Newton Abbot is located close to the Dartmoor National Park with its beautiful scenery, as well as to the attractive beaches of Dawlish, Teignmouth and Torquay. The Town Council organises various activities during the year including a Cheese & Onion Fayre, a Town Criers’ Championship, a Victorian Evening, the Barham Cup Race and entry in the South West Tourism Regional Britain in Bloom competition.
The ancient St Leonard’s Tower is in the centre of town. This tower is all that remains of the 14th century church of St. Leonard. A plaque next to the tower marks the spot where the first declaration of William III, Prince of Orange was read in 1688. William stayed overnight in Newton Abbot as he travelled to London from Brixham to assume the English throne.
Forde House is located in the south east corner of the town, was built in 1610. King Charles I stayed there in 1625 and William of Orange in 1688. Bradley Manor lies at the opposite end of Newton Abbot. This National Trust property is a 13th century manor house in a secluded woodland setting. It has an impressive great hall, emblazoned with the royal arms of Elizabeth I.
Close to the town centre is Tucker’s Maltings, the only traditional malt house in the country which is open to the public. There are guided tours through the malt house, which produces enough malt to brew fifteen million pints of beer each year.
Newton Abbot Racecourse is the leading summer racecourse in the UK. In addition to providing National Hunt racing, it offers a venue for other events throughout the year.
The town of Newton Abbot was formed at the beginning of the 20th century from the two former Manors of Newton Abbot and Newton Bushel. The town stands on the River Lemon, which was the boundary between the manors. There was formerly a ford close to the ancient clock tower.
Originally known as Teignwick, Newton Bushel was renamed in the 13th century after Robert Bushel, Lord of the Manor. As his Manor developed, Bushel obtained the right to hold fairs on All Saints Day and at Ascension tide, in addition to a weekly market beside old St Mary’s Chapel.
The Bushels were succeeded by the Yardes and Richard Yarde built Bradley Manor much as it is today. He also restored the ancient Church of St Mary’s and built the Bradley Aisle at Highweek Church. At this time, permission was obtained from the Pope for a burial ground to be attached to the church. Previously, the people of Newton Bushel had to bury their dead at Kingsteignton and, due to frequent flooding of the river, funerals were often held up. After the dissolution of Torre Abbey, the New Town of the Abbot was united with Newton Bushel.
In 1269 the New Town of the Abbot obtained the Royal Charter for a Friday market to be held in Wolborough Street. The fair was held in honour of St Leonard annually in November. The chief products sold were onions and cheese thus the present day cheese and onion fair in Newton Abbot. In 1633 Newton Abbot Market absorbed the Newton Bushel one and in 1826 the combined markets were moved their present site.
For many centuries Newton Abbot and Newton Bushel went their separate ways. Both districts benefited from the wool, leather, clay and pottery industries. Up to the beginning of the 19th century, there was a large amount of trade with Newfoundland due to the cod fisheries. There is still a Newfoundland Way to this day.
The event which brought prosperity to the town was the coming of the railway in 1846. This opened up the town to visitors from elsewhere at a time when the nearby coastal resorts were becoming very popular. Newton Abbot was governed after 1894 by an Urban District Council and in 1901 Newton Bushel was invited to send members thus forming a united Council. Today the name Bushel survives only as one of the town’s wards but the insignia of the two districts, the three bushels of Newton Bushel and the mitre, crosier, lamb and tower of Newton Abbot, form the coat of arms of the present town.
The local museum provides a glimpse into the way in which the town grew over the centuries. Its displays illustrate key points of local history. There are exhibitions of Aller Vale pottery, oil paintings and water colours as well as many artefacts from the heyday of the Great Western Railway.