Devon facts for kids
Quick facts for kidsDevon
|Motto: "Auxilio Divino" ("With God's help")|
Devon in England
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Lord Lieutenant||David Fursdon|
|High Sheriff||Mrs A M Gilbert|
|Area||6,707 km2 (2,590 sq mi)|
|• Ranked||4th of 48|
|Population (2005 est.)||1,109,900|
|• Ranked||11th of 48|
|Density||165/km2 (430/sq mi)|
|Ethnicity||94.2% White British (ceremonial county)|
|County council||Devon County Council|
|Area||6,564 km2 (2,534 sq mi)|
|• Ranked||3rd of 27|
|• Ranked||12th of 27|
|Density||111/km2 (290/sq mi)|
|Councils||Plymouth City Council
Districts of Devon
Unitary County council area
|Members of Parliament||List of MPs|
|Police||Devon and Cornwall Police|
|Time zone||GMT (UTC)|
|• Summer (DST)||BST (UTC+1)|
Devon, also known as Devonshire, which was formerly its common and official name, is a county of England, reaching from the Bristol Channel in the north to the English Channel in the south. It is part of South West England, bounded by Cornwall to the west, Somerset to the northeast, and Dorset to the east. The City of Exeter is the county town; seven other districts of East Devon, Mid Devon, North Devon, South Hams, Teignbridge, Torridge, and West Devon are under the jurisdiction of Devon County Council; Plymouth and Torbay are each a part of Devon but administered as unitary authorities. Combined as a ceremonial county, Devon's area is 6,707 km2 (2,590 square miles) and its population is about 1.1 million.
Devon derives its name from Dumnonia, which, during the British Iron Age, Roman Britain, and Early Medieval was the homeland of the Dumnonii Brittonic Celts. The Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain resulted in the partial assimilation of Dumnonia into the Kingdom of Wessex during the eighth and ninth centuries. The western boundary with Cornwall was set at the River Tamar by King Æthelstan in 936. Devon was constituted as a shire of the Kingdom of England thereafter.
The north and south coasts of Devon each have both cliffs and sandy shores, and the county's bays contain seaside resorts, fishing towns, and ports. The inland terrain is rural, generally hilly, and has a low population density in comparison to many other parts of England. Dartmoor is the largest open space in southern England at 954 km2 (368 square miles), its moorland extending across a large expanse of granite bedrock. To the north of Dartmoor are the Culm Measures and Exmoor. In the valleys and lowlands of south and east Devon the soil is more fertile, drained by rivers including the Exe, the Culm, the Teign, the Dart, and the Otter.
As well as agriculture, much of the economy of Devon is linked with tourism. The comparatively mild climate, coastline and landscape give rise to Devon as a destination for recreation and leisure in England, with visitors particularly attracted to the Dartmoor and Exmoor national parks; its coasts, including the resort towns along the south coast known collectively as the English Riviera, the Jurassic Coast, and North Devon's UNESCO Biosphere Reserve; and the countryside including the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape.
The name Devon derives from the name of the Britons who inhabited the southwestern peninsula of Britain at the time of the Roman conquest of Britain known as the Dumnonii, thought to mean "deep valley dwellers" from proto Celtic *dubnos 'deep'. In the Brittonic, Devon is known as Welsh: Dyfnaint, Breton: Devnent and Cornish: Dewnens, each meaning "deep valleys." (For an account of Celtic Dumnonia, see the separate article.)
William Camden, in his 1607 edition of Britannia, described Devon as being one part of an older, wider country that once included Cornwall:
THAT region which, according to the Geographers, is the first of all Britaine, and, growing straiter still and narrower, shooteth out farthest into the West, [...] was in antient time inhabited by those Britans whom Solinus called Dumnonii, Ptolomee Damnonii [...] For their habitation all over this Countrey is somewhat low and in valleys, which manner of dwelling is called in the British tongue Dan-munith, in which sense also the Province next adjoyning in like respect is at this day named by the Britans Duffneit, that is to say, Low valleys. [...] But the Country of this nation is at this day divided into two parts, knowen by later names of Cornwall and Denshire, [...]—William Camden, Britannia.
