Bideford

Street Map

Bideford (/ˈbɪdɪfʊd/) is a small port town on the estuary of the River Torridge in north Devon, south-west England. It is also 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 sizes. A New Year’s Eve tradition was to try to run across the Long Bridge in the time it takes for the bells at nearby St. Mary’s church to chime midnight.

In the 16th century Bideford was Britain’s third largest port. It was rumoured that Sir Walter Raleigh landed the first shipment of tobacco there, although this is a myth, as Raleigh was not, contrary to popular belief, the first to bring tobacco to England. In honour of Raleigh, several roads and a hill have been named after him in Bideford. Today the narrow town centre streets lead down to a tree-lined quay, which bustles with fishing vessels, cargo and pleasure boats. Ball clay and wood is the principal exports loaded onto boats at Bideford. The quay was refurbished, with completion in 2006, to provide flood control and also to incorporate a large fountain and modern public toilets.

The Bideford witch trial in 1682 involved three women, Temperance Lloyd, Mary Trembles and Susannah Edwards, accused of witchcraft and resulted in the last ever hangings for witchcraft in England.

This area of North Devon was home to the author Charles Kingsley, and is where he based his novel Westward Ho!. A seaside village, named after the book, was built after the book’s publication. Westward Ho!, which is the only place name in the United Kingdom that officially contains an exclamation mark, is approximately three miles (5 km) from Bideford. A statue has been erected in honour of Kingsley by the town park’s car park.

The city of Biddeford, Maine, USA, was named after the English town, using the original old English spelling. Also, the town of Bideford in the province of Prince Edward Island, Canada, is named after the English town.

Bideford is served by the Atlantic Highway and A386 roads. The nearest railway station is at Barnstaple 7.5 miles (12.1 km) away.

A ferry operates between Bideford quay and Lundy, which lies about 22 miles (35 km) away in the Bristol Channel. The same ship, the MS Oldenburg, also provides evening cruises from Bideford along the River Torridge in the downstream direction, M.S.Oldenburg is too big to pass through the Bideford Long Bridge.

In 1855 the Bideford Extension Railway opened, linking the town with Fremington, Barnstaple and beyond. In 1872 the railway was extended to Great Torrington and Bideford railway station was replaced with a new one nearer the town centre. Bideford’s passenger train services ceased in 1965 and freight trains ceased in 1982. Much of the course of the former railway has been re-used as part of the popular Tarka Trail footpath and cycleway. Parts of the route are also shared by the long-distance South West Coast Path footpath.

The Bideford Railway Heritage Centre no longer operates the heritage railway Torridge Train along a short length of track at Bideford due to encroachment on the track bed by a housing development. The new Barnstaple Western Bypass is designed to allow the Barnstaple to Bideford section to be restored should the finance and wish ever exist.

The Bideford, Westward Ho! and Appledore Railway was an unusual and short-lived railway built entirely on this peninsula with no direct connection to the rest of the British railway network. The locomotives were fitted with skirts to protect pedestrians as at one point the line ran along the quay at Bideford. The line had eleven halts which largely served visitors wishing to enjoy the bracing air along the coast or the fine beaches around Westward Ho!. The railway, although authorised in 1896 was opened only as far as Northam by 1901 and finally opened to Appledore in 1908.

The railway fell into financial difficulties until in the First World War the War Department requisitioned all of its equipment for use in France. Bideford’s 13th century Long Bridge was temporarily converted into a railway bridge to carry the locomotives and rolling stock onto the main line railway near Bideford Station.

The town of Bideford has grown to cover land on both sides of the River Torridge; the area located east of the river is known as East-the-Water. Much of the land that has been built on is drained marshland.

East-the-Water has its own primary school, local shops, a few factories, approximately 3 bars and pubs, a small health centre and a small industrial area consisting largely of locally owned businesses. The community also has its own community centre and association, both of which are self funding and run by a committee of local residents. A key historical feature is Chudleigh Fort, built by the Parliamentarian Major-General Chudleigh during the English Civil War. The area is surrounded by agricultural land.

Bideford Town Council has 16 seats representing four unequal wards, North, South, East and South Outer. The town council received widespread attention in February 2012 when the High Court ruled that prayers as part of meetings were not lawful by the Local Government Act 1972.

Torridge District Council is the next level of local government and most decisions are made by Devon County Council.

Bideford is renowned for its New Year’s Eve celebrations, when thousands of people – most in fancy dress – from surrounding towns, villages and around the world gather on the quay for revelries and a fireworks display.

The South West Coast Path National Trail runs through the town, and gives access to walks along the rugged North Devon coast.

The Bideford, Westward Ho! and Appledore Railway was an unusual and short-lived railway built entirely on this peninsula with no direct connection to the rest of the British railway network. The locomotives were fitted with skirts to protect pedestrians as at one point the line ran along the quay at Bideford. The line had eleven halts which largely served visitors wishing to enjoy the bracing air along the coast or the fine beaches around Westward Ho!. The railway, although authorised in 1896 was opened only as far as Northam by 1901 and finally opened to Appledore in 1908.

The railway fell into financial difficulties until in the First World War the War Department requisitioned all of its equipment for use in France. Bideford’s 13th century Long Bridge was temporarily converted into a railway bridge to carry the locomotives and rolling stock onto the main line railway near Bideford Station.

The town of Bideford has grown to cover land on both sides of the River Torridge; the area located east of the river is known as Bogside. Much of the land that has been built on is drained marshland.

East-the-Water has its own primary school, local shops, a few factories, approximately 3 bars and pubs, a small health centre and a small industrial area consisting largely of locally owned businesses. The community also has its own community centre and association, both of which are self funding and run by a committee of local residents. A key historical feature is Chudleigh Fort, built by the Parliamentarian Major-General James Chudleigh during the English Civil War. The area is surrounded by agricultural land.

Bideford Town Council has 16 seats representing four unequal wards, North, South, East and South Outer. There is a mayor and Town Clerk. The town council received widespread attention in February 2012 when the High Court ruled that prayers as part of meetings were not lawful by the Local Government Act 1972. Torridge District Council is the next level of local government and most decisions are made by Devon County Council.

Bideford is renowned for its New Year’s Eve celebrations, when thousands of people – most in fancy dress – from surrounding towns, villages and around the world gather on the quay for revelries and a fireworks display.

The Voice is a local radio station broadcasting from Barnstaple, on DAB and online. Bideford is covered by three main local newspapers, the North Devon Gazette and the North Devon Journal which are published weekly, and the Bideford Post which is published monthly. The Gazette was founded in Bideford, and was originally known as the Bideford Gazette. It is now a free newspaper, delivered to most local homes, and is now based in Barnstaple.

The town is twinned with Landivisiau, France. On 20 October 2006, British ex-patriate David Riley came to mark the ’20-year link’ between Manteo on Roanoke Island, North Carolina, and Bideford. The Bideford town clerk, George McLauchlan, told him that locals had never heard of Manteo and the only town Bideford was twinned with was in France. Mr Riley handed over a clock to ‘celebrate’ the twenty-year link, while the Manteo Town manager Kermit Skinner said the link started in the 1980s during the 400th anniversary of Raleigh’s voyages to America. It turns out the ‘twinning’ of Bideford with Manteo had been established 20 years before. But the story goes back much further, 500 years, to the mysterious disappearance of a colony of more than 100 people on Roanoke Island, many of whom were migrants from Bideford. The colony was established by Sir Richard Grenville, who bought back two native Indians, one of them called Manteo which gave the North Carolina town its name.

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