Great Torrington’s historic Pannier market was initially built in 1842. Before this traders set up their stalls in the streets. Butchers used to sell their meats in an open courtyard area behind the Town and Community Hall known as the Shambles. So, from 1842 traders had a venue to sell farm produce, meat and fish in a sheltered market. The name is thought to have derived from how the traders brought their produce to market in pannier bags slung over their horses.
The Pannier market buildings deteriorated after the second world war and the roof was removed in 1948. It was refurbished and a new glass roof built in 1999. The market is open seven days a week and contains twelve retail units and a cafe. Special events are regularly held here throughout the year.
Great Torrington, known locally as Torrington, is a sleepy North Devon, market town. It is a setting at the heart of Henry Williamson's 'Tarka the Otter' and John Insull's children's' novel 'Flow'.
From a historical perspective, it was at the heart of a significant battle during the English Civil War. The Royalist stronghold of Torrington was held by Lord Hopton's army. Sir Thomas Fairfax's Parliamentarian forces marched here into battle and to victory at the Battle of Torrington in 1646. This marked the end of Royalist resistance in the West of England.
The most famous folk festival here is 'Mayfair', held on the first Thursday in May. The town's children are at the centre with a May Queen being elected by the Junior School children. There is the famous maypole dancing and other children's events.
Great Torrington is also the home of Dartington Glass and RHS Rosemoor gardens which attracts many visitors.
A study by the University of Liverpool in 2019 found that Great Torrington was the healthiest place to live in Great Britain. This was based on the criteria of... ‘low levels of pollution, good access to parks, green spaces and health services, along with few retail outlets’.