Dartmoor Explorations

A collection of walks, discoveries, insights and pictures of exploring Dartmoor National Park

Tavistock ‘T’ Stones

Tavistock, which lies just outside the Dartmoor National Park boundary, is a charming ancient stannary and market town, which can trace its history back to 961 when Tavistock Abbey was founded. As with many towns and villages across the country, Tavistock was ‘festooned’ with Ordnance Survey (broad arrow) benchmarks, which were cut in the 19th and 20th centuries (from as early as 1840). There were over 1 million benchmarks cut over the country, of which, it is believed 500,000 still survive today. Of interest in the town are a number of inscribed “T” marks on buildings and bridges which were the forerunner to these more ‘modern’ (broad arrow) benchmarks.

Over a period of years, John Stickland recorded a number of these “T” stones in his ‘Johnies Meanderings’ blog pages. The blog can be found here: http://johniesmeanderings.blogspot.com/2013/12/tavistock-t-stones-mystery.html

Armed with the information published by John Stickland and later collated by Mark Fenlon, this post records all the known “T” inscribed benchmarks / surveyors marks plus a number (10) more traditional ‘modern’ (broad arrow) benchmarks which lie close to them. There are 22 “T” stones with a further 3, which look like a “T” with “wings” thus looking like a traditional broad arrow benchmark. Some of the “T” inscribed stones appear to have benchmark annotations on late 19th century maps. The “T” marks have been inscribed into granite, hurdwick stone and on render throughout the town. The order by which the recorded inscribed stones and benchmarks can be found in this post has been considered to enable the reader to follow a route around the town to see them all in a logical way.