The term "Devon" is normally used for everyday purposes e.g. "Devon County Council" but "Devonshire" continues to be used in the names of the "Devonshire and Dorset Regiment" and "The Devonshire Association". One erroneous theory is that the "shire" suffix is due to a mistake in the making of the original letters patent for the Duke of Devonshire, resident in Derbyshire. However, there are references to "Defenascire" in Anglo-Saxon texts from before 1000 AD (this would mean "Shire of the Devonians"), which translates to modern English as "Devonshire". The term Devonshire may have originated around the 8th century, when it changed from Dumnonia (Latin) to Defenascir.
Kents Cavern in Torquay had produced human remains from 30–40,000 years ago. Dartmoor is thought to have been occupied by Mesolithic hunter-gatherer peoples from about 6000 BC. The Romans held the area under military occupation for around 350 years. Later, the area began to experience Saxon incursions from the east around 600 AD, firstly as small bands of settlers along the coasts of Lyme Bay and southern estuaries and later as more organised bands pushing in from the east. Devon became a frontier between Brittonic and Anglo-Saxon Wessex, and it was largely absorbed into Wessex by the mid 9th century. A genetic study carried out by the University of Oxford & University College London discovered separate genetic groups in Cornwall and Devon, not only were there differences on either side of the Tamar, with a division almost exactly along the modern county boundary dating back to the 6th Century but also between Devon and the rest of Southern England, and similarities with the modern northern France, including Brittany. This suggests the Anglo-Saxon migration into Devon was limited rather than a mass movement of people.
The border with Cornwall was set by King Æthelstan on the east bank of the River Tamar in 936 AD. Danish raids also occurred sporadically along many coastal parts of Devon between around 800AD and just before the time of the Norman conquest, including the silver mint at Hlidaforda Lydford in 997 and Taintona (a settlement on the Teign estuary) in 1001.
Devon has also featured in most of the civil conflicts in England since the Norman conquest, including the Wars of the Roses, Perkin Warbeck's rising in 1497, the Prayer Book Rebellion of 1549, and the English Civil War. The arrival of William of Orange to launch the Glorious Revolution of 1688 took place at Brixham.
Devon has produced tin, copper and other metals from ancient times. Devon's tin miners enjoyed a substantial degree of independence through Devon's Stannary Parliament, which dates back to the 12th century. The last recorded sitting was in 1748.
The key train operator for Devon is Great Western Railway, which operates numerous regional, local and suburban services, as well as intercity services to and from London Paddington. Other intercity services are operated by CrossCountry, to Manchester Piccadilly, Edinburgh Waverley, Glasgow Central, Dundee, Aberdeen and Penzance, and South West Trains, operating express services between London Waterloo and Exeter St Davids on the West of England Main Line. All Devon services are diesel-hauled, since there are no electrified lines in the county.
The Exeter to Plymouth railway of the LSWR needs to be reopened to connect Cornwall and Plymouth to the rest of the UK railway system on an all weather basis. There are proposals to reopen the line from Tavistock to Bere Alston for a through service to Plymouth. On the night of 4 February 2014, amid high winds and extremely rough seas, part of the sea wall at Dawlish was breached washing away around 40 metres (130 ft) of the wall and the ballast under the railway immediately behind. The line was closed. Network Rail began repair work and the line reopened on 4 April 2014. In the wake of widespread disruption caused by damage to the mainline track at Dawlish by coastal storms in February 2014, Network Rail are considering reopening the Tavistock to Okehampton and Exeter section of the line as an alternative to the coastal route.
Devon County Council has proposed a "Devon Metro" scheme to improve rail services in the county and offer a realistic alternative to car travel. This includes the delivery of Cranbrook station, plus four new stations (including Edginswell) as a priority.
Exeter International Airport is a base for Flybe. Destinations include London (City), Manchester, Dublin, Paris and Amsterdam.
Geography and geology
Devon straddles a peninsula and so has two separate coastlines, on the Bristol Channel and Celtic Sea in the north, and on the English Channel in the south. The South West Coast Path runs along the entire length of both, around 65% of which is named as Heritage Coast. Before the changes to English counties in 1974, Devon was the third largest county by area and the largest of the counties not divided into county-like divisions (only Yorkshire and Lincolnshire were larger and both were sub-divided into ridings or parts, respectively). Since 1974 the county is ranked fourth by area (due to the creation of Cumbria) amongst ceremonial counties and is the third largest non-metropolitan county. The island of Lundy and the reef of Eddystone are also in Devon. The county has more mileage of road than any other county in England.
