Motto: Auxilio divino (Latin: By divine aid)
Status Ceremonial & (smaller) Non-metropolitan county
Region South West England
- Total
- Admin. council
- Admin. area
Ranked 4th
6,707 km²
Ranked 3rd
6,564 km ²
Admin HQ Exeter
ISO 3166-2 GB-DEV
ONS code 18
- Total (2004 est.)
- Density
- Admin. council
- Admin. pop.
Ranked 11th
164 / km²
Ranked 12th
Ethnicity 98.7% White
Arms of Devon County Council
Devon County Council
Executive Liberal Democrats
Members of Parliament
  1. Exeter
  2. East Devon
  3. Mid Devon
  4. North Devon
  5. Torridge
  6. West Devon
  7. South Hams
  8. Teignbridge
  9. Plymouth (Unitary)
  10. Torbay (Unitary)

Devon is a large county in South West England, bordering on Cornwall to the west, Dorset and Somerset to the east. Devon is unique among English counties, in that it has two non-contiguous coastlines. Both parts of the Devon coastline are part of the South West Coast Path.

The name Devonshire was once common but is now rarely used, although it does feature in some names and titles (such as the Duke of Devonshire), and is still to be seen on signposts in the county.

As part of a 2002 marketing campaign, the plant conservation charity Plantlife chose the Primrose as the county flower.


Devon was one of the first areas of England settled following the end of the last ice age. Dartmoor is thought to have been settled by Mesolithic hunter-gatherer peoples from about 6000 BC. The name 'Devon' derives from the name given by the Romans to the Celtic people who inhabited the south western peninsula of Britain at the time of the Roman invasion c. 50AD , known as the Dumnonii, thought to mean 'Deep Valley Dwellers'. The Romans held the area under military occupation for approximately 25 years. Later the area became a frontier between Brythonic Dumnonia and Anglo-Saxon Wessex, and some historians claim that this resulted in the effective conquest of Devon by Wessex by 715 and its formal annexation around 805. However, this is a matter of controversy. Later William of Malmesbury claimed "that the Britons and Saxons inhabited Exeter aequo jure ('as equals') in 927.

By the ninth century, the major threat to Saxon control of Devon came not from the native British but from Viking raiders, and sporadic incursions continued until the Norman Conquest. A few Norse place names remain as a result, for example Lundy Island, though the Vikings' most lasting legacy is probably the move of the cathedral from Crediton to Exeter.

Devon has also featured in most of the civil conflicts in England since the Norman conquest, including the Wars of the Roses, Perkin Warbeck's rising in 1497, the Prayer Book Rebellion of 1549, and the English Civil War. Perhaps most notably, the arrival of William of Orange to launch the Glorious Revolution of 1688, took place at Brixham.

Devon has produced tin, copper and other metals from ancient times. Devon's tin miners enjoyed a substantial degree of independence through Devon's stannary parliament, which dates back to the twelfth century. The last recorded sitting was in 1748.

Devon is also known for its mariners, such as Sir Francis Drake, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, Sir Richard Grenville and Sir Walter Raleigh, and as the childhood home of psychology pioneer Raymond Cattell.


This is a chart of trend of regional gross value added of Devon at current basic prices published (pp.240-253) by Office for National Statistics with figures in millions of British Pounds Sterling.

Year Regional Gross Value Added4 Agriculture1 Industry2 Services3
1995 6,163 391 1,746 4,027
2000 7,497 286 1,813 5,398
2003 8,670 325 1,853 6,492

Note 1: includes hunting and forestry

Note 2: includes energy and construction

Note 3: includes financial intermediation services indirectly measured

Note 4: Components may not sum to totals due to rounding

Like its neighbouring county to the west, Cornwall, Devon is disadvantaged economically compared to other parts of southern England, due to the decline of traditional industries such as fishing, mining and farming. Consequently, most of Devon has qualified for the European Community Objective 2 status. The epidemic of Foot and Mouth (Hoof and Mouth) disease in 2001 harmed the farming community severely.

