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Devon facts

Weird and Wonderful Things you Didn’t Know About Devon

5th July 2016

Famed for its golden, sandy beaches, fossil clad cliffs and medieval towns, Devon is one of the UK’s top tourist areas. But Devon has another side to its history where some weird and wonderful things happened that you may not know about, read on to find out more.

Devon’s History of Witchcraft

witches of Devon

In the town of Bideford, in 1682, the last known trial and executions of 3 suspected witches took place. Temperance Lloyd, Mary Trembles and Susanna Edwards came to be at the gallows in what is a sad story of superstition and rumours. The witch-hunting craze had died down by the 17th century in England, but this story was exceptional due to the trial ending in their execution.  What was also unusual and somewhat uncomfortable about this story, was the fact the women came from sophisticated, provincial towns, whereas with hunts usually took place in rural villages.

Jack Russells Were First Bred in Devon

Jack Russell bred in Devon

We all know about the cute little dogs known as Jack Russells, but did you know that the breeder called John ‘Jack’ Russell was born in Dartmouth in Devon? Originally bred to hunt foxes back in the 19th century, Jack Russells have similar origins to the Fox Terrier, which they are often mistaken for.

The Hound of the Baskervilles

The film adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s third crime novel The Hound of the Baskervilles was filmed in Dartmoor on the spooky moors. The plot of the film sees Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson investigating the legend of a super-natural hound which they believe to be stalking a young heir on the moors that make up part of the estate.

It’s not just Europe that have Rivieras

Some people may not realise, but Devon’s coastline, which stretches over 22 miles of unspoilt coastline and spans through 3 towns of Devon, is actually the English Riviera.

Historic Water Tributaries

On Exeter’s high street you will find drinking fountains that date back to the medieval times of the 1300s, this was the first man-made drinking system supplying fresh drinking water in Exeter. You can go and visit the fountain where it still stands today and soak up a bit of Devonshire history.

Flaming Tar Barrels

Flaming Tar Barrels is a Devon tradition which dates back to the 17th century. Every bonfire night, barrels are seasoned with tar before being set alight and are then carried by the villagers on their shoulders. The event starts with small barrels for the children to carry, then larger for the ladies and larger again for the men; the heaviest are lit at midnight. These are then turned into a huge bonfire on the River Otter where a fun fair accompanies the flaming barrels.

Oldest Pasty

The pasty is of course a favourite snack among Britons, but the very first pasty recipe dated back to 1509 and was discovered in an accounts book in Plymouth. For the perfect Cornish pasty, find our traditional recipe here.

Some More Fun Facts

RivieraImage Source: iKathryn Yengel

  • The Royal Clarence Hotel in Exeter was built in 1769 but has parts that date back as far as the 1500s.
  • Homes now built in Exeter are 6 times more energy efficient than those built in the 1900s
  • 8 million people visit Devon each year; this was a similar amount to that of which visited Hawaii in the same year.
  • The oldest and still working steam engine resides in Dartmouth and was originally built in the 1700s.
  • Some famous names who were born in Devon include Chris Martin (Coldplay), Agatha Christie, Francis Drake, Miranda Hart, Peter Cook, Sharron Davies, Sue Barker, Tom Daley and Wayne Sleep.
  • Joseph Hansom not only designed the cathedral in Plymouth but he also invented the world’s first taxi.
  • Westward Ho! Is the only place in Britain to use an exclamation mark in the name.

If you are visiting Devon for the first time and are looking for the best places to eat, our top places to eat in Devon can recommend our favourite restaurants.

Featured Image Source: Saffron Blaze

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