TIVERTON, a market town and municipal borough in the Tiverton parliamentary division of Devonshire, England, situated amid beautiful scenery at the confluence of the Loman and Exe, 187¾ m. W. by S. of London by the Great Western railway. Pop. (1901), 10,382. The upper town is built on high ground along the left bank of the Exe, and a bridge leads to the lower town, named West Exe. St Peter's church, originally consecrated as a chapel by Leofric, bishop of Exeter, in 1073, is a beautiful Perpendicular building. Its high tower has four stages, each adorned with grotesques; and Greenway's chapel, built in 1517 by John Greenway, a wool merchant of Tiverton, is ornamented with figures minutely carved in stone. Of the original Norman fabric only a doorway remains. Within are some line carvings, brasses and monuments. Of the castle, founded about 1105 by Richard de Redvers, the banqueting hall, a tower, the chapel and a 14th-century gateway remain. After serving as the home of the Redvers and Courtenay families, earls of Devon, until the 16th century, the castle was dismantled by Fairfax. Partly rebuilt, it is used as a dwelling-house; while in its gardens an annual race-meeting is held in August. Blundell's grammar school, founded under the will of Peter Blundell, a rich cloth merchant, in 1604, has modern buildings outside the town in Tudor style; and, among others, scholarships at Balliol College, Oxford, and Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. The number of boys is about 230. The Chilcott Free School was established in 1611, and the Bluecoat Charity School, dating from 1714, was reorganized in 1876 to give secondary education to boys and girls. After the decline of its woollen trade Tiverton became noted for the lace manufacture introduced by John Heathcoat (1783–1861), inventor of the bobbin net frame. There are also breweries, flour-mills, and a large trade in farm produce and livestock. Amicia, countess of Devon, brought a stream of water from Norwood, 5 m. distant; This system was improved in the 19th century. Hannah Cowley, the dramatist (1743–1809), Richard Cosway, the miniature painter (b. 1742) and John Cross, an artist of some celebrity (b. 1819), were natives of Tiverton. The town is governed by a mayor, 6 aldermen and 18 councillors. Area, 17,680 acres.
Tiverton (Tuyverton, Tovretona) exhibits traces of very early settlement, and is mentioned under the name of Tuyford in the will of King Alfred. In the Domesday survey it appears as a royal manor containing two mills, but it was bestowed by Henry I. on Richard de Redvers, and in 1245 appears as a mesne borough under Baldwin de Redvers, who in that year obtained a grant of a Monday market and a three days' fair at the feast of St James. In 1275 Amicia, countess of Devon, claimed to hold fairs at Tiverton at the feasts of St Andrew and St Giles, and at the translation of St Thomas the Martyr. In 1618 the borough received its first charter of incorporation from James I., instituting a governing body of a mayor, 12 chief burgesses, and I2 assistant burgesses, with a recorder, deputy-recorder, town clerk and two sergeants-at-mace; a court of record every fortnight on Tuesday; and fairs at Michaelmas and on the second Tuesday after Trinity Sunday, which were kept up until within the last fifty years. The borough also sent two representatives to parliament until disfranchised by the Reform Act of 1885. Cromwell in 1655 changed the market day from Monday to Tuesday. Fresh charters of incorporation from James II. in 1689 and from George I. in 1724 left the style and constitution of the governing body unchanged. Tiverton was an important centre of the woollen trade in the 16th century, and Risdon, writing in 1608, describes it as thronged with rich clothiers, and the Monday market famous for its kersies, known as “Tiverton kersies,” while as late as the reign of George II. the town had 56 fulling-mills; but about this time the industry began to decay, and is now extinct.
See Victoria County History: Devonshire; M. Dunsfold, Historical Memoirs of the Town and Parish of Tiverton (Exeter, 1790); W. Harding, History of Tiverton (1845–1847).