Tavistock Abbey

Has been described as a Questionable Fortified Ecclesiastical site

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameTavistock Abbey
Alternative NamesBetsy Grimbald's Tower
Historic CountryDevonshire
Modern AuthorityDevon
1974 AuthorityDevon
Civil ParishTavistock

Remains of Tavistock Abbey sited in the centre of the town of Tavistock on the north side of the River Tavy south west Dartmoor. Originally the Benedictine Abbey of St Mary the Virgin and St Rumon begun by Ealdorman Ordgar and completed by his son Ordulf 975-80. It was burnt down by the Danes in 997 but was soon restored. The abbot and 20 monks surrendered the monastery in 1539. Remains include two sections of boundary wall, the Great Gate (west entrance to the precincts), the 'still-house' (a small square tower), the Abbot's Hall and its porch, the Abbey Gatehouse also called Higher Gate or Town Gate and some ancillary buildings on the eastern boundary of the Abbey precincts, possibly the Abbey Mill. (PastScape)

Mostly 15th century. The Great Gate of the Abbey, west entrance to the precincts. Moulded segmental arches, (one blocked) with flanking towers. Named after corruption of the Blessed Grimwald. (PastScape–ref. listing description)

Tavistock Abbey is central to the history and character of the medieval town which developed around it. The Saxon foundation of the abbey places it amongst the earliest of the medieval religious houses founded in Britain, and it was in continuous use by the same Benedictine order for over five and a half centuries. Tavistock Abbey was closely linked with the Benedictine abbey at Buckfast which was founded at the same time, and the pilgrim route across Dartmoor which connected them can still be followed. Although the abbey suffered heavily at the time of the Dissolution, its plan and extent, and the positions of some of its major buildings are well known from previous studies and from its standing remains which are the oldest buildings in Tavistock

These buildings survive in good condition and they include two of the original gateways, and a substantial length of the precinct wall, including a corner tower.

The West Gate, a Grade I Listed Building (known more commonly as Betsy Grimbal's Tower), was the west gate of the Abbey precinct. It comprises an entrance archway flanked by projecting demi-octagonal stair turrets; there is a first floor room over the gate passage, and a two-storied structure of continuous construction to the north. (Scheduling Report)

Gatehouse Comments

Betsy Grimbald's Tower, a gatehouse, is said to contain a gun loop but the defensive character of this feature is questionable.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law

Historic England Scheduled Monument Number
Historic England Listed Building number(s)
Images Of England
Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSX481743
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Copyright Howard Noyce All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image
Copyright Howard Noyce All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image
Copyright Howard Noyce All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image

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  • Knowles, David and Hadcock, R. Neville, 1971, Medieval religious houses in England and Wales (Longmans) p. 77, 483


  • Kenyon, J.R., 1981 'Early Artillery Fortifications in England and Wales: a Preliminary Survey and Re-appraisal' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 138 p. 227
  • Kenyon, J.R., 1977, 'Early Gunports' Fort Vol. 4 p. 84