Historical visitors' book

Some visitors to Ashburton, and their comments where available - not always complimentary. 


'Raleigh set out for London, but had proceeded only twenty miles when he was met at Ashburton by his relative Sir Lewis Stukeley, Vice-admiral of Devon, who had been commissioned to arrest him......he was henceforward distinguished by the appellation of Sir Judas Stukeley'.

Life of Sir Walter Raleigh, 1552 - 1618, vol 2,  James Augustus St John, Chapman and Hall 1868, p 268                            


Samuel Pepys stopped at Ashburton in 1671 during a tour to inspect the royal forests (in order to report on the timber that the navy could use). The bill for his stay was £1 6s

Accounts in Rawlinson MSS A 174 ff402-7. Quoted in 'Samuel Pepys - the years of peril' Arthur Bryant, Collins, St Jame's Place, London,1948 reprint, p 62


'From Chedly [Chudleigh] to Ashburton a poor little town, bad was its best inn..'            Celia Fiennes. 1689 

The Illustrated Journeys of Celia Fiennes 1685-c1712 Ed Morris, Christopher, Macdonald and Co London; Webb and Bower Exeter, 1982, p 200                                                      


In the evening I preached in the street at Ashburton. Many behaved with decency; but the rest,

with such stupid rudeness as I have not seen, for a long time, in any part of England.  John Wesley August 30 1766 

Journal of John Wesley 1766, The Tyndale series of Great Biographies Ed Percy Livingstone Parker, Chicago, Moody Press 1951, p 184 


Aug 8th, 1795. Ashburton is a pretty little town, standing in a hollow. After ordering dinner at our inn, we walked into the town to see it. As we were going out of the inn, we were surprised on looking up at the door to see in large letters: Blessed be this happy day. God bless the Royal Pair -1789.

On enquiry, we found that the King* and royal family had stopped at the inn in their way to Plymouth on the day mentioned. We were much surprized to hear from our landlord that the Duke of Beaufort was expected there every hour, and that horses were waiting for him; nor were we able to devise any reason for this sudden movement.**

Journal of a Tour around the Southern Coasts of England, John Henry Manners, 5th Duke of Rutland, London, 1805, p100

*George III

** See Crime and Punishment for the reason why the Duke of Beaufort was in the town.


1845 Three carriages, containing HRH Prince Ferdinand of Saxe Coburg, HRH Prince Leopold of Saxe Coburg and their attendants stopped at Bates' Golden Lion before proceeding to Plymouth.

Western Times 22 November 1845 p3 col3 


1850 Abraham Cann, Devon Wrestling Champion, arrived in Ashburton to adjudicate in a disputed wrestling match. According to Edward Foot, writing to the Western Times in 1879, he stayed 3 days, being 'almost worshipped' by the inhabitants. Henry Caunter, a talented Ashburton artist, painted a portrait of Mr Cann, which was then raffled - 40 people paid 10s each for a ticket. The painting was won by Robert Mugford of the Town Arms, and after his death the picture was bought by Edward Foot, a dealer. In 1879 Mr Foot had the painting for sale, claiming that it was the only true likeness of Abraham Cann, and the only painting of him ever done in oils.

Western Times 9 February 1850 p5 col4

Western Times 2 October 1879 p3 col2

The portrait is now in the Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery, Exeter. For a biography of Abraham Cann by the curator, and to see an image of the painting, go to http://www.livinghere.org.uk and search under 'Cann'. 


In 1854 the ex-Queen of France* arrived in Ashburton, en route to Tavistock. She stayed briefly at Bates' Golden Lion Hotel and 'walked through the principal streets'.

* Presumably Maria Amalia of Naples and Sicily, the widow of Louis-Philippe, who had been King of France until his exile in England in 1848. He died in 1850; she in 1866.

Western Times 30 September 1854 p7 col3




1859. Some members of the Russian Royal Family visited Ashburton, stopping at Mrs. Bishop's Golden Lion Hotel. They had been staying at Torquay.

Western Times 1 October 1859 p6 col6


'Ashburton -  where we found the perfection of an inn, with an old garden, and a thirty years' gardener  devoted to his flowers, and where we met friends of congenial tastes, who had frequent bulletins of the condition of a dog and a sparrow, both of high intellectual development, and who could enlighten our ignorance as to the different species of fern which crowded the deep-sunk lanes'.

'A Wife with her Husband', Holiday Rambles in Ordinary Places, republished from The Spectator, London, 1880, p316



In November 1896 the newly married Ramsay MacDonald and Margaret Gladstone were staying at the Golden Lion Hotel. Ramsay wrote to Florence Gladstone* 'on a very shaky table'. Later he added 'how this old table does shake'. He must have been hoping for anonymity on his honeymoon, because he told Florence that his usual luck had followed him, coming face to face with an old friend as soon as they had left the train: this friend was 'professing' agriculture for Devon County Council. Ramsay walked on as the friend looked at him, 'he knew I had no sister and was absolutely certain I had not married'. He told Florence he was expecting to hear that the friend had encountered a double at Ashburton.
The couple were about to travel across Dartmoor to Pricetown and Tavistock - they were then going on to Tintagel.
Jane Cox, ed., A Singular Marriage, A Labour Love Story in Letters and Diaries, London 1988, pp180, 181
*I believe this was Margaret's sister

1908 Mrs. Pankhurst and Mrs. Martel visited the Market Hall to speak about the Suffragist movement.
The Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 11 January 1908 p6 col4   


1920s. An event which united the town was the visit of the Prince of Wales. Everyone assembled in the lower end of North Street, children in Scout, Cub, Guide and Brownie uniforms waiting in hushed silence for the heir to the throne to arrive. His brother, the Duke of Kent, who was the taller of the two young men, accompanied him and was, I thought, the more handsome of the pair. They walked down the street occasionally stopping to speak to someone in the crowd and then departed to view the duchy estates. It was a very informal affair: looking back the security seemed non-existent.

Many thanks to Hazel Bray for the above account


 A town of great charm.......no buildings of individual importance, but much to delight the eye" Nikolaus Pevsner

The buildings of England, South Devon, Nikolaus Pevsner, Penguin books, 1952, p38