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.

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 on the hill above the river Exe, where a Celtic settlement already existed. The Legion had been a major part of the invasion of Britain under the […]

1st January 0100

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

1st January 0409

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

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 With Italy itself under attack by Goths and other Germanic tribes, the Legions were gradually withdrawn from the outlying parts of the Empire. This left Exeter and other cities vulnerable to attack by Saxons, Irish and […]

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 off her head with a scythe, and where it fell, water sprang up. This became the well of St Sidwell, revered for the miracle and […]

1st January 0980

Okehampton began as an Anglo Saxon settlement.

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 Pinhoe they were met by the county army of Devon estimated to be around 1500 men, whom they defeated. The site of the battle is […]

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.

1st January 1066

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

14th October 1066

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

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 cemetery outside the city walls. The need for a cemetery indciates that the community had already been there for some time. Thus was founded Exeter’s […]

18th December 1177

In The King’s Jews Community Researcher Myra Fonceca takes us back to the middle ages in her study of Exeter’s mediaeval Jewish community revealing individual stories of Exeter’s chirographers and moneylenders, men and women, who lived against the backdrop of turbulent european politics and growing persecution. Mediaeval Jewish Moneylenders Images from ‘The King’s Jews’ showing […]

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 by Edward I in 1290.

1st January 1440

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

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 Alien Subsidy was the first of its kind, and it was collected off and on until 1487. The collection of such a tax led to […]

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 London, via Plymouth, en route to marry Prince Arthur, the eldest son of Henry VII, and brother of the future Henry VIII. Catherine was 15 […]

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 two years after his historic meeting with Francis I of France at the Field of the Cloth of Gold. The constables of each parish in the […]

22nd March 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 two years after his historic meeting with Francis I of France at the Field of the Cloth of Gold.  The constables of each parish in the […]

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.

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 found. Manillas were armlets cast from bronze and copper (red gold) and used as currency and status symbols in West Africa. They were traded by […]

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 Atlantic for sale in Hispaniola. Hawkins is sometimes credited with inventing the triangular slave trade, making a profit on each leg of the voyage. Astoundingly, he was […]

26th March 1588

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

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 husband John Rolfe, their son Thomas, and 11 of her fellow Powhatans. They travelled to London, where she was presented as a Princess. In the […]

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 being it is a variant of ‘Black Moor’ denoting a dark skinned person of North African origin. The parish records of St. Mary Major Church […]

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 the parliamentary leader the Earl of Stamford of ‘resorting to the worst kind of men to fill his ranks and dredging the local gaols for […]

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 return to Exeter in 1695, Pitts live peacefully in Exeter, publishing his book in 1704. Paul Auchterlonie of Exeter university has produced the definitive edition […]

18th December 1685

Exeter man Joseph Pitts (1663?-1739) was the first Englishman to perform the Hajj and visit Mecca and Medina. He published a fascinating account of his travels and observations in 1704. Exeter university’s Paul Auchterlonie has written a definitive work covering Pitts and the context, published in 2011. Cover shown here. Ghee Bowman has written a […]

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,  he claimed the English throne from the Catholic James II. An account was written at the time about his passage through Exeter. We can imagine the […]

16th July 1695

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

1st January 1700

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

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.

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 and the revocation of the Edict of Nantes by Louis XIV in 1685. There followed an exodus of French Protestants, to neighbouring Protestant countries like […]

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, now owned by the County Council. His sons John and Francis founded Barings Bank, which collapsed in 1995 after Nick Leeson gambled and lost a fortune in […]

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.

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 around 1745-1797.  His autobiography “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa, the African” depicts the horrors of slavery and influenced the […]

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 the summer of 2013 to mark this occasion.  For Telling Our Stories…  ‘The Jewish Community of Exeter’  has been researched by volunteer Olivia Hall and […]

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 a son of Poltimore, his mother’s ancestry can be traced to the Codrington Sugar Barons of the Caribbean whose money and power derived from the profits of […]

22nd March 1778

Poltimore Poet, an article about poet John Codrington Bampfylde (1754-1797) by volunteer Community Researcher, Miranda Harvey.  John Bampfylde was a gifted young poet and musician born into the prominent Westcountry family, the Bampfyldes of Poltimore House near Exeter. His rapid descent into disrepute and dissipation culminated in a total mental breakdown aged just 24. Subsequently he […]

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.

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 the Abolition of the Slave Trade and helped achieve passing of the Slave Trade Act of 1807, which ended British trade in slaves. Described by the […]

18th December 1788

Community Researcher, Di Cooper (with Chantal Kouadio), investigates the Slavery Abolition Movement in Exeter uncovering significant support from the people of Exeter, with leading Quakers, Unitarians, MPs and businessmen among those who supported the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade founded by Thomas Clarkson in 1787. Di has compiled a fascinating array of […]

1st May 1809

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

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.

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.

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 come from and where was he going? We simply don’t know…

30th November 1835

While the British slave trade was abolished in 1807, it was not until 1833 that an Act to abolish slavery itself was finally passed by the British Parliament.

