This morning we have a free morning in Barnstaple so I stayed in bed until 8:30am before going for a nice leisurely breakfast of porridge with a big fat dollop of clotted cream and golden syrup followed by bacon and toast, all accompanied by lots of strong, hot coffee.
After breakfast I spent some time washing, cleaning, hoovering and polishing my coach before heading into Barnstaple.
Barnstaple’s early history is unknown, although a few prehistoric flints have been unearthed in the area. However by the reign of King Athelstan, Barnstaple was sufficiently well established to become one of four “Burhs”, and as such was granted the right to mint coins. The earliest coin discovered so far dates back to King Eadwig’s reign (955-959). At this time Barnstaple had already become an important centre of commerce and it is said that King Athelstan granted the town a charter, which gave the town folk the right to hold markets and a fair.
Medieval Barnstaple had become an important trading centre dealing in wool and woollen material, so much so that 2 burgesses were sent to represent the town in Parliament.
The late 16th and early 17th centuries were periods of vast change. The Great Quay and Little Quay were built to accommodate the great increase in trade. Tobacco, wine and spices were imported and wool and pottery, along with a variety of other goods were exported. Barnstaple pottery has been found in archaeological excavations as far away as Maryland, USA. This era of prosperity was abruptly interrupted in 1642 by the Civil War during which the town changed hands four times. Evidence of the skirmishes can still be seen at the Penrose Almshouses in Litchdon Street where bullet holes are clearly visible in the door to the far left of the entrance gate.
The pannier market has charm and a friendly atmosphere and is one of Britain's largest indoor markets. There's something for everyone.
Largely unchanged in over 150 years, Barnstaple's historic Pannier Market has a wide range of stalls, with everything from fresh local produce, flowers and crafts, to prints and pictures, fashion and much more. Ideally located on the bustling High Street, the market is a must-see attraction for all visitors to the town.
The market boasts two café's each offering varied menus at great prices and a relaxed atmosphere, where you can sit and watch the world go by.
Open all year round from 9.00 am to 4.00 pm, there really is something for everyone on every day of the week, except Sundays and bank holidays. And if the market is not enough, there is a great mix of national and independent shops and other attractions nearby.
The Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon is the perfect way to find out more about North Devon. The collections and displays cover the natural and human history of this beautiful part of the country. Highlights of the Museum include the Tarka Gallery, the Story of North Devon and the Regimental Collection of the Royal Devon Yeomanry.
Barnstaple Heritage Centre offers great entertainment for all the family including quizzes and games, brass-rubbing and children's costumes, in the fantastic hands-on exhibition. On a Journey Through Time, you can experience Saxon Life in Barnstaple, find out what was on offer in the Medieval Market, listen to merchants trading at the Tome Stone, and make sure the enemy does not surround you as the Civil War reaches town! Escape the battles to reach the genteel 18th Century, and tread the boards with John Gay's Beggar's Opera. And when you have found all the missing mice, follow the Heritage Trail, through the Floral Arch to the delightful Gift Shop.
This afternoon we were due to visit Marwood Hill Gardens but the rain has been so persistent this morning and so many people have dropped out of the visit that we have made arrangements to go tomorrow instead. My courier was concerned about our elderly passengers slipping on the sloping wet grassy paths while I was concerned about people getting on my nice clean coach with muddy dirty feet! So that has resulted in me having a day off, playing princesses in this lovely hotel!