TAVISTOCK, a town of Devonshire, England, is finely situated in the valley of the Tavy, on the western border of Dartmoor, and on the South Devon Railway, 15 miles north of Plymouth, 14 south-east of Launceston, and 213 west-south-west of London. The town has been greatly improved since 1845, chiefly at the expense of the duke of Bedford, by the construction of a system of sewage and the erection of many new dwellings suitable for the working classes. There are some remains (including a portion in the square, now used as a public library established in 1799) of the magnificent abbey of Sts Mary and Rumon, first founded in 961 by Orgar, earl of Devon. After destruction by the Danes in 997 it was restored, and among its famous abbots were Lyfing, friend of Canute, and Aldred, who crowned Harold II. and William, and died archbishop of York. The abbey church was rebuilt in 1285, and the greater part of the abbey in 1457-58. The church of St Eustachius possesses a lofty tower supported on four open arches. Among the principal public buildings are the guildhall (1848), the corn market (1838), the market buildings (1858), and the new hall for concerts and public entertainments. Near the town is Kelly College, opened in 1877, founded by Admiral Benedictus Marwood Kelly, with a preference for the founder's kin. Mines of copper, manganese, lead, silver, and tin are in the neighbourhood, and the town possesses a considerable trade in cattle and corn, as well as a brewery. The population of the township in 1881 was 6914. The parliamentary borough (area 11,450 acres), which had a population in 1871 of 7725 and in 1881 of 6879, was merged in the county in 1885.
The town owes its origin to tho foundation of the abbey in 961. From Henry I. the abbots obtained the entire jurisdiction of the hundred of Tavistock, with a weekly market. A school for Saxon literature was established by the monks, which flourished till the Reformation. The Royalists were quartered at Tavistock after the defeat of the Parliamentarians on Bradock Down in 1643, and Charles I. visited it on his way to Cornwall. It returned members to parliament from the time of Edward I. till 1885, among its representatives having been John Pym, the great opposer of the policy of Charles I., and William, Lord Russell, beheaded in the reign of Charles II. Among the famous natives of Tavistock are Sir John Glanville, judge under James I., William Brown, the author of Britannia's Pastorals, and Sir Francis Drake, of whom a colossal statue by Boehm was presented to the town by the duke of Bedford in 1883.