The attractive lifestyle of the area is drawing in new industries which are not heavily dependent upon geographical location; Dartmoor, for instance, has recently seen a significant rise in the percentage of its inhabitants involved in the financial services sector.

Devon is one of the rural counties, with the advantages and problems characteristic of these. Despite this, the county's economy is also heavily influenced by its two main urban centres, Plymouth and Exeter.

Traditional county of Devon
- Total
- % Water
Ranked 3rd
1,661,914 acres
? %
County town Exeter
Chapman code DEV

Geology, landscape and ecology

The Dartmoor National Park lies wholly in Devon, and the Exmoor National Park lies in both Devon and Somerset. In addition, Devon is the only county in England to have two completely separate coastlines. Both the north and south coasts offer dramatic views: much of both coastlines is named as Heritage Coast, and the South West Coast Path runs along the entire length of both. Inland, the county has attractive rolling rural scenery, and villages with thatched cob cottages. All these features make Devon a popular holiday destination. The variety of habitats means that there is a wide range of wildlife. A popular challenge among birders is to find over 100 species in the county in a day.

The landscape of the south coast consists of rolling hills dotted with small towns, such as Dartmouth, Salcombe, Totnes etc. The towns of Torquay and Paignton are the principal seaside resorts on the south coast. The north of the county is very rural with few major towns except Barnstaple, Great Torrington, Bideford and Ilfracombe.

Devon has also given its name to a geological era: the Devonian era (the era before the carboniferous stage), so-called because the distinctive red-sandstone of Exmoor was studied by geologists here. Devonian sandstone/slate is also found in neighbouring Cornwall (such as Tintagel, where the castle is made from Devonian slate), and across the Bristol Channel in Wales (the Gower peninsula/Pembrokeshire/Brecon Beacons has the same lumpy sandstone cliffs and hog-backed hills as Exmoor). This is because around 7000 years ago the Bristol Channel did not exist, instead there was a large bay stretching between Pembrokeshire and Devon. Where the Bristol Channel is now was mainly a flat plain, although the Cambrian mountain system of Wales continued over to (what is now) Exmoor and Dartmoor. The peaty sandstone of north Devon is of poor quality (for farming), hence the bareness of the landscape. Devon's other major rock system is the carboniferous sandstone which stretches from Bideford to just outside Bude in Cornwall, which is generally better quality than the Devonian sandstone, and also contributes to a gentler, greener, more rounded landscape.

Devon's Exmoor seaboard has the highest coastline in southern Britain, culminating in the massive Great Hangman, a 1043 ft "hog-backed" hill with an 820 ft cliff-face, located near Combe Martin Bay. Its sister cliff is the 716 ft Little Hangman, which marks the edge of Exmoor.

Politics and administration

The administrative centre of Devon is the city of Exeter. The city of Plymouth, the largest city in Devon, and the conurbation of Torbay (including the towns of Torquay, Paignton and Brixham) are now unitary authorities separate from Devon for the purposes of local government.

Nearly half of the holdings of the Duchy of Cornwall are in Devon.

Cities, towns and villages

Heathland at Woodbury Common in southeast Devon
Heathland at Woodbury Common in southeast Devon
The inner harbour, Brixham, south Devon, at low tide
The inner harbour, Brixham, south Devon, at low tide
Part of the seafront of Torquay, south Devon, at high tide
Part of the seafront of Torquay, south Devon, at high tide
The Great Red cliff of Foreland point
The Great Red cliff of Foreland point
The beach at Westward Ho!, north Devon, looking north towards the Taw and Torridge estuaries
The beach at Westward Ho!, north Devon, looking north towards the Taw and Torridge estuaries

This is a list of the main towns and cities in Devon.

Places of interest



Devon has its own (unofficial) flag which has been dedicated to Saint Petroc, a local saint with numerous dedications throughout Devon and neighbouring counties. The flag was adopted in 2003 after a competition run by BBC Devon. The winning design was created by website contributor Ryan Sealey, and won 49% of the votes cast. However the creation of the flag has caused some controversy, especially in neighbouring Cornwall, where the need for a Devon flag is disputed.