Inland, the Dartmoor National Park lies wholly in Devon, and the Exmoor National Park lies in both Devon and Somerset. Apart from these areas of high moorland the county has attractive rolling rural scenery and villages with thatched cob cottages. All these features make Devon a popular holiday destination.
In South Devon the landscape consists of rolling hills dotted with small towns, such as Dartmouth, Ivybridge, Kingsbridge, Salcombe, and Totnes. The towns of Torquay and Paignton are the principal seaside resorts on the south coast. East Devon has the first seaside resort to be developed in the county, Exmouth and the more upmarket Georgian town of Sidmouth, headquarters of the East Devon District Council. Exmouth marks the western end of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site. Another notable feature is the coastal railway line between Newton Abbot and the Exe Estuary: the red sandstone cliffs and sea views are very dramatic and in the resorts railway line and beaches are very near.
North Devon is very rural with few major towns except Barnstaple, Great Torrington, Bideford and Ilfracombe. Devon's Exmoor coast has the highest cliffs in southern Britain, culminating in the Great Hangman, a 318 m (1,043 ft) "hog's-back" hill with an 250 m (820 ft) cliff-face, located near Combe Martin Bay. Its sister cliff is the 218 m (715 ft) Little Hangman, which marks the western edge of coastal Exmoor. One of the features of the North Devon coast is that Bideford Bay and the Hartland Point peninsula are both west-facing, Atlantic facing coastlines; so that a combination of an off-shore (east) wind and an Atlantic swell produce excellent surfing conditions. The beaches of Bideford Bay (Woolacombe, Saunton, Westward Ho! and Croyde), along with parts of North Cornwall and South Wales, are the main centres of surfing in Britain.
- See also: List of mountains and hills of Devon
A geological dividing line cuts across Devon roughly along the line of the Bristol to Exeter Line and the M5 motorway east of Tiverton and Exeter. It is a part of the Tees-Exe line broadly dividing Britain into a southeastern lowland zone typified by gently dipping sedimentary rocks and a northwestern upland zone typified by igneous rocks and folded sedimentary and metamorphic rocks.
The principal geological components of Devon are the Devonian (in north Devon, south west Devon and extending into Cornwall); the Culm Measures (north western Devon also extending into north Cornwall); and the granite intrusion of Dartmoor in central Devon, part of the Cornubian batholith forming the 'spine' of the southwestern peninsula. There are small remains of pre-Devonian rocks on the south Devon coast.
The oldest rocks which can be dated are those of the Devonian period which are approximately 395–345 million years old. Sandstones and shales were deposited in North and South Devon beneath tropical seas. In shallower waters, limestone beds were laid down in the area now near Torquay and Plymouth. This geological period was named after Devon by Roderick Murchison and Adam Sedgwick in the 1840s and is the only British county whose name is used worldwide as a geological time period.
Devon's second major rock system is the Culm Measures, a geological formation of the Carboniferous period that occurs principally in Devon and Cornwall. The measures are so called either from the occasional presence of a soft, sooty coal, which is known in Devon as culm, or from the contortions commonly found in the beds. This formation stretches from Bideford to Bude in Cornwall, and contributes to a gentler, greener, more rounded landscape. It is also found on the western, north and eastern borders of Dartmoor.
The sedimentary rocks in more eastern parts of the county include Permian and Triassic sandstones (giving rise to east Devon's well known fertile red soils); Bunter pebble beds around Budleigh Salterton and Woodbury Common and Jurassic rocks in the easternmost parts of Devon. Smaller outcrops of younger rocks also exist, such as Cretaceous chalk cliffs at Beer Head and gravels on Haldon, plus Eocene and Oligocene ball clay and lignite deposits in the Bovey Basin, formed around 50 million years ago under tropical forest conditions.
