The Tavistock Museum is to be found at Court Gate, Bedford Square. It is a community museum situated within an important group of public buildings built from mining royalties by the Bedford Estate, which includes the Town Hall, Police Station and Guildhall.
It occupies two rooms above Court Gate, the historic gateway into the abbey (Grade I listed), and provides a very fitting use for these Grade II listed rooms. The museum moved into these premises during the summer 2003 and has been open to the public since that time. All stewarding is voluntary.
There is no entry charge but a donation is requested which goes towards insurances and subscription costs.
Unfortunately at the present time the museum is located on the first floor above the archway and is accessible only by a flight of stairs.
Our museum is within the Cornish Mining world heritage site and in 2006 was invited to join the Cornish Mining Attractions Marketing Association (CMAMA). It has exhibitions relating to the Tavistock Stannary, Tavistock Canal , foundries and local mines.
It tells the story of this once great Benedictine Abbey dedicated to St. Mary and St Rumon which was founded by Ordulph, son of Orgar, the Earl of Devon, in 974. The first abbey, made largely of wood, was pillaged and burnt in 997 by a Danish raiding party. The second abbey was a more substantial masonry building and around it a trading settlement grew which in medieval times developed into a market town with a prosperous woollen industry.
In 1539 there was a dramatic turn of events when monastic buildings throughout the country were closed down on the orders of King Henry VIII. Unfortunately over the next two centuries the once magnificent abbey building was allowed to deteriorate and its materials used for other purposes; today only fragments such the Court Gate, the Misericorde, parts of the monastery wall, Betsy Grimbal's tower and cloisters in the parish churchyard remain.