Built on the remains of a Benedictine Abbey, the town of Tavistock, which now boasts some 11,000 residents, grew up around the Abbey which became the richest in the South West.
The town was given its Royal Charter in 1105.
The Abbey’s riches were seized by the Crown and the Abbey itself was destroyed during Henry VIII’s famed dissolution of the monasteries … not to mention a few marriages! His father, Henry VII, had even had the audacity to introduce the first licensing statute for alehouses in 1495.
As in many areas throughout Britain the feudal landlord was to give his name to the principal hostelry in the area. This was just the case in Tavistock with The Bedford Hotel taking its name from the Duke of Bedford who appointed no less an architect than Jeffry Wyatt who was also responsible for the transformation of Windsor Castle in 1824.
The inn, as it was at the time, was first noted in 1719. It’s transformation by Wyatt into The Bedford Hotel was completed in 1822, and a ballroom was added in 1830
For some years owned by the famous Forte dynasty, the Bedford Hotel has now returned to private ownership and once again enjoys its deserved position as Tavistock’s premier hotel.
Birthplace of the Devon Cream Tea
After piecing together fragments of manuscripts, it has been discovered that the people we have to thank for creating Devon’s favourite dish, ‘The Devon Cream Tea’, are the monks of Tavistock’s Benedictine Abbey.
The Abbey was established in the 10th century but was plundered and badly damaged by a band of marauding Vikings in 997AD.
It took a lot of hard work to restore the Abbey and the task was undertaken by Ordulf, Earl of Devon, whose father Ordgar had been responsible for establishing the Abbey in the first place.
Ordulf was helped by local workers; to reward them they were fed with bread, clotted cream and strawberry preserves … and so the Devon cream tea was born. They proved so popular that the monks continued to serve them to passing travellers (a tradition upheld by The Bedford Hotel today, which remains one of the finest places in the county in which to indulge in a Devon Cream Tea).
A Devon Gem
If you’d like to find out more about the history of The Bedford Hotel, and its place in the hearts of the people of Tavistock, we would heartily recommend Alex Mettler’s excellent book – “A Devon Gem – The Bedford Hotel Tavistock”.
Available from Reception at The Bedford, priced £20.