Great Torrington is often abbrieviated to Torrington, but there are also the little villages of Little Torrington and Black Torrington in the area. It lies on the River Torridge and probably dates back to Saxon times and is mentioned in the Domesday book.
It is in the Civil War that Great Torrington had its most infamous episode known as the Battle of Torrington. The Parliamentarians under Fairfax, captured the Royalists under Lord Hopton in a bloody battle that was to be the end of the Royalists in the South West. They then imprisoned them in the church, not knowing that it was used as a gunpowder store. In the ensuing explosion, the church was mostly destroyed and the prisoners were killed. There is still a mound in the rebuilt church where the bodies remain. The Sealed knot society are active in the town with regular re-enactments of those events.
Great Torrington today has a lovely market square that has a lovely old inn that dates to the Civil war. It also has other fine buildings such as the town hall, market hall and arts centre. Being in the centre of a once thriving wool industry,Great Torrington was known for making gloves and there was one factory that was made to look like a Methodist Church. Although the industry has scaled down considerably, gloves are still made in the town.
Great Torrington is also the home of Dartington Crystal that was set up in the 1960s by the Dartington Hall Trust who used Swedish craftsmen to train local workers in a successful effort for some economic regeneration. The factory is now an interesting attraction in its own right, where visitors can see the processes involved in making the beautiful glass.
Great Torrington is also in the Tarka country with the beautiful scenery brought so vividly to life in Henry Williamson's novel. The town has also been used for filming in the recent BBC series Down to Earth.