Devon EX20 4BH
It is hard to believe that this quiet Anglo Saxon village was once an important defensive and prosperous town as big as Exeter. It has an ancient castle (Lydford Castle), Church (St Petroc's Church, Lydford) and a delightful coaching inn, all relics from an amazing historical past.
It is the location of Lydford that made it so important even from Anglo-Saxon times. It controlled the Lyd River crossing, guarded the western edge of Wessex and restricted the activities of the Cornish Celts.
Situated on the western side of Dartmoor National Park, it is 7.5 miles (12 km) south of Okehampton and 5.6 miles (9 km) north of Tavistock. It is close to the spectacular Lydford Gorge  and 98.5 foot (30 metre) waterfall (in the care of the National Trust) and the 19th century water-powered Finch Foundry at Sticklepath.
Lydford is an excellent spot for some interesting walks, particularly along the old railway track bed towards Okehampton where the amazing granite Lydford Viaduct can be walked across. The Lydford Parish Council website has an excellent page describing the village and a guided walk for taking in the sights. Go to the following link and click on ‘The Village Today’ button:   Web:   Lydford Parish Council
Lydford’s Anglo-Saxon History
Anglo-Saxon King Alfred the Great established Lydford as a fortified town in 870-890 AD. He needed to protect the western boundary of his kingdom of Wessex from the Viking raiders, likely to attack from the unprotected coastline of Cornwall.
Protected by steep slopes plunging down to the river on the east, south and west, the village was only vulnerable on the northern side. Alfred constructed a tall and broad defensive bank of stone and earth which still exists today. The main north-south road running through the village is the original Saxon route.
From 973 to 1066 Lydford was an important coin-minting centre. Silver was the currency metal and there were several silver mines close to the village. More than 1.5 million Silver Pennies were minted at Lydford. Examples of these lovely coins can be seen in The British Museum in London and the RAM Museum & Art Gallery in Exeter.
Viking Raid
In 997 AD, the Vikings landed at Plymouth and raided Lydford, plundering the Mint. There are several suitable monuments in the village commemorating this battle.
Following the Norman Conquest in 1066 and the demise of the Mint, Lydford declined in prosperity. The town of Lydford and the whole of the Dartmoor Forest were taxed as one entity and in fact this did not change until the 20th century.
Lydford Castle was specifically built as a prison and court of justice, and the churchyard was the chief burial ground for all of Dartmoor. This grisly past has led to some wonderful ghost stories for this area - see Lydford Ghosts in this website.
The A386 main road follows the old stage-coach route between Tavistock and Okehampton. On this old toll road near Beardon is a 'Take-off' stone set in the verge. On steep hills heavily laden wagons or coaches could add an extra toll-free horse to help pull the vehicle up the hill, but this horse had to be taken off at the top. Very few of these stone still exist in situ.
During the 17th century the Lydford stage-coach routes were a favourite target of the notorious Gubbins band, a gang of ruthless cut-throats and highwaymen. When the mists came down on Dartmoor they would attack then melt into the countryside.
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Contact & Further Information
Getting There
- By Car
Lydford is 8½ miles (13.7 kms) south of Okehampton. Take A386 and follow signs to Lydford.
- By Public Transport
Beacon Bus 86 Plymouth - Barnstaple
Google Map - Lydford Village