History

The Normans built a castle here in the 11th century, realising that access to the River Dart lent Totnes a strategic importance. Tudor times brought wealth through the tin trade; one legacy of this is the 60 merchants’ houses lining the main streets. Totnes’ transition to an alternative hub began in 1925 when Dorothy and Leonard Elmhirst bought the nearby Dartington Estate, setting up an experiment in rural regeneration and a progressive school. Dartington College of Arts opened in 1961, reinforcing the town’s New Age image. The college decamped to Falmouth in 2010, but the pioneering environmental movement, Transition Town Totnes, continues the sustainability theme.