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. His address, ‘A Call for the British Nation to Testify Against Slavery’ was delivered at the Royal Subscription Rooms on Northernhay Place. In his speech, he addressed […]

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 St Davids station” and is almost certainly a drawing of Prince Alemayehu, son of Tewodros II of Ethiopia, who killed himself after the Battle of Magdala, […]

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, Fisk was the destination of the fictional character Louis Gaines in the 2013 film The Butler, starring Forest Whitaker. Louis Gaines, played by British actor David Oyelowo, attends Fisk […]

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 in Bengal from 1864 to 1876. He has lived in the Museum since then. In 2013, three members of Exeter’s Hindu community worked with the […]

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.

18th December 1885

Scottish missionary Mary Slessor and her adopted Nigerian daughter Atim Eso, aka Janie Annan Slessor, visited Topsham, Devon, in 1885 and 1891. Mary Slessor (2 December 1848 – 13 January 1915) was a Scottish, United Presbyterian missionary who went to work in what is now known as Nigeria, in the nineteenth century, with the Calabar […]

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.

1st January 1891

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

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.

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. 

1st January 1904

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

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 came to Devon. In Exeter, they were welcomed by a committee based at 24 Southernhay West. According to recent research, Agatha Christie based her Hercule Poirot […]

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 – a team selected from the best players in the country. This was the first international match played by Brazil. The game took place in Rio […]

28th July 1914

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

1st November 1914

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

1st February 1915

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

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. 

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.

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 across the country selling onions. Often wearing traditional berets and striped tops, they carried their rose-pink onions on bicycles, and sold them door-to-door. They were […]

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.

18th December 1937

Community Researcher Hector Niel-Mee has explored the history of the British Union of Facists (BUF) presence in Exeter and how Mosley and the Blackshirts were active in the city and region in the 1930’s. Hector has compiled an informative summary of the Blackshirts in Exeter which includes a list of locations of interest in the […]

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. 

1st January 1939

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

1st January 1939

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

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.  

1st January 1940

American soldiers were stationed around Belstone, a small village South East of Okehampton,

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 of the fourth company were taken prisoner. The 25th Company spent some time in Devon. Between November 1940 and May 1941 they were stationed at […]

22nd March 1942

Between April 1941 and April 1943, Exeter was guarded by a squadron of Polish airmen, based at Exeter airport. They were the 307 squadron, known as  the ‘Night Owls’ or the ‘Lwow Eagle Owls’, after the Polish city of Lwow. They flew Beaufighters and Mosquitoes, suitable for night flying. Community researcher Sally Ayres has written […]

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 that that had been formed between the squadron and the city in the war. Pilots of the 307 squadron flew to protect Exeter from the […]

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 presence in Exeter which included billeted troops and those based in Topsham Barracks. During this time US Army had a policy of segregating black and white […]

18th December 1943

Community Researcher, Crystal Carter, has extensively researched the story of Exeter’s Black GIs and how Exeter was a segregated city during World War II. Between 1943 and 1944, County Ground in St Thomas Exeter was home to a number of all black US Army battalions. The US military had a policy of segregating black and […]

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.

6th June 1944

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

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 Americans and the Polish airmen were out there then. And it was a lovely sight on D-day morning – it was a lovely morning, quite […]

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 (Plymouth), via Bickleigh.

18th December 1944

Mrs Hendy lived in Exeter for over 60 years, 52 of them in the same house in Wonford. She was born in Cornwall in 1917: her mother was a local White woman, and her father was a Black sea captain, probably from Jamaica. Councillor Olwen Foggin interviewed Mrs Hendy in 2000 for an exhibition on […]

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.

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.

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.

1st May 1949

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

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 30s and early 40s (we hope to have her story on our timeline soon). Vivien went to Bishop Blackall school from 1942 to 1948. There, she showed […]

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 an Indian restaurant. Before 1958, it would not have been possible to eat noodles or fried rice or green curry in Exeter. This photo of […]

22nd March 1958

Archive photographs from the research into Exeter’s Chinese Community by volunteers Gordon Chan and Sasi Phlongplenis.  Photos by kind permission of the Law Family. This page is dedicated to Mr. Law who passed away in May 2013.

18th December 1958

Community Researchers, Gordon Chan and Sasiporn Phongploenpis, have researched the city’s Chinese Minority and its Contribution to Diversity in Exeter; Gordon and Sasi have worked together to collate facts and figures, hidden historical gems and individual testimonies in a way that is personal and educational. Gordon and Sasi Report FINAL In 1958 Sam Fat Law […]

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.

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. He is the second from the left in the middle row. He was the first Exeter player to be capped for his country, when he […]

1st January 1964

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

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.

1st January 1969

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

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 Wrexham. Steve later emigrated to Australia – read an interview with him. Thanks to Andy Beer and Martin […]

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 timeline (courtesy of the Express & Echo) shows the Arain family being welcomed to Newton Abbot by council chairman Frances Humpherson. One of our project […]

1st October 1972

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

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 his favourite places in Exeter when he was a student here (1998-2001).

1st January 1976

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