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Barnstaple is a town in the county of Devon in the south west of England. It is the main town in the local government district of North Devon and claims to be the oldest borough in the United Kingdom. It was founded at the lowest crossing point of the River Taw, about 5 kilometres from the Taw's seafall at the Bristol Channel.


By the time of the Domesday Book, Barnstaple had its own mint. Its size and wealth in the Middle Ages was based on it being 'wool staple', a town licensed to export wool, and its importance is still obvious in the town's name. The wool trade was further aided by the town's excellent port, with five ships being sent in 1588 to aid the fight against the Spanish Armada.

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Barnstaple is still sometimes referred to as Barum. The origin of this name is obscure, but has been in use since pre-Saxon times and is probably of Roman origin. Mentioned by Shakespeare, the name Barum was revived and popularised in Victorian times, featuring in several novels of the time. The name is retained in the names of a football team, brewery, and several other local businesses.

Butcher's Row
Built in 1855, Butchers Row consists of 10 shops with pilasters of Bath Stone, and wrought iron supports to an overhanging roof. Only two of the shops remain as butchers although the new shops still sell local agricultural goods. There is one baker, one delicatessen, two fishmongers, a florist and a greengrocer.

Pannier Market
Barnstaple has been the major market for North Devon since Saxon times. Demands for health regulation of its food market in Victorian times saw the construction in 1855-6 of the town's Pannier Market. The building has a high glass and timber roof on iron columns. At 320 ft long, it runs the length of Butchers Row. Market days are Tuesday, Friday and Saturday. According to the UK newspaper 'The Independent' the Pannier Market is voted one of the top ten food markets in Britain.

Britain in Bloom
Barnstaple won the Britain in Bloom competition, in the category of Town (Population : 6001 - 12,000)[2] in 1995, 1997, 1999 and 2003. The town also won the Abbis Cup in 1996 and 1998 for Regional Supreme Champion (any size town), the Nations in Bloom — Best Town in the World in 1996, the Entente Florale — Best Town in Europe in 1996, and World in Bloom in 1998.

Barnstaple Fair
The ceremonial opening of the fair survives from ancient times. The Town Council meets in the Guildhall, where various toasts are honoured with a spiced ale which, according to tradition, is made from a jealously guarded recipe handed on from generation to generation. Whilst the toasts are being honoured, "fairings", (a form of sweetmeat) are handed around.

On the reading of the Proclamation a large stuffed gloved hand garlanded with flowers is hung from a window of the Guildhall. The gloved hand represents the hand of friendship and the hand of welcome to the thousands that come to the fair. At 12 o'clock, a civic procession forms at the entrance to the Guildhall and the proclamation is read.

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