South Molton originated in early Saxon times, the area being occupied from around 650; known as Dumnania. In The Doomsday Book of 1086, it is called Sudmoltone. South Molton originated around the church and in the Middle Ages a square was laid out as a new market place. It has been a thriving town since the earliest days of recorded history, Gilbert de Turberville created the borough around the year 1150. There exists in the Museum two Royal Borough Charters granted by Elizabeth 1st in 1590 and Charles 2nd in 1684. These are commemorated each year with the Olde English Fair held in June.
The first workhouse in South Molton opened in 1735 in North Street and the second was on the site of the Old Vicarage in Parsonage Lane, which was later destroyed in a fire in May 1837.
The towns early wealth came from its importance as a centre for the wool trade, this declined in the 18th and 19th centuries and South Moltons role changed to a transport, administration and service centre. It flourished as a market town and expanded with the building of the Town Hall and Assembly Rooms and the introduction of schools and local businesses.
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