Devon generally has a mild climate, heavily influenced by the North Atlantic Drift. In winter snow is relatively uncommon away from high land, although there are exceptions, such as the snowfalls of February 2009, and December 2010. The county has warm summers with occasional hot spells and cool rainy periods. Winters are generally mild and the county often experiences some of the mildest winters in the world for its latitude, with average daily maximum temperatures in January approaching 10 °C (50 °F). Rainfall varies significantly across the county, ranging from over 2,000 mm (79 in) on parts of Dartmoor, to around 750 mm (30 in) in the rain shadow along the coast in southeastern Devon and around Exeter. Sunshine amounts also vary widely: the moors are generally cloudy, but the SE coast from Salcombe to Exmouth is one of the sunniest parts of the UK. In summer, easterly or southeasterly winds mean the area around Saunton and Croyde often records among the highest temperatures in Britain, exceeding 32 °C (90 °F) about twice every decade. Similarly, with westerly or southwesterly winds and high pressure the area around Torbay and Teignmouth will often be very warm, with long sunny spells due to shelter by high ground (Foehn wind).
|Climate data for Devon|
|Average high °C (°F)||8
|Average low °C (°F)||4
The variety of habitats means that there is a wide range of wildlife (see Dartmoor wildlife, for example). A popular challenge among birders is to find over 100 species in the county in a day. The county's wildlife is protected by several wildlife charities such as the Devon Wildlife Trust, which looks after 40 nature reserves. The Devon Bird Watching and Preservation Society (founded in 1928 and known since 2005 as "Devon Birds") is a county bird society dedicated to the study and conservation of wild birds. The RSPB has reserves in the county, and Natural England is responsible for over 200 Devon Sites of Special Scientific Interest and National Nature Reserves, such as Slapton Ley. The Devon Bat Group was founded in 1984 to help conserve bats.
The botany of the county is very diverse and includes some rare species not found elsewhere in the British Isles other than Cornwall. Devon is divided into two Watsonian vice-counties: north and south, the boundary being an irregular line approximately across the higher part of Dartmoor and then along the canal eastwards. Botanical reports begin in the 17th century and there is a Flora Devoniensis by Jones and Kingston in 1829. A general account appeared in The Victoria History of the County of Devon (1906), and a Flora of Devon was published in 1939 by Keble Martin and Fraser. An Atlas of the Devon Flora by Ivimey-Cook appeared in 1984, and A New Flora of Devon, based on field work undertaken between 2005 and 2014, was published in 2016.
Rising temperatures have led to Devon becoming the first place in modern Britain to cultivate olives commercially.
Cities, towns and villages
The main settlements in Devon are the cities of Plymouth, a historic port now administratively independent, Exeter, the county town, and Torbay, the county's tourist centre. Devon's coast is lined with tourist resorts, many of which grew rapidly with the arrival of the railways in the 19th century. Examples include Dawlish, Exmouth and Sidmouth on the south coast, and Ilfracombe and Lynmouth on the north. The Torbay conurbation of Torquay, Paignton and Brixham on the south coast is now administratively independent of the county. Rural market towns in the county include Barnstaple, Bideford, Honiton, Newton Abbot, Okehampton, Tavistock, Totnes and Tiverton.
The boundary with Cornwall has not always been on the River Tamar as at present: until the late 19th century a few parishes in the Torpoint area were in Devon and five parishes now in north-east Cornwall were in Devon until 1974. (However, for ecclesiastical purposes these were nevertheless in the Archdeaconry of Cornwall and in 1876 became part of the Diocese of Truro.)
Ancient and medieval history
Celtic and Roman practices were the first known religions in Devon, although in the first centuries AD, Christianity was introduced to Devon. In the Sub-Roman period the church in the British Isles was characterised by some differences in practice from the Latin Christianity of the continent of Europe and is known as Celtic Christianity; however it was always in communion with the wider Roman Catholic Church. Many Cornish saints are commemorated also in Devon in legends, churches and placenames. Western Christianity came to Devon when it was over a long period incorporated into the kingdom of Wessex and the jurisdiction of the bishop of Wessex. Saint Petroc is said to have passed through Devon, where ancient dedications to him are even more numerous than in Cornwall: a probable seventeen (plus Timberscombe just over the border in Somerset), compared to Cornwall's five. The position of churches bearing his name, including one within the old Roman walls of Exeter, are nearly always near the coast, reminding us that in those days travelling was done mainly by sea. The Devonian villages of Petrockstowe and Newton St Petroc are also named after Saint Petroc and the flag of Devon is dedicated to him.
