Welcome to Bideford!
A relaxed and beautiful North Devon Town!
We have been greeting visitors to our Elizabethan
maritime port for centuries.
The maritime heritage of Bideford is well documented and is referred to in Tennyson's poem "Revenge". Immortalised in Charles Kingsley's famous novel "Westward Ho!" as the 'little white town', it retains its ability to enchant all those that visit - and the community who live here.
Generations of people have made their way here by both road and sea. Our location and people, heritage and character continue to captivate visitors and residents alike. Our website is intended to provide a snapshot of Bideford today and deliver an insight into our history and provide information about our way of life - giving our townspeople and visitors an opportunity to explore the town and the surrounding area online. We hope you enjoy our site and your next visit to Bideford.
Bideford is a small port town on the estuary of the River Torridge in North Devon in the south west of England. It is the main town of the Torridge local government district. The River Torridge is spanned at Bideford by the 13th century Long Bridge, which has 24 arches all of different widths!
In the 16th century Bideford was Britain's third largest port. It was rumoured that Sir Walter Raleigh landed his first shipment of tobacco here, although this is a myth, as Raleigh was not, contrary to popular belief, the first to bring tobacco to England. Nevertheless - in honour of Raleigh's acheivements, several roads and a hill have been named after him in Bideford.
Bideford Today - A Look Around the Town
Bideford has the great good fortune that the elements tend to smile on North Devon. You may have to contend with a bracing breeze, laced with the salt of the nearby sea, but by English standards, it is an enviable place to live and work and, of course, this is not lost upon the thousands of visitors who return each year to enjoy the charm and character of the town and district. The tourism figures show Bideford is a particular favourite with families, indeed all age groups, and that is perhaps not surprising when you consider the season here lasts eight months of the year. Do not be misled by the town’s Victorian facade. It is a perky little town, steeped in history, but fully alive to the modern needs of today’s tourists.
Bideford is a working port with substantial throughput of aggregates, raw materials and clay extracts, which are delivered by road for loading on to modern, purpose built container vessels. Alongside these container vessels there is a small but flourishing local fishing industry as well as the regular service of MS Oldenburg serving as a vital link to Lundy Island and providing pleasure cruises for tourists throughout the season. First mention in the history books of the Quay was in 1619 when there were beaches at the river’s edge. As the shipbuilding trade boomed, the Quay was developed and there are still marker stones in the pave ment as a testament to that reconstruction.
Today the narrow town centre streets lead down to a tree-lined quay, which bustles with fishing vessels, cargo and pleasure boats. Clay is the principal export loaded onto boats at Bideford. The quay was refurbished, with completion in 2006, to provide flood defences and incorporates a large tide regulated fountain and brand new terminal building for the Lundy Ferry. Appealing craft and gift shops jostle for your attention in the heart of the town. Character-filled pubs and tempting eateries vie for the visitors attention - the town has recently seen new restaurants opening their doors, french markets and farmers fairs making quality produce easily available each weekend.
North Devon is famed for its floral displays and has won many awards in the `Britain in Bloom' Competition. The streets of many of it's towns are brilliant with colour throughout the summer and the display lasts right through to October. The visitor will find with hanging baskets, tubs and planters everywhere. Bideford Pannier Market was built in 1884 at a cost of £4,200 to house a fish market, butchery stalls and corn exchange. The Mayor, G W Vincent, performed the opening ceremony which was followed by a public dinner when almost 200 people sat down.T he day ended with a promenade concert and later that week about 2,000 children gathered at the market for a tea party. The Pannier Market, trades on Tuesdays and Saturdays, whilst Butchers’ Row is open Monday to Saturday and is a favourite with tourists and residents alike. inside the market hall you will find our cafe - where you can have a quick cup of tea or stay a while and enjoy a full English breakfast. You will find the Pannier Market by walking up the High Street and taking a left turn into Grenville Street. The building stands fair and square ahead of you. It is called the Pannier Market after the wicker baskets, or panniers, in which farmer's wives carried their wares and a market has been held in Bideford since the granting of the Charter of Incorporation in 1573.
Nowadays, the butchers are joined by all manner of tradespeople. The Pannier Market has been substantially refurbished as a result of funding made available by the Town Council. Commencing in 1993 an ongoing programme has seen the introduction of heating, improved lighting and extensive renovation to the fabric of the entire building. This work has been carried out by craftsmen who have maintained both the character and history of the building, whilst ensuring that it affords the visitor every comfort and convenience. You will find that Butchers' Row & Market Place is open for regular shopping six days a week all year round! At other times, flower shows, boxing and other events are held within the market's stone walls. Keep an eye out on the website for a diary of events that take place throughout the year!