Devon has a rich, varied and complex historical past. Throughout its past, it has seen constant and regular exchange with countries, cultures, faiths, communities and peoples from around the world.

Our Devon Timeline gathers together historical stories from our focus towns and city: Exeter, Bideford, Okehampton and Tiverton.

Explore the Timeline below to learn more.

City of Exeter founded by Roman II Augusta Legion

1st January 0055

Vespasian (Titus Flavius Caesar Vespasianus Augustus), as depicted in the coin, was the Leader of the II Augusta legion that arrived in Exeter around AD55 and set up their fortified camp […]

BC and Roman Tiverton

1st January 0100

Archaeological evidence reveals an ancient site with a nearby Roman fort north of Tiverton. 

Romans camp near Bideford

1st January 0409

A “foreign” presence in Bideford goes back to at least Roman times, when the Roman army set up camp near Bideford. 

Romans leave Exeter

1st January 0410

The year 410 is the one traditionally given for the Romans leaving Britannia. We cannot be sure, of course. With Italy itself under attack by Goths and other Germanic tribes, […]

St Sidwell martyred outside city walls

1st January 0740

Legend says that Sidwell was a Saxon Christian girl living in Exeter in the 8th century. Her stepmother wanted her killed, and hired a reaper to do the job. He cut […]

The beginnings of Okehampton

1st January 0980

Okehampton began as an Anglo Saxon settlement.

Battle of Pinhoe: Vikings and Saxons

1st January 1001

In the summer of 1001, Vikings ravaged the coast of Devon from a base in Exmouth. Around 4000 Vikings, driven away from the city walls, attacked Topsham and Clyst St Mary. At […]

Sweyn Forkbeard burns Exeter

1st January 1002

Sweyn Forkbeard (King of Norway, father of English King Canute) attacked and sacked the city, burning the Minster and most of the buildings.

Norman invaders and Tiverton Castle

1st January 1066

Tiverton was a Saxon town, but by 1106 it was an important strategic town for Norman kings. 

Grenville family ancestors (future Lords of the Manor) arrive from Normandy

14th October 1066

The Grenville family, future Lords of the Manor of Bideford, arrived from Normandy in France in 1066. 

Cemetery granted to Exeter’s Jews

1st January 1177

Jews started to come into England after the Norman Conquest. The first record of a Jewish presence in Exeter was in 1177, when a law was passed granting them a […]

Expulsion of Exeter’s Jews

1st January 1290

‘The King’s Jews’ by Myra Fonceca examines the history of  Exeter’s mediaeval Jewish community first recorded in the city in 1181, and sheds light on the century preceding the expulsion […]

Norman invaders and All Saints Church

1st January 1440

Early evidence suggests that Normans and Irish were living and working in the town.

Henry VI taxes all foreigners living in Exeter

1st January 1440

In 1440, King Henry VI needed money for his exchequer. Feelings against foreigners in the country were strong at the time, so parliament decided to ‘soak the foreigners’. The 1440 […]

Catherine of Aragon and her African servants in Exeter

1st January 1501

Catherine of Aragon, daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, whose divorce caused the foundation of the Church of England, visited Exeter in 1501. She was travelling from Spain to […]

Peter Blackmore: Exeter’s first Black resident?

1st January 1522

In 1522, Henry VIII ordered a military survey of the whole of England, to see who was ready for war, and to measure the wealth of his subjects. This was […]

Tudor Tiverton 

1st January 1524

During the sixteenth century, Tiverton was part of a Europe-wide network of trade in goods and services, with people from France and Germany coming to live in the town.

Foundry in Cowick Street making bronze manillas

1st January 1525

The foundry in St Thomas, Cowick Street/Albany Road, is dated from 1525-1625 and was owned by John Birdall. It closed when he died. During excavations in 1984, manilla moulds were […]

John Hawkins’ Slave Raids

1st January 1562

John Hawkins (born in Plymouth in 1532) conducted the first of his three slave raids on the coast of West Africa in 1562, capturing people and taking them across the […]

First Native American in Britain brought to Bideford by Richard Grenville

26th March 1588

Sir Richard Grenville, naval commander, coloniser and treasure seeker, brought a Native American to Bideford in 1588.

Pocahontas in Exeter?