The history of Christianity in the South West of England remains to some degree obscure. Parts of the historic county of Devon formed part of the diocese of Wessex, while nothing is known of the church organisation of the Celtic areas. About 703 Devon and Cornwall were included in the separate diocese of Sherborne and in 900 this was again divided into two, the Devon bishop having from 905 his seat at Tawton (now Bishop's Tawton) and from 912 at Crediton, birthplace of St Boniface. Lyfing became Bishop of Crediton in 1027 and shortly afterwards became Bishop of Cornwall.
The two dioceses of Crediton and Cornwall, covering Devon and Cornwall, were permanently united under Edward the Confessor by Lyfing's successor Bishop Leofric, hitherto Bishop of Crediton, who became first Bishop of Exeter under Edward the Confessor, which was established as his cathedral city in 1050. At first, the abbey church of St Mary and St Peter, founded by Athelstan in 932 and rebuilt in 1019, served as the cathedral.
In 1549, the Prayer Book Rebellion caused the deaths of thousands of people from Devon and Cornwall. During the English Reformation, churches in Devon officially became affiliated with the Church of England. From the late sixteenth century onwards, zealous Protestantism – or 'puritanism' – became increasingly well-entrenched in some parts of Devon, while other districts of the county remained much more conservative. These divisions would become starkly apparent during the English Civil War of 1642–46, when the county split apart along religious and cultural lines. The Methodism of John Wesley proved to be very popular with the working classes in Devon in the 19th century. Methodist chapels became important social centres, with male voice choirs and other church-affiliated groups playing a central role in the social lives of working class Devonians. Methodism still plays a large part in the religious life of Devon today, although the county has shared in the post-World War II decline in British religious feeling.
The Diocese of Exeter remains the Anglican diocese including the whole of Devon. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Plymouth was established in the mid 19th century.
Despite its small Jewish population, Devon is also noted for containing two of Britain's oldest synagogues, located in Plymouth and Exeter, built in 1762 and 1763 respectively.
Coat of arms
There was no established coat of arms for the county until 1926: the arms of the City of Exeter were often used to represent Devon, for instance in the badge of the Devonshire Regiment. During the forming of a county council by the Local Government Act 1888 adoption of a common seal was required. The seal contained three shields depicting the arms of Exeter along with those of the first chairman and vice-chairman of the council (Lord Clinton and the Earl of Morley).
On 11 October 1926, the county council received a grant of arms from the College of Arms. The main part of the shield displays a red crowned lion on a silver field, the arms of Richard Plantagenet, Earl of Cornwall. The chief or upper portion of the shield depicts an ancient ship on wavers, for Devon's seafaring traditions. The Latin motto adopted was Auxilio Divino (by Divine aid), that of Sir Francis Drake. The 1926 grant was of arms alone. On 6 March 1962 a further grant of crest and supporters was obtained. The crest is the head of a Dartmoor Pony rising from a "Naval Crown". This distinctive form of crown is formed from the sails and sterns of ships, and is associated with the Royal Navy. The supporters are a Devon bull and a sea lion.
Devon County Council adopted a "ship silhouette" logo after the 1974 reorganisation, adapted from the ship emblem on the coat of arms, but following the loss in 1998 of Plymouth and Torbay re-adopted the coat of arms. In April 2006 the council unveiled a new logo which was to be used in most everyday applications, though the coat of arms will continue to be used for "various civic purposes".
Devon also has its own flag which has been dedicated to Saint Petroc, a local saint with dedications throughout Devon and neighbouring counties. The flag was adopted in 2003 after a competition run by BBC Radio Devon. The winning design was created by website contributor Ryan Sealey, and won 49% of the votes cast. The colours of the flag are those popularly identified with Devon, for example, the colours of Exeter University, the rugby union team, and the Green and White flag flown by the first Viscount Exmouth at the Bombardment of Algiers (now on view at the Teign Valley Museum), as well as one of the county's football teams, Plymouth Argyle. On 17 October 2006, the flag was hoisted for the first time outside County Hall in Exeter to mark Local Democracy Week, receiving official recognition from the county council.
