Heritage Open Days 2019 - what will you discover?

The Heritage Open Days festival runs from 13th-22nd September this year - the biggest ever celebration of England's history and culture!

We've worked with other organisations in Tavistock to produce an exciting calendar of events and site openings, including visits to some properties which have not been opened to the public in recent times. All events are completely free!

We hope that you find plenty in the listings below which interests you - why not go along to a few events and learn a bit more about Tavistock's fascinating past?

Site openings and events

Abbey Chapel Porch

A rare opportunity to visit one of the most fascinating remnants of Tavistock Abbey

When: Saturday 14 September 14.00-17.00 and Saturday 21 September 14.00-17.00

Where: Abbey Chapel, next to the post office

Organised by: Tavistock Heritage Trust

Booking required?: No

Tavistock Abbey offered hospitality to travellers and those of distinction would dine in the Abbot’s Hall, now known as Tavistock Abbey Chapel. In the early sixteenth century a sheltered porch was added to enter the Abbot’s Hall from the north and part of the magnificent surviving fabric of this porch depicts a story of a bitter feud between the abbot of Tavistock and the Bishop of Exeter in 1513. The porch itself is an excellent example of changing uses of ancient buildings into modern day use. This building is very atmospheric and is a ‘must see’.

Abbotsfield Hall

Built for William Morris's brother, Abbotsfield Hall was also the site of important conferences held in the run up to D Day, attended by Eisenhower, Montgomery and other Allied commanders.

When: Tuesday 17 September 14.00 - 17.00 and Thursday 19 September 14.00 - 17.00

Where: Abbotsfield Hall, Abbotsfield, Tavistock

Organised by: Tavistock Heritage Trust

Booking required?: No

Immediately prior to the D-Day invasion of Normandy on 6th June 1944, General Dwight Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe, and Field Marshall Lord Montgomery of Alamein attended important conferences in this house, which was the HQ 29th Division of the US Army. The house, described by some as pretentious, was built in 1852 for Thomas Morris, the Managing Director of the Devon Great Consols Mining Company. Thomas Morris was the brother of William Morris, poet, designer, artist and pioneer socialist who designed the Morris window in St Eustachius. Parish Church. This is a rare opportunity to visit this important and unique part of Tavistock’s history.

Bedford Masonic Lodge

A rare opportunity to visit Tavistock's historic Masonic Lodge.

When: Friday 20 September 10.00 - 13.00 and Saturday 21 September 10.00 - 13.00

Where: Bedford Masonic Lodge, Pym Street

Organised by: Bedford Masonic Lodge

Booking required?: No

The first Masonic Temple in Tavistock was the first meeting held in the Kings Arms Inn on the 21st September 1791. The Lodge building on Pym Street today was built in 1901 for the sum of £944 with a donation of £75 from the Duke of Bedford; internal layout and fabric of the building remain largely unaltered with the notable additions of electric lighting in 1921, and a bar and kitchen in 1968. This is truly a rare opportunity to visit Lodge premises and celebrate the first meeting of September 1791. Lodge members will be available as guides.

Butchers' Hall

The recently-restored Butchers Hall is a Grade II Listed building originally constructed in the 1860s for the Seventh Duke of Bedford as part of a new market development for the town.

When: Sunday 22 September: 11.00am - 2.00pm

Where: Butchers' Hall, next to the Pannier Market

Organised by: Tavistock Town Council

Booking required?: No

A Grade II listed building in the centre of Tavistock, a World Heritage site, Butchers Hall still retains most of its original architecture, complete with butchers' tables, but it has recently undergone extensive conservation, repair and restoration. 

The restoration work has included new roof coverings in natural slate as well as new highly detailed lead central valley were constructed, alongside intricate high level joinery repairs, ensuring the natural light from the roof lanterns spills into the space below. This has been complimented by a strip out and subsequent full internal refurbishment which includes beautifully designed and set out pendant lighting.

Original C19 paint colours were detected and then analysed and have been applied throughout the project, and subsequently in other prominent locations within the town, thereby ensuring an historic link to the past is recreated throughout Tavistock.

Architect Simon Crosbie will be on site to talk about the history and restoration work. 

Catholic Church of Our Lady of the Assumption and St Mary Magdalen, Tavistock

Our church, an integral part of the history of Tavistock, the Dukes of Bedford and the copper mines of the 19th Century

When: Saturday 14 September 11.00-15.30 and Saturday 21 September 11.00-15.30

Where: Tavistock Catholic Church, Callington Road

Organised by: Catholic Church of Our Lady of the Assumption and St Mary Magdalen

Booking required?: No

In the 19th century copper was found to the west of Tavistock, and the town's population boomed. In the 1860s William, eighth Duke of Bedford, built a Chapel of Ease for the Anglican church of St Eustacius, for use by the miners who worked in the Great Consoles copper mines. 