0. Map
Annotated 19th century map showing the locations of all 25 “T” stones. The ‘red’ locations are where the author noted just the “T” inscribed stones and the ‘blue’ locations are where the author noted “T” inscribed stones with the more traditional (broad arrow) benchmarks nearby (usually within a few 10’s of metres)
0. Table 1
This table records 13 of the 25 “T” inscribed stones with benchmarks which are located close by. As with the map, the ‘red’ denotes where the author noted just the “T” inscribed stones and the ‘blue’ denotes where the author noted “T” inscribed stones with the more traditional (broad arrow) benchmarks nearby (usually within a few 10’s of metres). As a reference to the original John Stickland blog, the ‘order’ in which the stones were recorded there are noted in the table.
0. Tavy
A good starting point for viewing all the inscribed stones and benchmarks in this post is the main (Bedford) car park off Plymouth Road and next to the River (Tavy). There are a couple of ‘gaps’ in the wall from the car park taking the visitor to the riverside path.
0.Tavy
Just a short distance upstream are the Tavy weirs next to the Abbey Bridge
1.1a Abbey Bridge Sign
The Town Council Abbey Bridge blue plaque states: “Constructed in 1762 to carry one of the new turnpike roads, its name indicated its position close to the traditional site of Tavistock Abbey. The bridge was widened and partially rebuilt in 1860 to improve access to the GWR station”.
1.1b. Abbey Bridge T
On the east end of Abbey bridge (downstream parapet) is the first “T” inscribed stone in this post.
1.1c. Abbey Bridge T
The “T” inscription is located at SX48241 74315
1Aa. Abbey Bridge Benchmark
In the middle of the downstream parapet of Abbey Bridge  there is a benchmark (B.M 268.8) ref : National Library of Scotland (1892-1914) map – benchmark
1Ab. Abbey Bridge Benchmark
Close up of the benchmark at SX48231 74325
1Ba. Abbey Chapel
The route follows passes the site of the former Abbey Chapel. The Town Council blue plaque states: “Originally part of Tavistock Abbey, this was the site of the Abbot’s Hall. Since 1691, when it became a Presbyterian meeting house, it has housed nonconformist congregations”.
1Bb. Abbey Chapel
“The Abbey Chapel” was built adjacent to the monastic infirmary and was the dining-hall for the use of the sick. The earliest mention of the building is in 1348. 
2.1a Potter Baker Accountants
The 2nd “T” has “wings” and is located outside Bedford Chambers on the corners of Plymouth Road and Abbey Place.
2.1b Potter Baker Accountants
The “T” part of the inscription looks like the same style as the other “T”s around Tavistock. This inscription, however, has the extra “wings”, which makes it look like a (broad arrow) benchmark. Is it possible that this was originally a “T” and the “wings” added later or was the inscription all done on at the same time ? It is marked as a benchmark B.M 269.4 on 19th century maps. It is located at SX48174 74392
2.1c St. Eustacius
St. Eustachius Church dates from 1265 http://www.tavistockparishchurch.org.uk/church/history/
2.1d Bedford Square
Bedford Square. Buildings were commissioned by Francis Russell, 7th Duke of Bedford as part of a broader initiative to remodel the town centre
2.1e Bedford Square
Tavistock Town Hall with inscription ‘Erected by Francis / 1860 / 7th Duke of Bedford K.G’
2.1f Bedford Square
Inscribed date and “B” (Bedford) with crown motif on Town hall
3.1a House of Cards
The 3rd “T” is located at the ‘House of Cards’ on the junction of Duke Street and Bedford Square.
3.1b House of Cards
This “T” is located at SX48168 74464 and is labelled  B.M 269.6 on 19th century maps.
3.2 Flush Bracket
Flush Bracket (for OS levelling bracket fixture) on Pannier Market at SX48204 74475
3.3 Mosaic
Tavistock Community Mosaic 2006 on the Pannier Market. The community mosaic project was spearheaded by the Tavistock Integrated Arts Group at the Molly Owen Centre and attracted funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The mosaic depicts prominent sites of archaeological and historical points of interest in the town. It tied in with the celebration of the 900th anniversary (2005) of the granting of the town’s market charter. (ref: https://www.tavistock-today.co.uk/news/all-set-for-official-launch-of-community-mosaic-366186)
4.1 Pannier Market
The 4th “T” inscribed stone can be found at the Market Road entrance to the Pannier Market at SX48256 74447
4.1Aa Benchmark
Near the 4th “T” stone is another benchmark B.M 265.5
4.1Ab. Benchmark
B.M 265.5 can be found at SX48273 74485
5.1a Vigo Bridge T