12th June 1616

The epic story of Native American woman Pocahontas (1596-1617) has fascinated people for generations and here we find a local connection. Pocahontas landed at Plymouth on June 12th 1616, with her […]

Thomas, son of a blackmore

26th January 1632

What is meant by a ‘blackmore’ ? ‘Blackmore’ is a variant of the archaic and derogatory ‘blackamoor’ which appeared circa 1500s and was common parlance in Elizabethan England.  One interpration […]

Turkish soldiers at the siege of Exeter

1st January 1643

During the English Civil War, Exeter was besieged twice, once by the Royalists, and later by the Parliamentary forces. According to an article by Robert Hodkinson of the Sealed Knot,  royalists accused […]

Joseph Pitts from Exeter becomes the first Englishman to visit Mecca

1st January 1685

Born in Exeter in 1663, Joseph Pitts was captured by pirates and sold as a slave in Algiers. His third master took him to Mecca on the Hajj. After his […]

200 Black Soldiers escort William of Orange into Exeter

5th November 1688

On November 5th 1688 William of Orange, a Protestant prince from the Netherlands, landed in Brixham in south Devon. As a grandson of Charles I, and husband of Princess Mary, […]

Huguenot congregation set up in Chapel Lane

16th July 1695

In the 17th century, Protestant settlers fleeing from persecution arrived in Bideford from France and Holland.

Bideford merchants profit from the slave trade

1st January 1700

Wealthy merchants operating from Bideford Quay profited from the slave trade.

The mystery of Huguenots in Tiverton

1st January 1700

Little is known about a Huguenot presence in Tiverton – but there is evidence of people with Flemish descent in the town at this time.

120 Huguenots worshipping at St Olaves

1st January 1715

“Huguenots” was the name given to French Protestants from the 16th century onwards. They were persecuted by the ruling Catholics, especially after the Massacre of St Bartholomew’s Day in 1572 […]

Father of Baring’s Bank founder moves to Exeter from Bremen

1st January 1717

In 1717, the young Johann Baring moved to Exeter from Bremen in Germany. He liked the place, was naturalised in 1723 and changed his name to John. He bought Larkbeare House, […]

Black men recorded in Tiverton

1st January 1743

By the 18th and 19th centuries, Tiverton’s diversity manifested in more ways, including the presence of Black men in the town – potentially enslaved, or ex-enslaved persons.

Portrait of an African

1st January 1757

The enigma of this iconic painting, Portrait of an African, challenged experts for many years. It was previously thought that the sitter was prominent Nigerian abolitionist and writer, Olaudah Equiano, who lived […]

Exeter Synagogue opens

10th August 1763

Exeter Synagogue is the third oldest Synagogue in the UK, it opened on the 10th August 1763 and celebrated its 250th anniversary in 2013. Helen Fry’s Book ‘The Jews of Exeter’ was published in […]

John Codrington Bampfylde publishes a poem against slavery

1st January 1778

John Codrington Bampfylde (1754 – 1797) was born into the powerful and prominent Westcountry family the Bampfyldes of Poltimore House on the outskirts of Exeter. The poet’s name reveals he was not just […]

Johnny Stedman arrives from Suriname

1st January 1782

Johnny Stedman arrived in Tiverton in 1782. He was a mixed race young man whose mother was from Suriname, and whose father was from the Netherlands.

Leading Abolitionist Thomas Clarkson visits Exeter

1st November 1788

Thomas Clarkson (28 March 1760 – 26 September 1846) English abolitionist and leading campaigner against the slave trade in the British Empire. He helped found in 1787 The Society for Effecting […]

Napoleonic Prisoners of War arrived in the town 

1st May 1809

During the Napoleonic Wars, Okehampton was a parole town, housing Prisoners of War.

Napoleonic Wars and French POWs

1st January 1815

During the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars of 1797 – 1815, French Prisoner of War officers were sent to live with households in provincial parole towns such as Tiverton.

Okehampton’s connections with the slave trade

1st January 1820

No records have been found to suggest that Black people lived in Okehampton. However, evidence of reparations reveal that Okehampton citizens invested in, and profited from, the transatlantic slave trade.

