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Themes Explorers and Adventurers Nobel Prize Winners
Actors/Actresses and Directors Famous People Places of Interest
Anglo-Saxons and Danes Historic Events Prime Ministers
Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty Inventors and Scientists Royal Consorts and Heirs
Artists and Architects Monarchs World Heritage Sites
Composers National Parks Writers and Poets

Devon lies in south-western England between the English Channel to the south and the Bristol Channel to the north.

Towns include the county seat of Exeter.

The island of Lundy lies off its northern coastline.

Anglo-Saxons and Danes

Together with its westerly neighbour Cornwall, Devon formed part of the Celtic kingdom of Dumnonia. It later became the last part of Britain to be conquered by the Anglo-Saxons when it became a part of the West Saxon kingdom of Wessex.

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty
The North Devon AONB was designated in 1959 to protect the county's northern coast and runs west from the village of Combe Martin down as far as the neighbouring county of Cornwall taking in some of the most spectacular coastline in England.

The South Devon AONB was designated in 1960 to protect the coastline in the south of the county. Stretching from Torbay in the east to the city of Plymouth in the west the area includes the Dart and Kingsbridge estuaries, the South Hams and famous beauty spots such as Bolt Head and Slapton Sands.

The East Devon AONB was designated in 1963 covering the distinctive and largely unspoilt southern coastline stretching east from Exmouth to near Lyme Regis.

The Blackdown Hills - a range of hills running along part of the county's eastern border with Somerset - were designated an AONB in 1991.

The Tamar Valley AONB includes three river systems: the Tamar and Tavy rivers to the north of Plymouth and the Lynher to the west of the city. All three rivers enter the sea in one of England's last unspoilt estuaries. The east of the AONB lies in the neighbouring county of Devon and was designated in 1995.

Artists and Architects
The portrait painter Joshua Reynolds was born in Plympton Earls in 1723. He died in 1792 and is buried in St Paul's Cathedral.

Joshua Reynolds
Famous people buried at St Paul's Cathedral

Explorers and Adventurers
Francis Drake was born at Crowndale near Tavistock in 1540. In 1577 he set sail from Plymouth in the Pelican (later renamed the Golden Hind), returning to Plymouth in 1580 and becoming the first Englishman to circumnavigate the world. From 1581 he lived at Buckland Abbey in the county until 1596 when he died of fever off Porto Bello in Panama. He was buried at sea.

Francis Drake

Walter Ralegh was born about 1552 in Hayes Barton, growing up near the Devon coast.

Walter Ralegh
Poetry Archive

The sailor Martin Frobisher died in Plymouth in 1594. He set out on the first of three attempts to find the Northwest Passage round Canada in 1576, the first Englishman to do so since John Cabot and his son had failed to find the elusive route to Asia. Frobisher had reached as far as Labrador and named the area he found Frobisher Bay. Later in his life he sailed with Francis Drake and also fought against the Spanish Armada. It was during a later battle against the Spanish off Brest in France that Frobisher was mortally wounded, dying on his return to port at Plymouth.

Martin Frobisher
Spanish Armada

William Bligh was born in 1754 in Plymouth. He sailed on Captain James Cook's third and last world voyage from 1776-80 and in 1787 took command of "The Bounty" to Tahiti. After the infamous mutiny in 1789 by the ship's first-mate Fletcher Christian and his men, Bligh was set adrift with 18 other crewmembers in an open boat on the the Pacific Ocean. They survived, sailing over 5,800 kilometres to reach land at Timor.

William Bligh

Richard Francis Burton was born in Torquay in 1821. In 1856 he set out with John Hanning Speke to find the source of the Nile and in 1858 they became the first Europeans to reach Lake Tanganyika. Burton, suffering from malaria, had to turn back and it was Speke travelling on alone who discovered the river's source which he named Lake Victoria. Burton died in 1890 in Trieste which then lay in the Austrian Empire, now in Italy.

Richard Francis Burton

Burton's companion John Hanning Speke was born near Bideford in the county in 1827. In 1856 he set out with Richard Francis Burton to find the source of the Nile and in 1858 they became the first Europeans to reach Lake Tanganyika. Burton, suffering from malaria, had to turn back and it was Speke travelling on alone who discovered the river's source which he named Lake Victoria. Speke died in 1864 when he accidentally shot himself during a partridge shoot in Wiltshire.

John Hanning Speke

Robert Falcon Scott was born in Devonport in 1868. He died in 1912 after reaching the South Pole after the Norwegian Roald Amundsen. Scott and his team were caught in a blizzard and died in their tents. Their bodies were not discovered until eight months later still in their sleeping bags with diaries recording their last days.

Robert Falcon Scott
Race to the South Pole

Famous People

In 1650 the Duke of Marlborough was born as John Churchill in Ashe. During a long military career he would be at the centre of events which changed the course of British history.