Moving onto Vigo Bridge a 5th “T” inscribed stone can be located.
5.1b Vigo Bridge T
This “T” inscription is located at SX48422 74587
5.1c Sign
Blue Plaque on Vigo Bridge which states: “In 1773 this river crossing was built as access to the new turnpike road across Dartmoor to Moretonhampstead and Exeter. The name evokes historical echoes. Francis Drake had twice raided the Spanish port of Vigo, in 1585 and 1589”.
5.1d Sign
Another Vigo Bridge sign states: “Built in 1773 and by local tradition named to commemorate Sir Francis Drake’s maritime exploits at the naval port of Vigo on the north west coast of Spain”
5Aa. Vigo Bridge Benchmark
In the centre of the downstream parapet of Vigo bridge is a benchmark, which is referenced B.M 275.0 on historical maps.
5Ab. Vigo Bridge Benchmark
B.M 275.0 is located at SX48420 74590
5Ac. Vigo Bridge Benchmark
B.M 275.0 looks like it was inscribed twice. The one on the left, barely discernible could have been replaced by the one on the right.
6a. Mount Tavy T
Moving from Vigo Bridge to Mount Tavy Road a 6th “T” inscribed stone can be located, behind a lamp post. It is located between numbers 11 and 12.
6b. Mount Tavy T
Inscribed “T” number 6 is located at SX48472 74575
7a. Mount Tavy T
A 7th “T” inscribed stone (with “wings”) can be located, on a post between 8 & 9 Mount Tavy Road cottages. The “T” is in keeping with others around the town. It is labelled as B.M 275.1 on historic maps.
7b. Mount Tavy T
B.M 275.1 can be found at SX48527 74567
8a. Dolvin Road Cemetry
At a gate to the cemetery on Dolvin Road Cemetery, the 8th “T” is located
8b. Dolvin Road Cemetry
The 8th “T” is located at SX48348 74468
8c. Mount Tavy Road
Mount Tavy Road cottages.
9a. Old Exeter Road
The 9th “T” inscribed stone is located on the Old Exeter Road (outside number 19). There is straight forward access to this road via the steps at the ‘back’ of Paddons Row off Brook Street.
9b. Old Exeter Road
The 9th “T” is located behind a gas pipe at SX48232 74618
10a. Old Exeter Road
The 10th “T” stone is located outside no 71 Old Exeter Road
10b. Old Exeter Road
Close up of the 10th “T” at SX48388 74737
11.1a. Ordulph T
The 11th “T” is located outside the former Ordulph Arms in Pym Street
11.1b. Ordulph T
Close up of the 11th “T” at SX48081 74508
11.1c. Ordulph sign
Ordulph Arms sign: “Opened as a Temperance Hotel in 1838, this building housed, for much of the twentieth century, the offices of Tavistock Rural District Council. It became an inn in 1983”.
11.1d. Masons Foundation
Opposite the old Ordulph Arms is this plaque on the Freemason’s Hall
11Aa. Benchmark
A few metres from the “T” on the old Ordulph Arms is this benchmark. Referenced as B.M 282.7 on 19th century maps
11Ab. Benchmark
The benchmark is located at SX48081 74517
12a. St Eustacius T
At the entrance in West Street to St. Eustachius Church is the 12th “T”
12b. St Eustacius T
This “T” is located at SX48095 74438
13.1a Corn Exchange T
On the corner of West Street and King Street (old Corn Market) is the 13th “T”
13.1b Corn Exchange T
The 13th “T” is located at SX48061 74438
13.1c Corn Exchange
Old Corn Market with its inscription stating it was erected by John (Russell) Duke of Bedford K.G 1835. It was erected on the site of the Green Dragon Inn. Between 1913 and 1937, the building was a cinema. It was renovated in 1992.
13.2 Benchmark
A few metres up King Street from the old Corn Market is this benchmark, which is referenced B.M 277.9 on old 19th century maps. It is located at SX48046 74459
14.0 Table 2
This table records the final 12 of the 25 “T” inscribed stones with benchmarks which are located close by. As with the map, the ‘red’ denotes where the author noted just the “T” inscribed stones and the ‘blue’ denotes where the author noted “T” inscribed stones with the more traditional (broad arrow) benchmarks nearby (usually within a few 10’s of metres). As a reference to the original John Stickland blog, the ‘order’ in which the stones were recorded there are noted in the table.
14.1a Bannawell Street
The 14th “T” is outside number 65 Bannawell Street
14.1b Bannawell Street
The 14th “T” is located at SX47914 74698
14.2a Benchmark
Also in Bannawell Street is this benchmark. It is referenced as B.M 324.4 on 19th century maps
14.2b Benchmark
B.M 324.4 is located at SX47915 74667
15a. Thariks T
Returning to West Street, the 15th “T” is located outside an Indian Takeaway
15b. Tariks T
The 15th “T” is located at SX47916 74375
16a. Town Steps T
On the centre gate post off Town Steps, Rocky Hill is the 16th “T”
16b. Town Steps T
The 16th “T” is located at SX47871 74398
17a. Dentist
