Buckland Monachorum Parish CouncilCoat of Arms of Sir Francis Drake - courtesy of Buckland Abbey Coat of Arms of Sir Francis Drake - courtesy of Buckland Abbey


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Yelverton today is the commercial centre for the ancient Parish of Buckland Monachorum and has the highest population of the parish. At a height of 600 feet above sea level it is strategically placed on the eastern edge of Roborough Down (which covers a large area of the parish) on the main Plymouth to Tavistock road and is seen as the southern gateway to the Dartmoor National Park (DNP). It is the natural hub for the rural transport system that acts as a lifeline for surrounding villages and hamlets within and outside the parish, as well as the connecting point for Plymouth , Exeter , Tavistock and Okehampton. But over two hundred years ago the settlement did not exist.

Donne’s map of 1765 shows one property called Elvertown, in the area that eventually became Yelverton. In maps of 1809 and the 1850s the same property is shown as Elfordtown named after the Elford family who lived there for many centuries from medieval times. The English Places Names Society see a possible derivation of the name Yelverton as Ellefordlak or Elleford as first mentioned in 1291; ‘Elle’ for the anglo-saxon landowner, ‘ford’ for a crossing whilst ‘lak’ is a common Dartmoor name for a stream. By 1842 the name Yelverton as well as Elfordtown is being applied to the complex.

Gradually other development took place. Watercourses, known as ‘leats’, were constructed using the contours of the land to take water from Dartmoor rivers, firstly in the 16 th century to Plymouth and in the 18 th century to Devonport. For part of their respective journeys they flowed through the as yet unnamed Yelverton. In the early 19 th century a horsedrawn railway carrying granite from Princetown on Dartmoor into Plymouth , and returning with coal and lime, also ran through the area. A wharfing complex to service this railway was built in a field adjacent to Roborough Down and it is this area that later developed into the heart of Yelverton.

By the 1850s as a result of the building of the ‘new’ Tavistock to Plymouth road which was operational in 1822, an inn was opened in a small terrace of housing in an area known as Leg of Mutton Corner. It was so named either because of the shape of the new road as it turned to run over part of Roborough Down or because, upon the opening of the road, a leg of mutton was roasted on a pole in that area as a celebration of the event. This small complex later in the century developed, with the addition of other premises, into the first commercial heart of the settlement. As this part of Yelverton grew changes were occurring in the area of the wharf for by 1861 an hotel known as The Rock had been opened (which though much enlarged is still in existence today as flats and a public house). Large houses were being built in the area by successful businessmen from Plymouth and retired high-ranking service officers. However, this exclusive scenario was about to change, for in 1885 the Great Western Railway company opened a station close to the Elfordtown complex which they called Yelverton. From this point Yelverton developed rapidly with land being released in the vicinity of the Rock Hotel and down towards the railway station. More hotels opened, front rooms of houses were turned into shops and businesses to serve the growing community as well as the visitors that the railway brought who came to enjoy Yelverton’s delightful setting.

Come the end of the first decade of the 20 th century Yelverton had its own District Development Association which promoted the area as a ‘health resort’ as well as a ‘delightful place of residence for wearied workers’. Apparently a ‘dose of Yelverton’ was known to be prescribed by doctors in Plymouth , as well as in other parts of the country, as a successful ‘pick me up’ for their patients. Then in the 1930s the Yelverton Publicity Association produced such slogans as ‘For Bracing Moorland Air, for Health and Pleasure come to Yelverton’ – and many did. Among the attractions on offer were golf (the club continues to thrive), hunting, shooting, fishing, walking and drives to places of interest and beauty spots.

By now the community had grown to such a degree that in 1936 the parishioners of St. Paul ’s, which was dedicated in 1912 (the original wooden church was built in 1895), were successful in their efforts to have Yelverton created an Ecclesiastical Parish. In 1906 a Methodist Church was opened followed in 1923 by one for Roman Catholics, but the oldest place for worship was the Bible Christian Chapel built in the 1860s on the Princetown road where it still remains but no longer as a place of worship.

The Second World War brought an end to an era and instigated major physical changes to Yelverton which remain to this day such as the drastically altered road layout and the reduction in height of many properties. This was to accommodate, in 1941, an RAF Fighter Station which opened on Roborough Down to the west of Yelverton with one of its roles being to help in the defence of Plymouth and its dockyard. After the war it was proposed to turn the airfield into the civilian airport for Plymouth but after an assessment the idea was dropped.

In the years since the end of the war the housing stock in Yelverton has increased and continues to do so; the area close to the historic Rock Hotel has become the commercial centre for Buckland Monachorum Parish and surrounding parishes. Yelverton still continues to attract many visitors who come to enjoy its facilities and beautiful setting within DNP and it provides an excellent quality of life for its residents.

Coat of Arms of Sir Francis Drake - courtesy of Buckland Abbey