Barnstaple is an old town and port in North Devon, at the lowest fordable point of the estuary of the River Taw, and 9 miles from Bideford.
Its charter, received in 930, is one of the earliest in England.
Barnstaple was the largest port on the North Devon coast until the river started to silt up in the 18th century. It also had a shipbuilding tradition.
There was a Norman castle here, of which the mound survives. Castle House stands in the grounds, and was built with stone from the demolished castle.
St. Peter and St. Paul Church is in the old heart of the town. It dates partly from the 14th century and has a twisted lead spire.
St. Anne`s Chapel stands in the churchyard, and dates from the 14th century.
The Grammar School was endowed in 1646, but its history goes back much further. John Gay, who wrote "The Beggar`s Opera", was a pupil at the school.
There are many fine buildings from the 17th century, including Horwood`s Almshouses.
The Market House was built in 1856, and houses the famous Pannier Market. It is 320 feet long, while the Butchers` Row is even longer. The Merchants` Exchange, now known as Queen Anne`s Walk, dates from 1708, and preserves the Tome Stone where bargains were sealed.
The massive bridge dates from around 1430. It was built by a local merchant who had witnessed a woman being drowned while attempting to cross the river.
Barnstaple was famous for its pottery, much of which was exported to America, from the 17th century, and the 1886 Brannam`s Pottery survives.
Among those born at Barnstaple are Francis Chichester, round the world yachtsman; and John Gay, poet.