Petrockstowe is steeped in history; with the first signs of habitation being Bronze Age burial mounds found just outside the village. The Normans were the first to take comprehensive records of Petrockstowe in the Doomsday Book. From the 12th to the 14th century new settlements sprung up and land was cultivated.
More recently, the village population has varied tremendously; in 1850 the population was 616, then in 1901 just 384. Today, the population has risen to approximately 400.
The 19th century was the boom period for the small village; so much that Lord Clinton built a village school there at the grand cost of £700! In the 19th century Petrockstowe was home to many businesses: a tanner, carpenter, shopkeeper, reverend, innkeeper, two blacksmiths, three shoemakers, three wheelwrights and twenty-one farmers!
The first railway to run through the village (Petrockstowe Station) was built by the North Devon Clay Company. The 3ft gauge light railway was six and a half miles long; passing through Langtree Valley, to Yarde and Petrockstowe, and eventually on to the clay works at Burymoor. The line was officially opened in February 1881 at a cost of £15,000.
Work began on a standard gauge line in June 1922. Taking nearly three years to build, the line made it possible to travel from Petrockstowe to London Waterloo in just six hours, with just one change at Halwill. A quote suggests ‘the ticket clerk was said to be so amazed to issue the First Class single ticket (1s. 2d.) for a trip on an almost empty train in July 1963 that he forgot to fill in the destination’. The last ever passenger train to stop at Petrockstowe Station was on the 9th August 1981. The line has since been converted to the legendary Tarka Trail; offering over 180 miles of cycle and walking opportunities. The stretch that passes Petrockstowe is 22 miles long; spanning from Meeth to Braunton.
For more in depth information about Petrockstowe, why not purchase our ‘Petrockstowe Past & Present’ book? The book was written by the Petrockstowe History Group and offers a snapshot of the village in different stages in the community’s development; with memories, anecdotes and humour. In addition there are galleries of photographs and the story of Petrockstowe from its early formation.