Place names and customs
Devon's toponyms include many with the endings "coombe/combe" and "tor". Both 'coombe' (valley or hollow, cf. Welsh cwm, Cornish komm) and 'tor' (Old Welsh twrr and Scots Gaelic tòrr from Latin turris; 'tower' used for granite formations) are rare Celtic loanwords in English and their frequency is greatest in Devon which shares a boundary with Brittonic speaking Cornwall. Ruined medieval settlements of Dartmoor longhouses indicate that dispersed rural settlement (OE tun, now often -ton) was very similar to that found in Cornish 'tre-' settlements, however these are generally described with the local placename -(a)cott, from the Old English for homestead, cf. cottage. Saxon endings in -worthy (from Anglo-Saxon worthig) indicate larger settlements. Several 'Bere's indicate Anglo-Saxon wood groves, as 'leighs' indicate clearings.
Devon has a variety of festivals and traditional practices, including the traditional orchard-visiting Wassail in Whimple every 17 January, and the carrying of flaming tar barrels in Ottery St. Mary, where people who have lived in Ottery for long enough are called upon to celebrate Bonfire Night by running through the village (and the gathered crowds) with flaming barrels on their backs. Berry Pomeroy still celebrates "Queen's Day" for Elizabeth I.
The county has given its name to a number of culinary specialities. The Devonshire cream tea, involving scones, jam and clotted cream, is thought to have originated in Devon (though claims have also been made for neighbouring counties); in other countries, such as Australia and New Zealand, it is known as a "Devonshire tea". In Australia, Devon is a name for luncheon meat (processed ham).
In October 2008, Devon was awarded Fairtrade County status by the Fairtrade Foundation.
Devon is known for its mariners, such as Sir Francis Drake, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, Sir Richard Grenville, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Sir Francis Chichester. Henry Every, described as the most notorious pirate of the late 17th century, was probably born in the village of Newton Ferrers. John Oxenham (1536–1580) was a lieutenant of Drake but considered a pirate by the Spanish. Thomas Morton (1576–1647?) was an avid Elizabethan outdoorsman probably born in Devon who became an attorney for The Council For New England, and built the New England fur-trading-plantation called Ma-Re Mount or Merrymount around a West Country-style Maypole, much to the displeasure of Pilgrim and Puritan colonists. Morton wrote a 1637 book New English Canaan about his experiences, partly in verse, and may have thereby become America's first poet to write in English. Another famous mariner and Devonian was Robert Falcon Scott, the leader of the unfortunate Terra Nova Expedition to reach the geographical South Pole. The poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the crime writer Agatha Christie and the poet Ted Hughes lived in Devon (his funeral and cremation were held there). The painter and founder of the Royal Academy, Sir Joshua Reynolds, was born in Devon.
The actor Matthew Goode was raised in Devon, and Bradley James, also an actor, was born there. The singer Joss Stone was brought up in Devon and frontman Chris Martin from the British rock group Coldplay was born there. Matt Bellamy, Dominic Howard and Christopher Wolstenholme from the English group Muse all grew up in Devon and formed the band there. Dave Hill of rock band Slade was born in Flete House which is in the South Hams district of Devon. Singer-songwriter Ben Howard grew up in Totnes, a small town in Devon. Another famous Devonian is the model and actress Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, who was born in Plymouth and raised in Tavistock. The singer and songwriter Rebecca Newman was born and raised in Exmouth.
Trevor Francis, former Nottingham Forest and Birmingham City professional footballer was born and brought up in Plymouth. Swimmer Sharron Davies and diver Tom Daley were born in Plymouth. Peter Cook the satirist, writer and comedian was born in Torquay, Devon. Leicester Tigers and British and Irish Lions Rugby player Julian White MBE was born and raised in Devon and now farms a herd of pedigree South Devon beef cattle. The dog breeder John "Jack" Russell was also from Devon. Jane McGrath, who married Australian cricketer Glenn McGrath was born in Paignton, her long battle with and subsequent death from breast cancer inspired the formation of the McGrath Foundation, which is one of Australia's leading charities.
Images for kids
Part of the seafront of Torquay, south Devon, at high tide.
Devon Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.