Mr White, a Black Beggar

1st January 1823

A drawing from a sketchbook in the Devon Record Office, by J Harris. Who was this man? Where did Harris draw him? How long was he in Exeter? Where had he […]

Bishop of Exeter compensated for loss of slaves

1st January 1833

In 1833, the British parliament took the long-overdue step of abolishing slavery in the Empire, having abolished the slave trade in 1807. The only way it was possible to get […]

Frederick Douglass visits Exeter to address abolitionists

28th August 1846

On 28 August 1846, former slave and abolitionist, Frederick Douglass visited Exeter as part of a tour of the UK to generate support for the abolition of slavery in the United States. […]

Ethiopian Prince at St Davids station

1st January 1871

This drawing come from a sketchbook at Devon Record Office entitled ‘Portraits of Devonshire Characters’ by Tucker. More sketches in our gallery page. The title is “Prince of Abyssinia sketched at […]

Fisk University Jubilee Singers perform at Victoria Hall

19th August 1875

On 19th August 1875, the Fisk University Jubilee Singers gave a concert at Exeter’s Victoria Hall, situated on Queen St where Exeter College Victoria House is now. Among many other claims to fame, […]

Ganesh comes to Exeter

1st January 1879

This beautiful statue of the Hindu deity Ganesh lives in Exeter’s Royal Albert Memorial Museum. He was brought to Exeter by Sir John Budd Phear of Exmouth, who was a High Court judge […]

Mary Slessor and her adopted Nigerian daughter move to Topsham

1st January 1885

The story of Mary Slessor and adopted Nigerian daughter Atim Eso, aka Janie Annan Slessor, and their visits to Topsham, Devon, in 1885 and 1891, By Community Researcher Sally Ayres.

Blundells School welcomes boys from around the world

1st January 1890

From the late 19th century, Blundells School educated young men from all over the globe, including a number of countries in the then British Empire.

Europeans arriving and settling in Bideford: German sailors, musicians and a prominent tailor

1st January 1891

As Bideford’s population expanded in the nineteenth century, migrants from several European countries, including Germany, arrived and settled in Bideford.

A Black worker at the Roller Mills Factory

1st January 1900

An early photograph provides evidence of the presence of at least one Black worker at Tiverton’s Roller Mills Factory in the late 19th or early 20th century.

Italian ice cream vendors & a local tobacconist

1st January 1901

Individuals from an Italian background can also be found in Bideford in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. They became prominent in local ice cream manufacture as well as music. 

French nuns in Ursuline Convent, Northdown Hall

1st January 1904

There were also residents from France, including over 30 nuns of French origin living in the Ursuline Convent in Northdown Hall. 

Belgian refugees in Exeter

1st January 1914

At the start of World War One, hundreds of thousands of Belgian citizens fled their homes before the advancing Germans. Over 200,000 settled in the UK, of whom around 8,000 […]

Exeter City vs. Brazil

27th July 1914

In 1914 Exeter City toured in South America, playing 8 matches in Argentina & Brazil. On July 27th (1 week before Britain entered the Great War) they played a Brazil selecao […]

Okehampton in the First World War

28th July 1914

Both Prisoners of War and refugees found a place to stay in Okehampton during the First World War. 

Prisoners of War in Tiverton

1st August 1914

During World War One, Tiverton hosted a number of Prisoners of War, who worked on farms surrounding the town.  

Belgian refugees and POWs in the town

1st November 1914

During the First World War, Tiverton was home to a number of Belgian refugees.

Belgian refugees in Bideford during the First World War

1st February 1915

Bideford, like many towns in Devon, provided a temporary home for refugees from Belgium during the First World War.  

More Europeans settle in Bideford

1st January 1920

The twentieth century brought more settlers. Before the Second World War, there are settlers recorded from a range of countries, including: Denmark, Norway and Belgium, as well as Germany. 

Meldon Glassworks employs skilled European workers

1st January 1921

In 1921, Granulite Works Glass Company opened a quarry at Meldon. To produce the best glass possible, they recruited German and Dutch workers.

Peak year for French Onion Sellers in Exeter

1st January 1929

Throughout the nineteenth century and the first half of the 20th century, young men from Britanny came across the channel from Roscoff to Plymouth and other ports, and fanned out […]

Indian Silk Merchant in Tiverton

1st January 1933

News reports from the early 20th century indicate a growingly diverse population in the town, including Phuman Singh, a silk merchant from India.