The 17th “T” is located at the top of the steps in West Street (by the dental surgery)
17b. Dentist
The 17th “T” is located at SX47866 74334
17c. Statue
This statue at Rocky Hill / West Street is a figure of a lawyer in Medieval costume and is believed to have been brought from the 1851 Great Exhibition of London by Francis Russell, the 7th Duke of Bedford (1839-1861).
18a. West Street T
The 18th “T” can be found in West Street on the opposite side of the road to the video shop.
18b. West Street T
The 18th “T” can be found at SX47811 74294
19a. Chapel T
The 19th “T” is located at the bottom of the path leading down from West Street (in West Avenue close to the Tavistock Methodist Church). It is slightly obscured behind a lamp post.
19b. Chapel
The 19th “T” is located at SX47885 74306
20a. Abbey Surgery
The 20th “T” is outside Abbey Surgery, opposite bus station and has “wings”. It is referenced as B.M 261.6 on 19th century maps.
20b. Abbey Surgery
The 20th “T” is located at SX47926 74235
21a. Chapel Street
The 21st “T” is located in Chapel Street outside No 7 on a gatepost.
21b. Chapel Street
The 21st “T” is located at SX47781 74185
22a. Spring Hill
From “T” number 21 to number 22, walk to the end of Chapel Street, turn right into Ford Street and left into Spring Hill. The 22nd “T” is located outside a side gate of one of the large houses.
22b. Spring Hill
The 22nd “T” is located at SX47684 74198
23a. Duke of York
Returning back down Ford Street, the 23rd “T” is located next to the Duke of York pub.
23b. Duke of York
The 23rd “T” is located at SX47522 74029
23c. Fitzford Gateway
Fitzford Gate House is now a holiday cottage. It dates back to the 16th century and is the only remaining part of Fitzford House. Fitzford House was the seat of the Fitz family from the 15th Century.
23d. Drake Statue
Drake Statue
24.1a Old Telephone Exchange Benchmark
Crossing the canal bridge towards West Bridge (across the Tavy), on a gatepost outside the former telephone exchange a benchmark can be found. The author has been unable to find a reference number on maps
24.1b Old Telephone Exchange Benchmark
This benchmark is located at SX47643 73773
24.1c West Bridge
West Bridge blue plaque states: “West Bridge. A bridge was built between 1540 and 1566 on the site of an historic ford crossing. It was ten feet wide and consisted of three arches. Demolished in 1939, it was rebuilt in 1940 by the present construction”.
24.1d West Bridge
A West Bridge tablet states: “West Bridge. Re-built 1940 at the joint expense of Ministry of Transport & Devon County Council”.
24.1e West Bridge
Another West Bridge plaque states: “West Bridge. Built in 1940, this bridge replaced the hurdwick stone triple arched bridge of 1450”.
24.1e Westbridge Cottages BM
Outside the gates of the Westbridge Cottages closest to the bridge is a benchmark, which does not appear on any old maps
24.1f Westbridge Cottages BM
The benchmark is located at SX47687 73701
24.2a Westbridge Cottages T
The 24th “T” is located outside the gates to Westbridge Cottages near to the bridge. It is marked as a benchmark on old maps (B.M 239.4)
24.2b Westbrook Cottages T
The 24th “T” is located at SX47690 73686
24.3a Westbrook Cottages BM
Another benchmark outside Westbridge Cottages can be found (near the petrol station). It referenced as B.M 236.5
24.3b Westbrook Cottages BM
This benchmark is located at SX47682 73559
25.1a West Bridge Cottages T
The 25th (and final) “T” can be found outside Westbridge Cottages 45-56.
25.1b West Bridge Cottages T
This final “T” is located at SX47687 73497
25.2a West Bridge Cottages BM
On the last gatepost (heading towards morrisons) there is another benchmark. It is referenced as B.M 234.2
25.2b. West Bridge Cottages BM
B.M 234.2 is located at SX47688 73435

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2 Comments

  1. Brian Galbraith January 14, 2024

    The “sculpture” of a figure described as “a lawyer in medieval dress” attached like a plaque to the end wall of the house at the foot of the Rocky Road looks rather like two sculptures in Hungary (seen on Google) of St John of Nepomuk. The hat and other clothing is especially similar, as is the face and beard.
    St Nepomuk was apparently the patron saint of sailors.
    Is there a connection with Tavistock or the Duke of Bedford?

    • SteveGriggDartmoor January 14, 2024 — Post author

      Hi Brian,

      Thank you for your question. I have tried to find an answer for you but have been unsuccessful so far.

      Regards,

      Dartmoor Explorations (Steve)

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