Welcome to Totnes
Totnes is a rural market town whose fortunes have fluctuated greatly throughout history. In Medieval times it was a wealthy market town, which prospered through the wool trade, resulting in its legacy of many fine buildings built by prosperous merchants of the time. Its success was due to 3 things, its role as a market town, as a river port and as the lowest bridging point on the River Dart. In the 19th century, a long-running legal dispute nearly bankrupted the town, since when its fortunes have gradually improved. Many businesses have been central to the economy of the town, in particular the Dairy Crest milk processing plant, Reeves Timber yard, Harris’ Bacon Factory, Dartington College of Arts, Symonds Cider, Tuckers Toffee, all of which no longer exist.
Totnes has been a vibrant centre for arts and culture, initiated by the establishing of the Dartington Hall Trust in 1923, which turned the Dartington Estate into a place, which, to this day, attracts many leading artists to the area. In 2012, Totnes finds itself an economy based on tourism, a number of small and medium enterprises, and not much else in terms of employment opportunities. Many people now travel to Exeter and Plymouth, or even to London, for work. The use of the river for importing goods has all but ceased, being used more for recreation and tourism than for commerce.
The main sectors of employment are wholesale and retail trade, health and social work, manufacturing and education. Totnes has more part-time and less full-time and self-employed workers than the national average. Also, the number of households with an income below £20,000 in Totnes parish is 50% more than the national average. One in fifteen households in Totnes parish is occupied by lone pensioners, and the percentage of people claiming Incapacity Benefit and Severe Disability Allowance is well above average. Totnes has long been a place of experimentation and innovation, whether through Dartington Hall Trust’s innovation of artificial insemination and monoculture forestry, Peter Goss, between 1998 and 2001, building his revolutionary but ill-fated 120-foot Team Philips catamaran in Totnes, or through the Transition movement, described by Nicholas Crane in BBC2’s ‘Town’ programme as “the biggest urban brainwave of the century”.