Maurice Prince, Jewish entrepreneur, opens the Strand Cinema on the Pill in Bideford

1st January 1938

Maurice Myer Greenside Prince founded the Strand Cinema on the Pill in Bideford in 1938, where he later sheltered Jewish refugees fleeing persecution in Nazi Germany. 

Pullman & Chensil Singh, travelling drapers

1st January 1939

The 1939 Register indicates the presence of Pullman and Chensil Singh, from India, working as travelling Drapers. 

American soldiers in Tiverton

1st January 1939

During World War Two Tiverton hosted a number of Black and White American soldiers.

Czech refugees and the WE Glove Factory, Bideford

29th September 1939

Several refugees from the Nazi advance came to live in Bideford.  The Fischer family from Czechoslovakia became well-known glove manufacturers in Bideford.  

Indian soldiers in Devon

1st May 1941

The four Mule Companies of the Royal Indian Army Service Corps were part of the British Expeditionary Force in France before Dunkirk. Three companies were evacuated at Dunkirk, the men […]

Polish 307 Squadron RAF present flag to the city

15th November 1942

On Nov 15th 1942 the Squadron Leader of 307 Squadron presented the Polish Flag to the Mayor of Exeter in front of Exeter Cathedral in recognition of the close links […]

Black American GIs arrive in Exeter

30th September 1943

From 30 September 1943 to 30 June 1944 a number of African-American US troops units were based at the County Ground in St Thomas. They were part of the overall US military […]

Comanche (Native American) Code-Talkers in Tiverton

1st January 1944

In January 1944, the American GI’s were joined by the ‘Code-Talkers’. These were Native American members of the Comanche tribe, who worked together to make, send, and decipher codes.

German Prisoners of War arrive in Bridestowe

6th June 1944

German Prisoners Of War arrived in the Okehampton area shortly after D-day, in June 1944. 

Mrs Hendy witnessing gliders on D-Day

6th June 1944

Mrs Dorothea Hendy worked for Sleeman’s at Exeter airport during the war. In an interview with Councillor Olwen Foggin, recorded in 2000, she recalled D-Day at the airport. “D-day came… the […]

Okehampton hosts the Polish Navy in exile

1st December 1944

December 1944 – March 1947 During World War II the Polish Navy in exile was based in Britain. In 1944, the Naval Warrant Officer School moved to Okehampton, from Devonport […]

Prisoners of War and European Voluntary Workers in Tiverton

1st January 1945

During and after World War Two, many Prisoners of War and European Voluntary Workers came to Tiverton to work and live in and around the town.

Arrivals from behind the Iron Curtain

1st January 1946

In the 1940s and 1950s, Italians, Spanish and residents of several countries in Eastern Europe arrived in Bideford, possibly refugees from the advance of Communism in the post-war period.

Polish Naval Camp transitions into a centre for the Polish Resettlement Corps 

1st February 1947

After the war, the Polish Naval Camp continued to operate, this time serving as a resettlement centre for Polish men and women seeking to build new lives in the UK.

A Yugoslavian Wedding in Tiverton

1st May 1949

In May 1949,  Mr Peter Manjlovic and Miss Olga Kush, two European Voluntary Workers, were married at St Peter’s Church.

Exeter Girl stars with Sidney Poitier

1st January 1951

Vivien Clinton, who was black, was born in 1931 or 1932, possibly in Dorset. Her mother was Madame Josephine, who ran a herbalist shop in Clifton Road in the late […]

Exeter’s First Chinese Restaurant

1st January 1958

In 1958 Sam Fat Law and his partners opened the first Chinese restaurant the “Rice Bowl” in Exeter. It was located at number 13 North Street, currently the site of […]

Visitors to Stenners from British Guiana in 1961

1st January 1961

The Tiverton Gazette of 12th December 1961 reported on the visit of a couple from British Guiana, who spent their honeymoon working at the Stenners factory.

Irish international Dermot Curtis signs for Exeter City

1st August 1963

Irish international Demot Curtis played for Exeter City from 1963 to 1966 and again from 1967 to 1969. He had over 150 league appearances for the Grecians, and scored 33 goals. […]

The Capital Chinese restaurant opens

1st January 1964

A Chinese presence in Bideford goes back to the 1960s, when The Capital Chinese restaurant was opened at 22 Bridgeland Street.

