ceremonial county of England

Devon is a county in southwest England. It is sometimes called by its historical name Devonshire. Devon is the fourth largest county in England by area, and has the longest road network of any county in England.

Flag of Devon
Coat of arms of Devon
A map showing where Devon is in England (coloured red)



After the last ice age, Devon was one of the first places in England where people started to live. Archaeologists have found many old places in Devon with ancient buildings. For example, many ruins of old buildings have been found in an area called "Dartmoor", which is now a National Park.

Devon gets its name from the Dumnonii, a name that the invading Romans gave to the Celtic tribe in that area. The Romans invaded Devon about AD 50. The name Dumnonii means "a person who lives in a deep valley", and it comes from the hills and valleys of the area. The Roman army stayed in Devon for about 350 years. Their base was in the city of Exeter.

It was a long time before anyone else invaded Devon. Saxons came to Devon in the 7th century, and the King of Wessex may have attacked in 614. There was a conflict between Devon and Wessex for 200 years. Some historians think that Wessex won the war by about 715 but others think this did not happen until at least 936. Eventually Wessex took control, but the Kings of Devon still had some power.

A person living at the time called William of Malmesbury said that in Exeter both Britons and Saxons were equal in 927 but that King Athelstan of Wessex then chased the Britons from Exeter. From place names and church dedications it seems that the British did not go far and later came back into Exeter because an area in the city was called "Britayne" until recently.

A large number of Devon placenames include (or are) the word "combe" (e.g. Ilfracombe). This word comes from the Brythonic (Celtic) language and is like the Welsh word "cwm". Another typical Devon word is "tor" which is also Brythonic, and like the Welsh word "twr". Both of these words are often found in neighbouring counties, but Devon has the greatest number. Overall Devon has a number of other placenames that are Brythonic and others that come from Old English, and a few that come from Norse. Devon's placenames are like those of western Somerset and eastern Cornwall which was also part of the old kingdom of "Dumnonia".

Starting in the 9th century, groups of Viking raiders tried to invade Devon. This continued until the Norman Conquest. The name of Lundy Island comes from the Viking language, which was called Norse. The Vikings are remembered for moving the cathedral from Crediton to Exeter.

Devon has been involved in most of the civil conflicts in England since 1066:

There are many famous (well known) people from Devon, especially seamen. For example, Sir Francis Drake, Sir Richard Grenville and Sir Walter Raleigh all come from Devon. Many other famous people were also born in Devon: for example, the author Agatha Christie was born in the town of Torquay.

Devon has its own flag. It is linked to St Petroc, who is a local saint with links to Devon and nearby counties. The flag was chosen after winning a competition on the BBC Devon website in 2003.



Devon is less wealthy than many parts of England, for example the south east. This is because the traditional industries of Devon, for example fishing, mining and farming are declining. The European Union has given parts of Devon help (Objective 2). For example, grants of money have been given to help new industries grow. Tourism has become more important recently as a part of the economy of Devon.

An epidemic of Foot-and-mouth disease in 2001 led to many farmers losing their cattle, so they lost a lot of money. Other industries also lost a lot of income because of this.



The main city of Devon is Plymouth. Exeter is where the county council is based. The county of Devon is split up into districts. Each district is run by a district council. Some things are the job of the county council and others are the job of the district council. There are also smaller town and parish councils inside the districts.

Plymouth and Torbay are not run by the county council, but have their own special councils. These councils do the jobs of both a county and a district council. These type of areas are called unitary authorities.

Districts in Devon

A map showing the districts of Devon

The numbers on the map are linked to the numbers below.

  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)

Cities towns and villages

The beach at Westward Ho! in Devon

This is a list of the main towns and cities of Devon:

Interesting places




Other websites


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