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Barnstaple

Trip Planner Europe  /  UK  /  England  /  Devon  /  Barnstaple
(3.9/5 based on 2,400+ reviews for top 20 attractions)
Things to do: zoos & aquariums, museums, parks
Barnstaple or is the main town of North Devon, England, and possibly the oldest borough in the United Kingdom. It is a former river-port, located at the lowest crossing-point of the River Taw, flowing into the Bristol Channel.From the 14th century, it was licensed to export wool, since the merchants claimed that the town had been declared a free borough in Saxon times. This brought great wealth to Barnstaple, whose town centre still preserves a medieval layout and character. Later the town became an importer of Irish wool, but its harbour silted up, and it developed other industries, such as shipbuilding, foundries and sawmills. Its Victorian market survives, with its high glass and timber roof on iron columns. Barnstaple railway station is the terminus of a branch line from Exeter, known as the Tarka Line.Since 1974, Barnstaple has been a civil parish governed by town council. The parish itself has a population of 23,710, but the population of the whole urban area is 30,916, and including the satellite settlements known as the Barnstaple Town Area, it is 53,514.ToponymyThe old spelling Barnstable is now obsolete, but is retained by an American county and town and is still sometimes used for Bideford or Barnstable Bay. The name is first recorded in the 10th century and is believed to derive from the Old English bearde, meaning "battle-axe", and stapol, meaning "pillar", referring to a post or pillar set up to mark a religious or administrative meeting place. The belief that the name derives from staple meaning "market", indicating that there was a market here from the foundation of the settlement, is incorrect, because the use of staple in that sense is not recorded in England before 1423.
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