruin), Tavistock, Dartmoor National Park

Dartmoor's south moor was fringed by abbeys and a priory which were connected by a number of ancient travel routes that crossed remote, high moorland. Today, two of the abbeys are popular visitor attractions. Buckfast Abbey is to the east. Buckland Abbey, managed by the National Trust, is to the west. In addition, you can also explore the site of Plympton Priory to the south and the ruins of Tavistock Abbey to the west.

According to the guide to 'The Benedictine Abbey of St. Mary and St. Rumon Tavistock, Devon. 974 - 1539':

'ORDULF, EARL of DEVON, was praying under the stars one night outside his home above the present Kelly College when he saw in a vision a brilliant column of light in the sky. Later, the legend says, bidden by an angel who appeared to him in a dream, he built a chapel where the column of light had touched the ground, now the North West corner of the market. Then he decided to build a huge abbey nearby, inspired no doubt by the current monastic revival, and at the request of his brother-in-law, King Edgar the Peaceful (959-975), great-grandson of Alfred the Great.'

Construction was finished in 981 and the abbey dedicated to St. Mary and St. Rumon. In 997, after the Battle of Lydford, Vikings burned down and looted the abbey. There's a fine Battle of Lydford Memorial and the Lydford Viking Rune Stone to see in Lydford.

The abbey was rebuilt and thrived. According to the abovementioned guide, 'the last abbot, John Peryn, imported from France two matrices to set up in the abbey the first printing press in the South West, and the seventh in all England'.

In 1539, as a result of the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the abbey closed.

There's lots to see today. When visiting Tavistock, look out for:

Betsy Grimbal's Tower.

Abbey Chapel. An information plaque reads: 'ABBEY CHAPEL. Originally part of Tavistock Abbey, this was the site of the Abbot's Hall. Since 1691, when it became a Presbyterian meeting house, it has housed nonconformist congregations.'

Abbey Still Tower.

Court Gate.

Guildhall. An information plaque reads: 'Guildhall. Built in 1848 by the Duke of Bedford, on a site once occupied by the mill of Tavistock Abbey, this building replaced an earlier Guildhall that stood in Bedford Square. Its duties as a courthouse ended in 2001.'