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Fore Street, Ivybridge - geograph.org.uk - 1410972.jpg
Fore Street, Ivybridge
Grid reference: SX635560
Location: 50°23’20"N, 3°55’16"W
Population: 12,056  (2001)
Post town: Ivybridge
Postcode: PL21
Dialling code: 01752
Local Government
Council: South Hams
South West Devon
Website: www.ivybridge.gov.uk

Ivybridge is a small town in southern Devon, at the southern extremity of Dartmoor, and 9 miles east of Plymouth along the A38.

Mentioned in documents as early as the 13th century, Ivybridge's early history is marked by its status as an important crossing-point over the River Erme on the Exeter-to-Plymouth route. In the 16th century mills were built using the River Erme's power. The parish of Saint John was formed in 1836.[1] Ivybridge became a civil parish in 1894 and a town in 1977.

The early urbanisation and development of Ivybridge largely coincided with the Industrial Revolution. When the South Devon Railway Company built its train route through Ivybridge in the 19th century a paper mill was constructed alongside it and this led to an increase in housing nearby. The paper mill, now French owned, still provides local jobs. Although occasionally referred to as a dormitory town, many people work in the town itself, and agriculture continues to play an economic role for Ivybridge's hinterland. The area surrounding Ivybridge is almost completely farmland.

When heavy industry diminished during the latter half of the 20th century, the population has boomed (400% in 30 years) from 1,574 people in 1921 to 12,056 in 2001.


The River Erme forms a steep valley in which the town sits, the Erme flowing right through its centre, while the landscape to either side rises into hills. The river first enters the town at 295 feet above sea level and leaves the town at 131 feet above sea level. The western beacon is a hill that overlooks the town; its peak can be seen from almost anywhere in the town.

The Longtimber Woods are to the north of the town, and attract many walkers along the pretty riverside path here.

The town

Ivybridge's Town Hall

The built environment in and around Ivybridge is mainly characterised by its suburban streets plans and houses, although in the centre of Ivybridge it's mainly characterised by Victorian buildings. From the centre of the town most buildings are terraced and now many of these buildings have been converted into retail outlets along Fore Street – the town's central business district. In the middle layer of the town most buildings are semi-detached and built on quite steep roads. More detached houses are found on the outer layers of the city on the east and on the west of the town. Over the past decades the town has been shaped by its two most essential pieces of infrastructure: the railway line to the north and the A38 dual carriageway to the south. No large scaling housing has been built on either side of these boundaries. Due to this Ivybridge has been forced to grow east and west rather than north and south.


The Ivy Bridge by J M W Turner, 1813

The name Ivybridge is derived from a small 13th-century hump-backed bridge of the same name which was the only means for carts to cross the river until 1819. "Ivy" was used to describe the bridge, because there was ivy growing on the bridge. As the bridge was the centre of the village and important to its very existence, it was named the "parish of Ivybridge" in 1894.

Edmund Barron Hartley was born in Ivybridge on 6 May 1847. He was awarded the Victoria Cross in Moirosi's Mountain, Basuto War, 5 June 1879.[2]

The first mention of Ivybridge came in 1280 when it was described as "dowry of land on the west side of the River Erme, by the Ivy Bridge."[3] There was a chapel, that had been on the site of St John's Church, since 1402.[4]

From the 16th century onwards mills were built in the town, harnessing the power of the river. Records show that in the 16th century there was a corn mill, a tin mill and an edge mill. One of the mills, 'Glanville's Mill' (a corn mill), was situated where many of the town's shops are today and gives its name to the shopping centre.[3] The first church (Saint John's) was built in 1790 as a chapel of ease, but 45 years later in 1835 it was consecrated as a district church.[1] In 1819 the Ivy Bridge lost its position as the only means of crossing the river when the 'New Bridge' was built joining Fore Street and Exeter Road.

In 1977 Ivybridge became a town. Throughout the 1980s and 90s it underwent a period of rapid growth, perhaps due to the A38 road by-pass. Between the censuses in 1981 and 2001 the population more than doubled from 5,106 to 12,056.


Ivybridge Evangelical Church

Ivybridge has six churches:

  • Church of England:
  • St John's Church, the parish church, near the Ivy Bridge.
  • Baptist Church
  • Congregational Church
  • Methodist Church
  • Salvation Army (meets in the Methodist Church)
  • Roman Catholic
The old Town Hall — Chapel Place
The Paper Mill


Ivybridge's earliest known economy relied on the River Erme with a corn mill, tin mill and an edge mill in existence in the town. Later development of the town relied on both the River Erme and the railway. The largest employer to the town during the Industrial Revolution was Stowford Paper Mill, which led to population growth in the town, and the mill is still in use today providing jobs for the town.

With the expansion of the town in the late 20th century much of the new jobs are in the service sector of industry, and commuting to Plymouth. There have been attempts to brand the town as a walking centre for southern Dartmoor and there is indeed good access to Dartmoor from the town. For example, one route follows the route of the old china clay railway to Redlake in the heart of the moor, another glides delightfully by the Erme through Longtimber Woods. There are other accesses to the Moor. The Two Moors Way, which crosses Dartmoor and Exmoor starts in Ivybridge and finishes in Lynmouth on the North Devon coast.


The Ivy Bridge

The town's natural landmark is Western Beacon, a hill that overlooks the town and gives fine views down over south Devon. It earliest manmade landmark is the Ivy Bridge; a 13th-century hump-backed bridge covered in Ivy. It is still in use today and gives the name of the town – Ivybridge.

The two remaining industrial landmarks of the town are the Viaduct over the River Erme and the Paper Mill. The original viaduct was built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel in 1848, only the granite piers remain. The operational line alongside, was built by Sir James Charles Inglis in 1893 for the Great Western Railway. It still carries the main line trains. They were key to the town's initial growth in the Industrial Revolution and are still importance to the town today.


Ivybridge playing fields

Each April the Ivybridge walking and outdoor festival takes place. There are various leisure facilities in the town: the South Dartmoor Leisure Centre features an indoor swimming pool, an outdoor swimming pool, an indoor sports hall, squash courts and gymnasium facilities. The South Devon Tennis Centre has four indoor and four outdoor courts. Next to the South Devon Tennis Centre are the Erme playing fields (Erme Valley) which hold a cricket field (with a practice net) and two football pitches. There is also a skatepark in the centre of the town and rugby pitches on the eastern outskirts of town the rugby club

  • Cricket
  • Football: Ivybridge Town FC, founded in 1925
  • Flat green bowls: club is at the end of Bridge Park
  • Rugby: at Ivybridge Rugby Football Club
  • Running: Erme Valley Harriers

Outside links


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Ivybridge". Morris and Co.'s Commercial Directory and Gazetteer 1870. http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~valhender/dirtrans/mor1870/ivybridge.htm. Retrieved 2008-04-27. 
  2. "Grave location for holders of the Victoria Cross in: Brookwood cemetery, Woking, Surrey". victoriacross.org.uk. http://www.homeusers.prestel.co.uk/stewart/brookwoo.htm. Retrieved 2008-04-26. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 "The Past and The Present". Ivybridge Town Council website. Archived from the original on 2007-12-23. http://web.archive.org/web/20071223070055/http://www.ivybridge.gov.uk/tourism/past.htm. Retrieved 2008-04-27. 
  4. W. G. Hoskins (1954). Devon. Phillimore & Company, Limited. ISBN 1-86077-204-8. http://www.devon.gov.uk/localstudies/110545/1.html. Retrieved 2008-06-28.