The cross design is reminiscent of both England's St George's Cross and neighbouring Cornwall's Saint Piran's Flag (which also uses black and white). The colours of the flag are those popularly identified with Devon, for example, the colours of the Rugby Union team, and the Green and White flag flown by the first Viscount Exmouth at the Bombardment of Algiers (now on view at the Teign Valley Museum).


  • Devon's place-names include many with the ending '-combe' or 'tor' that are of Brythonic origin (compare Welsh cwm and twr, pronounced almost identically). Whilst 'combe' is found in other counties (eg in neighbouring Cornwall and Somerset), its frequency is greatest in Devon, where it is the second most common placename component (after 'ton'). As with most of far western Britain, river names are generally also Brythonic in origin, for example the rivers Exe, Axe, Taw, Torridge, Plym etc.
  • Devon has been home to a number of unique customs, such as its own form of Celtic wrestling. As recently as the 19th century, a crowd of 17,000 at Devonport, near Plymouth, attended a match between the champions of Devon and Cornwall.
  • Another Devon sport was 'outhurling' which was played in some regions until the twentieth century (e.g. 1922, at Great Torrington).
  • Other ancient customs which still survive include Dartmoor step dancing, and 'crying the neck'.
  • 19th century studies suggested that a significant ethnic Celtic element then remained in the local population, and DNA analysis in the late twentieth century has presented a great genetic commonality with the other western British peoples.

Devon as a descriptor

Districts of South West England Flag of England

Bath and North East Somerset | Bournemouth | Bristol | Caradon | Carrick | Cheltenham | Christchurch | Cotswold | East Devon | East Dorset | Exeter | Forest of Dean | Gloucester | Isles of Scilly | Kennet | Kerrier | Mendip | Mid Devon | North Cornwall | North Devon | North Dorset | North Somerset | North Wiltshire | Penwith | Plymouth | Poole | Purbeck | Restormel | Salisbury | Sedgemoor | South Gloucestershire | South Hams | South Somerset | Stroud | Swindon | Taunton Deane | Teignbridge | Tewkesbury | Torbay | Torridge | West Devon | West Dorset | West Somerset | West Wiltshire | Weymouth and Portland

Counties with multiple districts: Cornwall - Devon - Dorset - Gloucestershire - Somerset - Wiltshire

United Kingdom | England | Ceremonial counties of England Flag of England

Counties of the Lieutenancies Act 1997

Bedfordshire | Berkshire | City of Bristol | Buckinghamshire | Cambridgeshire | Cheshire | Cornwall | Cumbria | Derbyshire | Devon | Dorset | Durham | East Riding of Yorkshire | East Sussex | Essex | Gloucestershire | Greater London | Greater Manchester | Hampshire | Herefordshire | Hertfordshire | Isle of Wight | Kent | Lancashire | Leicestershire | Lincolnshire | City of London | Merseyside | Norfolk | Northamptonshire | Northumberland | North Yorkshire | Nottinghamshire | Oxfordshire | Rutland | Shropshire | Somerset | South Yorkshire | Staffordshire | Suffolk | Surrey | Tyne and Wear | Warwickshire | West Midlands | West Sussex | West Yorkshire | Wiltshire | Worcestershire

United Kingdom | England | Traditional counties of England Flag of England

Counties that originate prior to 1889

Bedfordshire | Berkshire | Buckinghamshire | Cambridgeshire | Cheshire | Cornwall | Cumberland | Derbyshire | Devon | Dorset | Durham | Essex | Gloucestershire | Hampshire | Herefordshire | Hertfordshire | Huntingdonshire | Kent | Lancashire | Leicestershire | Lincolnshire | Middlesex | Norfolk | Northamptonshire | Northumberland | Nottinghamshire | Oxfordshire | Rutland | Shropshire | Somerset | Staffordshire | Suffolk | Surrey | Sussex | Warwickshire | Westmorland | Wiltshire | Worcestershire | Yorkshire

Most of Wikipedia's text and many of its images are licensed under the
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (CC BY-SA)

Return to Main Index