The comprehensive gazetteer and bibliography of the medieval castles, fortifications and palaces of England, Wales, the Islands.
The listings
Other Info
Print Page 
Next Record 
Previous Record 
Back to list 

Tavistock Abbey

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Betsy Grimbald's Tower

In the civil parish of Tavistock.
In the historic county of Devonshire.
Modern Authority of Devon.
1974 county of Devon.
Medieval County of Devon.

OS Map Grid Reference: SX481743
Latitude 50.54896° Longitude -4.14521°

Tavistock Abbey has been described as a Fortified Ecclesiastical site although is doubtful that it was such.

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.
This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law*.


Remains of Tavistock Abbey sited in the centre of the town of Tavistock on the north side of the River Tavy south west Dartmoor. Originally the Benedictine Abbey of St Mary the Virgin and St Rumon begun by Ealdorman Ordgar and completed by his son Ordulf 975-80. It was burnt down by the Danes in 997 but was soon restored. The abbot and 20 monks surrendered the monastery in 1539. Remains include two sections of boundary wall, the Great Gate (west entrance to the precincts), the 'still-house' (a small square tower), the Abbot's Hall and its porch, the Abbey Gatehouse also called Higher Gate or Town Gate and some ancillary buildings on the eastern boundary of the Abbey precincts, possibly the Abbey Mill. (PastScape)

Mostly 15th century. The Great Gate of the Abbey, west entrance to the precincts. Moulded segmental arches, (one blocked) with flanking towers. Named after corruption of the Blessed Grimwald. (PastScape–ref. listing description)

Tavistock Abbey is central to the history and character of the medieval town which developed around it. The Saxon foundation of the abbey places it amongst the earliest of the medieval religious houses founded in Britain, and it was in continuous use by the same Benedictine order for over five and a half centuries. Tavistock Abbey was closely linked with the Benedictine abbey at Buckfast which was founded at the same time, and the pilgrim route across Dartmoor which connected them can still be followed. Although the abbey suffered heavily at the time of the Dissolution, its plan and extent, and the positions of some of its major buildings are well known from previous studies and from its standing remains which are the oldest buildings in Tavistock. These buildings survive in good condition and they include two of the original gateways, and a substantial length of the precinct wall, including a corner tower.
The West Gate, a Grade I Listed Building (known more commonly as Betsy Grimbal's Tower), was the west gate of the Abbey precinct. It comprises an entrance archway flanked by projecting demi-octagonal stair turrets; there is a first floor room over the gate passage, and a two-storied structure of continuous construction to the north. (Scheduling Report)

Betsy Grimbald's Tower, a gatehouse, is said to contain a gun loop but the defensive character of this feature is questionable.
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

Data >
PastScape   County HER   Scheduling   Listing   I. O. E.
Maps >
Streetmap   NLS maps   Where's the path   Old-Maps      
Data/Maps > 
Magic   V. O. B.   Geology   LiDAR   Open Domesday  
Air Photos > 
Bing Maps   Google Maps   Getmapping   ZoomEarth      
Photos >
CastleFacts   Geograph   Flickr   Panoramio      

Sources of information, references and further reading
Most of the sites or buildings recorded in this web site are NOT open to the public and permission to visit a site must always be sought from the landowner or tenant.
It is an offence to disturb a Scheduled Monument without consent. It is a destruction of everyone's heritage to remove archaeological evidence from ANY site without proper recording and reporting.
Don't use metal detectors on historic sites without authorisation.
The information on this web page may be derived from information compiled by and/or copyright of Historic England, County Historic Environment Records and other individuals and organisations. It may also contain information licensed under the Open Government Licence. All the sources given should be consulted to identify the original copyright holder and permission obtained from them before use of the information on this site for commercial purposes.
The author and compiler of Gatehouse does not receive any income from the site and funds it himself. The information within this site is provided freely for educational purposes only.
The bibliography owes much to various bibliographies produced by John Kenyon for the Council for British Archaeology, the Castle Studies Group and others.
Suggestions for finding online and/or hard copies of bibliographical sources can be seen at this link.
Minor archaeological investigations, such as watching brief reports, and some other 'grey' literature is most likely to be held by H.E.R.s but is often poorly referenced and is unlikely to be recorded here, or elsewhere, but some suggestions can be found here.
The possible site or monument is represented on maps as a point location. This is a guide only. It should be noted that OS grid references defines an area, not a point location. In practice this means the actual center of the site or monument may often, but not always, be to the North East of the point shown. Locations derived from OS grid references and from latitude longitiude may differ by a small distance.
Further information on mapping and location can be seen at this link.
Please help to make this as useful a resource as possible by contacting Gatehouse if you see errors, can add information or have suggestions for improvements in functality and design.
Help is acknowledged.
*The listed building may not be the actual medieval building, but a building on the site of, or incorporating fragments of, the described site.
This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:22:04

Home | Books | Links | Fortifications and Castles | Other Information | Help | Downloads | Author Information | Contact