This Chapel was erected in 1865 and is in an Italianate manner with a tall almost detached tower on the north side, under which is the principal entrance. There is a second more ornate entrance on the south side which was for the use of the Dukes of Bedford. The detailing of the church is a mixture of Romanesque arcading and Gothic capitals. 

The church has a number of interesting features. 

The Crucifix on the east wall of the Sanctuary was donated by the Bridgettine Order of nuns. It is believed the crucifix was carved in Portugal circa 1595 when the nuns moved there following the Reformation, and was then brought back to England when the nuns returned in 1861. 

There is a second altar, carved by Polish servicemen stationed in Yelverton during WWII, in memory of fallen comrades; many of whom died at the battle for Monte Casino. 

As copper production declined in the mines towards the end of the nineteenth century, so did the population on the western side of Tavistock. A second Anglican church was not necessary and it closed. In 1953 the church was bought by the Catholic Diocese of Plymouth and now serves the catholic population of Tavistock and the surrounding area.

Climb the tower of St Eustachius!

The tower is one of the few visible remains of the 1318 church. There are 166 steps to the top of the tower which is 90 feet high. The final stage of the climb will bring us to the top of the tower and a panoramic view of Tavistock!

When: Saturday 21 September: 10.00-12.00

Where: St Eustachius

Organised by: St Eustachius Parish Church, Tavistock

Booking required?: No

What you will see on the climb....

Ringing Chamber
The first 50 steps bring you to the ringing chamber – the space from which the bells are rung. The first reference to bells is in 1385 when ‘twenty pence was spent on the bells’. In the Middle Ages these bells would have been used as a fire alarm for the town, and it was not until the late 15th century that references to new bells suggest a use more like that of today. Bells were also rung at 6am and 7pm in winter, and 5am and 9pm in summer, following by a number of chimes to indicate the day of the month – thus acting as both clock and calendar. In 1769 a new set of 8 bells was purchased, paid for by the Duke of Bedford. In 1998, two new bells were added giving us a total of 10 bells that are widely admired by local and visiting ringers alike. 

The next set of steps brings us to the level of the clock and the carillon. 

Clock & Carillon
The clock and chimes are first mentioned in 1540 when a bell ringer was recorded as being paid for ‘maintaining the clock and its chimes’. The present clock was installed in 1849. Made by Edward Dent, the famed London craftsman who made the clocks at the Royal Exchange and the Greenwich Observatory, it cost £500, £200 of which was raised from public subscriptions and the remainder by the Duke of Bedford. It has four faces, strikes each quarter hour and has a set of chimes, a carillon, connected to it. The carillon plays a different tune each weekday at 9am, noon, 6pm and 9pm.

Guided Walk - Tavistock's Wharves

Visit the wharves of Tavistock in the very heart of the town.

When: Wednesday 18 September: 14.00

Where: Meet at Tavistock Museum

Organised by: Tavistock Local History Society

Booking required?: No

This will include the Abbey Wharf behind Post Office & Bedford Hotel; the Canal Company’s public wharves and offices; and the proposed site of Wheal Friendship’s Wharf. All based upon Robert Waterhouse’s book “Tavistock Canal”.

Led by Stephen Docksey.

Guided Walk - Tavistock’s Industrial Heritage

On this walk we look back to a time when Tavistock was a busy industrial centre...

When: Friday 20 September 10.00

Where: Meet at Tavistock Museum

Organised by: Tavistock Local History Society

Booking required?: No

...looking at the location of the Abbey Mill which was replaced by the town's primary Mill producing flour; the Woollen Mills; and the three Iron Foundries established in Tavistock in the nineteenth century to support the mining and quarrying industries in and around the town. There are visible remains of all three foundries to be seen. We will also pass examples of the model dwellings built to house the miners and other workers.

Led by Simon Dell.

Guided Walk - Turnpikes, Canal and Railways

On this walk we will look at traces of how over the last 250 years getting to isolated Tavistock was made easier.

When: Tuesday 17 September 10.00

Where: Meet at Tavistock Museum

Organised by: Tavistock Local History Society

Booking required?: No

Tavistock, along with several other towns in Devon, proudly boasts the presence of a very popular ‘Pannier Market’ visited and used by residents and visitors alike. Its name comes from the panniers on the pack horses in which traders brought their goods for sale. This name reminds us of how inaccessible Tavistock was for many centuries.

Led by Tony Vigars

Mount Kelly

Tours of Mount Kelly, led by senior pupils.

When: Friday 13 September 16.30 and Friday 20 September 16.30

Where: Mount Kelly School, Parkwood Road

Organised by: Mount Kelly

Booking required?: No

Mount Kelly was founded in 1877, under the terms of the will of Admiral Benedictus Marwood Kelly, on land donated by the Duke of Bedford. Its original mission was to educate “the sons of naval officers and other gentlemen”, and following a merger with Mount House Preparatory School in 2014 is one of the leading independent schools in the South West.

