Townscapes - Totnes


This page is the first of what I hope will be a series.

The urban form of Totnes was established more than 500 years ago. The town was divided into thin strips (burghage plots) which run perpendicular to the main street which climbs the hill from the river Dart to the Castle. These strips originally had just one house, fronting the street, but over time have been built on so that now there are often three or four houses all sharing the same street frontage. There are small passageways or paths that give access to the houses at the rear.

As usual, click on a picture to see a larger (800 by 600 pixel) version.

The road in the picture, Castle Street, runs at right angles to the main street, and hence is parallel to the burghage plots. Note the small courtyard gardens.
The only road in the picture can be glimpsed as a narrow slot at the top right. The only access to most of the houses in the picture is through narrow alleyways. You can imagine the fun when people move house!

Another picture showing the density of Totnes living and the persistent influence of the original burghage plots. The preservation of these features owes much to the dramatic fall in Totnes' prosperity in the 18th and 19th centuries which meant that people could not afford to pull down old houses and build new ones. As a result Totnes has more listed buildings than any other town in England.
The green-roofed building is the Totnes Civic Hall, built in the 1960s (and much-reviled). The area in front is a busy market on Fridays and Saturdays - with stalls selling food, clothes, flowers, second-hand bric-a-brac and much else. This photo was taken in the late afternoon so most of the stalls have gone. Once again note the burghage plots - there's just one street in this picture (running in front of the market square).

There's just one street here too, running from middle left to middle top, in this view of houses jumbled together. It's the narrowest part of the main street of Totnes, aptly called "The Narrows" as it's less than 15 feet wide including narrow pavements (sidewalks). There are shops on both sides and cars make their way through with difficulty.
This is an excerpt from the picture on the left as it comes from the camera. The narrow wedge-shaped garden with red-brown tables running diagonally across the picture belongs to a restaurant (Wood's).

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