BRIEF HISTORY OF SOUTH MOLTON
South Molton originated in early Saxon times, the area being occupied from around 650 and known as Dumnania. By the time of The Doomsday Book in 1086 showed it to be of some importance with 4 priests listed which was an unusually large number. The town originated around the church and in the Middle Ages a square was laid out as a new market place. South Molton has been a thriving town since the earliest days of recorded history, Gilbert de Turberville created the borough about the year 1150. There exists in the Museum two Royal Borough Charters granted by Elizabeth 1st in 1590 and Charles 2nd in 1684. These are commemorated each year with the Olde English Fair held in June.
The towns early wealth came from its importance as a centre for the wool trade, this declined in the 18th and 19th centuries and South Moltons role changed to a transport, administration and service centre. It flourished as a market town and expanded with the building of the Town Hall and Assembly rooms and the introduction of schools and many more local businesses. The church of South Molton is dedicated to St Mary Magdalene and is entered through an avenue of Lime trees. This is believed to be the third church on this site and was built during the 15th century. The tower has a peel of 8 bells that are rung regularly.
Tourism came with the motorcar and the trains, the latter unfortunately axed in 1966 by the infamous Dr Beeching when the line between Barnstaple and Taunton was closed. Tourism plays a very important part in the economy of South Molton and the surrounding area being situated in an ideal central position within easy reach of Exmoor, Dartmoor, the rugged north coast and the beautiful sandy beaches to the west.
The town still flourishes as a market town, population about 5000; with its square still surrounded by small local shops unspoilt and much the same as it has been for years. The main market day is Thursdays with an extra pannier market on Saturdays.
There are many buildings of interest in the town and an insight into the history of these Medieval, Georgian and Elizabethan buildings and the town itself can be found in the Heritage Trail which guides you around the town showing you glimpses of past and present and a wealth of interesting information.