Commonwealth cadet training tragedy

1st November 1967

In the midst of a terrible storm on 1st of November 1967, Cadet Christopher Pyemont arrived at the door of Okehampton solicitor Frank Woodward.

World food restaurants open 

1st January 1969

In 1969 two men from Hong Kong opened the first Chinese restaurant in Tiverton.

Steve Stacey: Exeter City’s first Black player

1st January 1971

Bristol-Born Steve Stacey was Exeter’s first Black player. He played for the Grecians for two years, with 59 appearances between 1971 and 1973. The full back had previously played for […]

Ugandan Asians arrive in Devon

4th August 1972

On August 4th 1972, Idi Amin ordered all Ugandan Asians to leave the country. Over 27,000 came to the UK, where many were put in temporary camps. The photo on the […]

The Ugandan crisis of the 1970s

1st October 1972

The Ugandan Asian crisis of the 1970s led to several families settling in the North Devon region.

Opening of Heera’s – Exeter’s First Continental Supermarket

1st January 1975

Originally known as H.A Kasba, Heera’s was the first ‘Continental Supermarket’ in Exeter. You can find it on Wells Street, opposite St Sidwell school. The singer Will Young listed it as one of […]

Diversity increases with workers and visitors from all over the globe

1st January 1976

In the 1970s, workers, business owners and visitors came to Okehampton from Spain, Italy, the Middle East and Russia.

Exeter’s first mosque

11th September 1977

Exeter’s first mosque was at 15 York Road, opened on 11th September 1977. 17 people were involved in the organising committee. For more information, look at the PowerPoint and teacher’s notes on the […]

Acclaimed novelist Jean Rhys dies in Exeter

14th May 1979

Famous twentieth century novelist Jean Rhys was born Ella Gwendoline Rees Williams in Rouseau, Dominica 1894, the daughter of a Welsh doctor and a White Creole mother, whose family had […]

Vietnamese ‘Boat People’ arrive, fleeing a communist regime

1st January 1980

In 1980 Tiverton offered a home to two Vietnemese families seeking a safe place for their families to live and work.

Vietnamese refugees find a home in North Devon

1st January 1980

 In the 1980s, Vietnamese refugees came to the wider Bideford / Barnstaple area.  

Vietnemese and Cambodian refugees come to Okehampton

1st January 1981

In 1981, 16 people, from several families, were offered refuge in Okehampton after fleeing the Communist takeover of Vietnam. 

Exeter’s first Respect festival

1st January 1997

Exeter’s annual Respect festival started in 1997, with the slogan ‘All different, all equal’. Originally held at the Phoenix arts centre, since 2007 it has been at Belmont Park, where […]

Noel Blake: Exeter City’s first Black manager

1st January 2000

Noel Blake, born in Kingston, Jamaica, joined Exeter as a player/assistant manager in 1995, and played 147 games for the Club. He was appointed manager of the Grecians in 2000. […]

Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies Building opens

1st January 2001

The Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies building was opened by Sheikh Sultan bin Mohamed Al-Qasimi of Sharjah in 2001. It’s distinctive architectural design evokes the region and has become a […]

Local Black History, a beginning…

1st January 2003

‘Local Black History, a beginning in Devon’ researched by Historian Lucy MacKeith was published by the Archive and Museum of Black Heritage in 2003,  the booklet is now out of […]

Floella Benjamin installed as Chancellor of Exeter University

1st January 2006

Floella Benjamin, loved by generations of children for her work on Playschool, was installed as Chancellor of Exeter University in 2006. The Role of Chancellor is a ceremonial one, that includes presenting […]

Trevor McDonald lists Topsham as his favourite place in Britain

15th August 2009

The BBC’s Trevor McDonald lived for several years in Topsham. In an interview with the Independent in 2009, he was asked about his favourite place in the British Isles. He said: “We […]

Purpose-built Mosque Opens

1st October 2011

There has been a mosque in Exeter since 1976, on York Road. The first mosque was in a Victorian house at no 15. The purpose-built mosque was opened in October […]