In 1685 at the
Battle of Sedgemoor he led the forces which put down the Monmouth Rebellion against the Catholic James II. In 1688 when the Protestant William of Orange landed in Dorset, Churchill promptly changed sides, abandoning James II who was forced into exile. In 1692 he was imprisoned in the Tower of London for six weeks.

During the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-14) he commanded the British forces gaining an important victory at Blenheim in 1704, a victory which altered the balance of power in Europe. Later he would
be forced into exile himself before finally - towards the end of his life - falling back into favour with the country's ruling elite.

For his victory at Blenheim he was given the former royal palace at Woodstock in Oxfordshire. This he had rebulit and renamed
Blenheim Palace and it was here that his descendant Winston Churchill would be born over a century and a half later.

Duke of Marlborough
Famous people imprisoned at the Tower of London

The double-agent Guy Burgess was born in Devonport in 1910. While studying at Cambridge University he joined the Communist Party together with three friends and fellow students: Kim Philby, Donald Maclean and Anthony Blunt. The four - who became known as the Cambridge Spies - would later divulge many secrets to the Soviet Union and become one of the most notorious and damaging spy rings to operate in Britain during the Cold War. Burgess died in Moscow in 1963 where he had fled to in 1951 after he and Maclean were warned by Philby that they had been uncovered.

Guy Burgess
Cambridge Spies
Cold War

Historic Events

Landings and Departures
In 1577 Francis Drake set sail from Plymouth in the Pelican (later renamed the Golden Hind), returning to Plymouth three years later to become the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe. It was also on the Hoe at Plymouth, where Drake played bowls in 1588 as the Spanish Armada approached in the English Channel.

Francis Drake
Spanish Armada

In 1620 the Pilgrim Fathers set sail for America from Plymouth in the Mayflower, after being forced to return due to bad weather after initially leaving from Southampton.

In 1688 William of Orange landed at the fishing port of Brixham from where his army marched north to London forcing his father-in-law James II into exile in France and heralding what became known as the Glorious Revolution. The following year he was crowned William III and ruled jointly with his wife Mary II.

William III
Glorious Revolution

All three of Captain James Cook's expeditions departed from Plymouth: the first (1768-71), the second (1772-75) and the last (1776-80).

Captain James Cook
Captain James Cook
Captain Cook Society

Inventors and Scientists

The mathematician Charles Babbage was born in Teignmouth in 1791. He pioneered the era of modern computing when in 1835 he designed the world's very first programmable computer. Babbage was unable to take his idea further than the drawing board but it was a simplified version of his 1835 design which George Scheutz used to build his programmable computer in Sweden in 1855. It was for Babbage's 1835 design that Lord Byron's daughter Ada Lovelace wrote a computer program and in doing so became the world's first computer programmer. In recognition a computer language was named after her, ADA.

Charles Babbage

Ada Lovelace

National Parks

Dartmoor was designated a National Park in 1951.

Exmoor is England's smallest National Park and was created in 1954.

Places of Interest

Cathedrals and Abbeys
Exeter Cathedral

Historic Buildings
Greenway, Agatha Christie's home

Stately Homes and Palaces
Buckland Abbey

World Heritage Sites

The Dorset and East Devon coastline was designated a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO in 2001. The rocks exposed in the coastline's cliffs illustrate 185 million years of earth's history.

The Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape was designated a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO in 2006. The landscape contains the industrial remnants of an extensive network of mines in the west of the county and neighbouring Cornwall which once provided 50% of the world's supply of copper and tin. The industry transformed the area's landscape in the 18th and 19th centuries, made a significant contribution to the industrial revolution and exported its mining methods and expertise across the world.

Writers and Poets
Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born in Ottery St Mary in 1772.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Friends of Coleridge

Like one, that on a lonesome road
Doth walk in fear and dread,
And having once turned round walks on,
And turns no more his head;
Because he knows, a frightful fiend
Doth close behind him tread.

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1798)

In 1890 Agatha Christie, creator of Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, was born as Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller in Torquay. Greenway, a house lying on the banks of the nearby River Dart, was acquired by the author in 1938 and stayed in her family until 2000 when it was donated to the National Trust. It was here she wrote many of her later books.

Agatha Christie

I learned... that one can never go back, that one should not ever try to go back - that the essence of life is going forward. Life is really a One Way Street.
At Bertram's Hotel (1965)

John Fowles, author of The Magus and The French Lieutenant's Woman, died in 2005 at Axminster in the county, not far from his home in Lyme Regis on the Dorset coast.

John Fowles realize that life, ... , is not a symbol, is not one riddle and one failure to guess it, is not to inhabit one face alone or to be given up after one losing throw of the dice; but is to be, however inadequately, emptily, hopelessly into the city's iron heart, endured. And out again, upon the unplumb'd, salt, estranging sea.
The French Lieutenant's Woman - Closing lines of novel (1969)

County Links Genealogy in England

Genealogy Links

Record Offices
and Archives
North Devon
Devon & Cornwall Record Society
History Society
Online Parish Clerk