A Heritage Open Day tour of Mount Kelly offers the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful grounds at both the Prep and the College, see around the historically significant buildings, meet some of the pupils, and gain an insight into the realities of life in a modern independent school. There will also be an opportunity to discuss with senior staff the commercial underpinnings of the school, how it makes and spends its money, and gain some sense of the strategic and operational challenges of running a large independent school. Tea and coffee will be served at the conclusion of the tours, and the School’s Chamber Choir and leading musicians will perform a brief selection of their favourite pieces in the Chapel.

The myths, legends and art of the mysterious St Eustachius

An illustrated talk by art historian Dr Geri Parlby

When: Thursday 19 September: 14.00

Where: St Eustachius Parish Church

Organised by: Tavistock Heritage Trust

Booking required?: No

The stories of the lives of saints and martyrs from the early centuries of Christianity are often surrounded by a cloud of mystery and legend and St Eustachius is no exception.

In this talk we will try to separate the truth from the fiction and look at how Eustachius has been portrayed in art throughout the centuries and why Tavistock’s parish church is one of only three churches in England dedicated to him.

From martyred Roman general to fashionable liquor, the stories that surround this 2nd century saint will amaze you. 

Pannier Market, Tavistock

Built by the Duke of Bedford, the building forms the centre of the ancient trading town of Tavistock and is used daily as a lively market. Visitors will be able to see and hear about the recent restoration work guided by Architect Simon Crosbie

When: Sunday 22 September 11.00am - 2.00pm

Where: The Pannier Market, Tavistock

Organised by: Tavistock Town Council

Booking required?: No

A recently restored Grade II listed building in the centre of Tavistock 

During the restoration roof slates were replaced with saved original slates incorporated onto the south slope. A new perimeter valley lead gutter was designed and ensures rainwater is now dispersed off the envelope correctly.

Window, wall and floor repairs were completed using traditional materials and methods.

To open up each elevation onto the surrounding perimeter and beyond if you look carefully, the unsightly modern doors were all replaced with elegant glass units. This along with the new modern glass to the high level windows pours natural light into the main hall. 

To compliment this and reflect the contemporary Butchers Hall opposite, new highly specified lights have been carefully laid out in a grid system, and along with a re-calibration of the heating system provides a new enjoyable and inspired use of the Market. 

Externally, new landscaping has taken place which includes the creation of new granite pathways leading from each doorway, complimented by soft tone resin coatings to the larger areas. New extremely high quality external lighting has been laid to the perimeter, which provides night time ambiance, something the Pannier has not achieved before. This will offer a vibrant atmosphere to the area after dusk, complimented by the internal lights to both buildings. 

Pictures from the Thorington Collection

A survey of the social history of the Tavistock area from the sixties to the nineties.

When: Monday 16th - Friday 20th September during opening hours

Where: The Bedford Hotel

Organised by: Tavistock Local History Society

Booking required?: No

Jim Thorington was the press photographer for the Tavistock Gazette and freelance journalist from the 1960s until his death in 2002. He left us with a truly irreplaceable and unique legacy and the heritage of our town is richer for it.

Plymouth Road Cemetery, Tavistock

Join Alex Mettler for a guided walk around the grounds and buildings of the Plymouth Road Cemetery.

When: Sunday 15 September and Sunday 22 September - tours at 14.00 and 15.30 on both days

Where: Plymouth Road Cemetery

Organised by: Tavistock Heritage Trust

Booking required?: No

From time immemorial burials in Britain have centred on the local churchyards - this was also substantially the case in Tavistock until the 1830s, when extra space was provided in the Dolvin Road Cemeteries. An Act of 1875 required closure of all of these grounds and the Duke of Bedford provided space and buildings for burials in the Plymouth Road Cemetery which was opened for its first burial in March 1882. Join Alex Mettler for a short walk around these grounds and wonderful granite buildings (after Henry Clutton).

The Robey Trust

A demonstration of working steam-engines and other heritage machinery manufactured by the firm of Robey and Co. Ltd.

When: Saturday 21 September 11.00 - 17.00 and Sunday 22 September 11.00 - 17.00

Where: The Robey Trust, Pixon Lane

Organised by: Tavistock Heritage Trust

Booking required?: No

Robey and Co. Ltd. was an engineering company which was important in British industrial heritage for 150 years; it ceased trading in 1983. We have an extensive collection of Robey machinery and memorabilia, including road steam engines, stationary engines and other items illustrating the British manufacturing industry through the late-nineteenth to twentieth centuries. There will be demonstrations of working steam engines and other items of Robey manufacture throughout the day. You will also be able to see how the collection is maintained by volunteers. Light refreshments.

