Local History

St Leonards Tower

FREE entry for all!

St Leonard’s Tower, or the ‘Clock Tower’ as it is known to most locals, has become the most recognisable landmark of the ancient market town of Newton Abbot.  It is owned and cared for by Newton Abbot Town Council and managed by the Newton Abbot Museum. It was built in the 13th century by the wealthy Abbots of Torre, and was originally a chapel.

In 1688, an announcement was read in front of the chapel to tell the gathered crowd some extraordinary news. Prince William of Orange would claim the English throne, even though James II was still King.

The chapel was demolished in 1836 for a road widening scheme. However, pressure from people of the town saved the Clock Tower. St Leonard’s Tower continues to be an important landmark and a place for meeting and celebrations.

See here for visiting information

The Library

You can see the Passmore Edwards Centre at the back of this photo

The Passmore Edwards Centre (our town library) is a Grade II Listed building in the centre of Newton Abbot, built in 1904. It’s founder, John Passmore Edwards was a  journalist as well as a feted philanthropist. Originally, he wanted to build a hospital for Newton Abbot, but when he found out that the town already had a hospital, he offered a library instead. Newton Abbot was important to him as his mother was born in Wolborough Street. He was a great believer in public libraries: funding many more in Cornwall as well as poor areas of London.

For opening hours see https://www.learndevon.co.uk/centres/newton-abbot/

Want more town history? you can also explore the town using the online Town Trail here

see a snippet of our collection in the comfort of your own home! HERE

To hear local people speak on a variety of subjects go to our archive here