Tiverton Wool Trade No 3 of 5 on the history of this Devon town

The Devon town of Tiverton, 'two-ford-town', owes this name to its location between two rivers and its fame to the industry – the wool trade – which developed alongside them in the Middle Ages. In its heyday (1500-1750), thousands found work in the manufacture of woollen cloth and merchants grew rich on their profits. Their heritage can be followed around the town today.

BAMPTON HOUSE was the home of the Enchmarch family, merchants. After Thomas Enchmarch died in 1735, his widow Sarah, mother of ten, ran the business for another 25 years. She sent spies to learn the latest techniques used in Norwich and employed a work force of 200 making new varieties of cloth. This enterprising lady toured the town in a sedan chair and re-built the Enchmarch mansion in 1749.

MARKET CROSS. Across the street is an original arch from Tiverton's MARKET CROSS. Built in 1649 and restored after the 1731 fire by William Upcott, it once stood in Fore Street. In 1783 Benjamin Dickinson dismantled it in an improvement scheme. See the model in Tiverton Museum.

The MARKET HOUSE, or CORN MARKET 1732. The most important surviving building in Bampton Street. Sympathetic restoration was achieved in 1971.

MARTIN DUNSFORD (1744-1807), churchwarden and historian, was one of the last of the merchants. His house and workshops were opposite the Corn Market. Successive wars in the late 18th century ruined his business. He died bankrupt but had somehow found time to write the remarkable Historical Memoirs of Tiverton, 1790, his enduring legacy.

SAMUEL LEWIS (1684-1748) built this splendid merchant's mansion at the east end of Fore Street after the 1731 fire. His nephew William Lewis was joint-founder with Benjamin Dickinson of Tiverton's first bank. When trade collapsed in 1798, he hanged himself from the bedpost.
In 1857 Thomas Ford moved his brewery here, later Starkey, Knight & Ford. Tragically, this building did not survive conversion to a Tesco store in 1970.

Opposite was the THREE TUNS, where once merchants met to talk business and politics. Later renamed the PALMERSTON HOTEL, Tiverton's prime hostelry was pulled down in 1961.

© Copyright of Lifechart 2008


Merchants' Trail was devised, researched and written by Tiverton Civic Society and commissioned by Mid Devon District Council, with Heritage Lottery Funding. Design and production was by Lifechart. Directions and medallions were by local schoolchildren. Full acknowledgments and further information is available at

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