We can be found at the higher end of Pixon Lane, situated between the stone railway bridge and Market Inn. Follow the sign to "King's". There is free parking in the council car park, continue to the far end of the car park and take the right fork in the road where you will see The Robey Trust building after about 50 yards.

Tavistock Subscription Library

Tavistock Subscription Library will be opening its doors during Heritage Open Days to allow guests and visitors to view this historic collection and enjoy a cup of coffee with members and to chat about the library and what it does in the community.

When: 9.30 - 16.00 on Friday 13 September, Saturday 14 September, Friday 20 September and Saturday 21 September

Where: Tavistock Subscription Library, next to Tavistock Museum

Organised by: Tavistock Subscription Library

Booking required?: No

The Tavistock Subscription Library was established in 1799 by the Unitarian minister, William Evans, and two young men of the town, Edward Atkins Bray the son of the Bedford agent Edward Bray, and John Commins along with a brilliant young engineer, John Taylor, to organise a public library to provide or lend books, periodicals and newspapers to subscribers, who paid an annual fee for the privilege.

A few such institutions then existed in other parts of the country, but Tavistock was earlier than either of the libraries in Plymouth, and that in Exeter. For the first twenty years the library occupied part of the premises of a local bookseller then a building known as the Propylaeum had a brief life during the 1820s, but was demolished after the book collection was moved to Court Gate in 1831 – its present home. The Library occasionally hosts visits from other learned bodies and can be used by researchers from elsewhere, by arrangement. The subscription in 2019 is at present £12 a year or £18 for family membership, and the financial situation is eased by holding regular coffee mornings. New books are acquired, by purchase or donation; there are now over 2,000 volumes plus reference material. A newsletter is circulated. There are now nearly a hundred members. For more information, or to apply for membership visit our website at www.tavistocksubscriptionlibrary.co.uk

Tavistock Library - Your mum or dad’s old stories? Don’t let them fade away…

Celebrate stories and history in a unique event. Listen to readings of personal experiences of historical events. Hear tales of life from years ago. Discover your family history with expert help. Have a story recorded.

When: Saturday 14 September, 11.00 - 14.00

Where: Tavistock Library, Plymouth Road

Organised by: Tavistock Library and Tavistock Area Support Services

Booking required?: No

Many of us have a mum or dad, a friend or relative who’s told us stories about their own lives that seemed… ordinary, incredible, hard, unlikely, different, extraordinary… But now? Perhaps these people are old and forgetful or have passed away, and their stories too are becoming dim and uncertain.

The Life Story Project (LSP) has been running for six years and its purpose is to give people the chance to document their own lives, in their own words, while they are still able to remember. This activity has proved very beneficial on many levels for those telling their stories, as well as the volunteers making the recordings and transcriptions.

LSP has arranged this Heritage Open Day event partly to mark our achievements to date, and partly to raise awareness and increase participation in our future work. The day involves LSP working with the Tavonians and Tavistock Library to add drama, depth and context to these oral histories. It is hoped this event will act as a springboard for further collaboration.

As a visitor, you will be able to listen to readings of people’s unique experiences of historical events. Hear people tell tales of life in remarkably different times. Find out about your family history with genealogists from Tavistock library. Have stories from your own life recorded.

The event runs from 11 AM to 2 PM and is completely free. Please come along – you can come and go as you please – but it could be something to remember forever!

William Morris and Friends at the Tavistock Inn

Tony Fey, landlord of the Tavistock Inn, will be hosting informal discussions about William Morris, his family connections with Tavistock, and the influence of arsenic in this area.

When: Tuesday 17 September: 12.00 - 23.00

Where: The Tavistock Inn, 19 Brook Street

Organised by: The Tavistock Inn

Booking required?: No

On Tuesday 17th September, the Tavistock Inn will be open to all, but for those who have a love of the arts & crafts movement & Victoriana, there is much more for them to see and enjoy! 

Landlord Tony Fey has a passion for the work of William Morris, not only for the textiles and wallpapers that remain in production today, but also his art, furniture and stained glass. 

Tony will be hosting informal discussions paying particular attention to Morris and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood the "Picture that escaped Tavistock." He will also be talking about Morris' connection to the West Country and his colours in fabric and wall hangings and the arsenic green dyes that helped to create the famous Morris Green. Tavistock’s Devon Great Consols mine was once one of the largest producers of arsenic in the world, and the Morris family were the major shareholders in the mine. 

As tribute to both William Morris’ vibrant use of colour and the arsenic green pigment in his wallpapers, Tony will also be preparing a range of green Gin & Tonics and cocktails.

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© 2017-19 Tavistock Heritage Trust. Registered Charity 1173744

A Company Limited by Guarantee. Company No. 10607931

Registered Office: Tavistock VIC, Court Gate, Bedford Square, Tavistock, PL19 0AE

Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund
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