What is Bideford Famous For?

Bideford is a market town and port located on the River Torridge in North Devon, England.

The town has a rich history that dates back to the medieval period and is known for its beautiful surroundings, vibrant culture, and its historic Pannier Market.

The Pannier Market has been a significant part of Bideford’s culture and history for over 750 years. The market holds a special place in the hearts of locals and visitors alike and has become an iconic symbol of Bideford’s rich cultural heritage.

But… That’s not all! Read on to discover who and what Bideford is famous for and what Bideford is today.

Key Takeaways
Bideford is a market town and port located on the River Torridge in North Devon, England.
Bideford played a crucial role in the export of wool and other goods during the medieval period and was involved in the transatlantic slave trade in the 18th and early 19th centuries.
Bideford played a crucial role in the export of wool and other goods during the medieval period and was involved in the transatlantic slave trade in the 18th and early 19th centuries.
Bideford is home to several famous historical figures, including Sir Richard Grenville, Rudyard Kipling, and Charles Kingsley.
Bideford has a rich cultural heritage, and its historic architecture and beautiful surroundings attract visitors from all over the world.
The Bideford Long Bridge is an iconic landmark and an important part of the town’s history, while the Pannier Market is one of its most famous attractions.

Bideford’s History

Bideford played a crucial role in the export of wool and other goods during the medieval period. The town’s proximity to the sea and the River Torridge made it an essential port for trade, and it flourished as a commercial centre during this time.

In the 18th and early 19th centuries, Bideford was involved in the transatlantic slave trade, which was a major source of wealth for many British ports. Bideford played a role in the importation of enslaved Africans and the exportation of goods such as tobacco and sugar.

Today, Bideford is very different and is now a popular tourist destination and a small commercial port, with a focus on fishing and leisure activities such as sailing and boating.

The town has a rich cultural heritage, and its historic architecture and beautiful surroundings attract visitors from all over the world.

Bideford’s Famous Historical Figures

Bideford is not only known for its stunning coastal scenery but it’s also famous for being the birthplace of several notable historical figures.

Sir Richard Grenville is perhaps one of the most famous “Bidefordians”.

Grenville was an English explorer and navigator who played a key role in the Elizabethan era and was known for his contributions to the colonization of the Americas. Grenville was born in Bideford in 1542, and his legacy is still celebrated in the town today, with many plaques being posted around the town.

Bideford is also associated with the popular children’s book author, Rudyard Kipling.

Kipling wrote about the town and its surroundings in his novel, “Puck of Pook’s Hill”. The book tells the story of two children who meet magical characters from different periods of English history, including Grenville himself.

Another famous person in relation to Bideford was the English novelist Charles Kingsley, who wrote the classic novel “Westward Ho!” in 1855.

The novel is set in and around Bideford and tells the story of a group of adventurers who set sail from the town to explore the New World. Kingsley spent much of his childhood in Bideford, and the town has a strong association with his work.

More recently, Mike Baker, an x CIA officer who was born in Bideford, and whom is now retired, hosts the “Black Files Declassified” on both Amazon Prime video and the Science Channel.

Note: If you are doing a school project on famous people from Bideford, here get a A* with this link to all the famous people that were born or raised in Bideford. We accept cookies ;)

Involvement in the Transatlantic Slave Trade

While distasteful, what has been done, has been done and Bideford played a role in the transatlantic slave trade during the 17th and 18th centuries.

The town’s merchants were involved in the trade of sugar, rum, and other goods produced by enslaved Africans on plantations in the Caribbean and the Americas.

The town’s port was used to transport enslaved Africans to the New World. According to historical records, at least 20 ships were involved in the slave trade from Bideford between 1683 and 1799.

Although the slave trade brought considerable wealth and prosperity to Bideford’s merchants, it also had a devastating impact on countless African lives. Enslaved Africans were brutally treated, and many died during the long and perilous journey across the Atlantic. The legacy of the slave trade is still felt today, and it remains an important and controversial part of Bideford’s history.

However not was all safe for the merchants, Lundy island just off the coast was the perfect place for pirates!

Bideford Bay was referred to as the “Golden Coast” due to the high number of pirates preying on passing cargo ships. There are many stories about the use of Lundy Island as a base for privateers and pirates, with evidence suggesting that Captain Selkeld used it as a base in 1610.

There were also reports of “Turkish” and European pirates seizing Lundy in the 17th century. Despite the naval presence in the Bristol Channel, pirates continued to use Lundy as a base well into the 18th century, with Captain Kidd and other notorious pirates being brought there after being captured in New England in 1700.

Today, Bideford (as is every other town and city in the United Kingdom that was involved in this) is committed to recognizing and acknowledging its involvement in the slave trade.

The town’s museum and archives hold a wealth of information about the trade and its impact, and local organizations work to promote education and awareness about the history of slavery.

It is important to remember this dark period of history and to work towards creating a more just and equal society for all.

Featured Places to Stay Near Bideford

Bideford as a Tourist Destination

Today, things are very, very different!

Bideford is a beautiful tourist destination located on the edge of the River Torridge, with stunning coastal scenery and outstanding surroundings.

The town is also surrounded by some of the most beautiful beaches in the UK, including Westward Ho! (see the note above about Charles Kingsley and the only place in the UK to officially have an exclamation mark ! in its name), Saunton Sands, Croyde Bay, and Woolacombe all a 35 minutes or much less journey away.

These beaches offer miles of golden sand, shallow sparkling waters, and stunning coastal scenery, making them perfect for sunbathing, swimming, surfing, ok a lot of surfing! sand catles and much more.

In addition to its beautiful near by beaches, Bideford is home to several popular local attractions, including The Big Sheep and The Milky Way Adventure Park.

These family-friendly destinations offer a range of exciting activities and entertainment, from animal encounters and rides to indoor play areas and live shows.

Bideford’s Long Bridge

Bideford’s Long Bridge is an iconic landmark and an important part of the town’s history.

The bridge spans the River Torridge and connects Bideford with the nearby village of East-the-Water.

The original bridge was built in the 14th century and was replaced several times over the centuries due to damage from floods and other factors (like something hitting it! We have a whole article on this bridge).

The current bridge was built in the 1920s and is a Grade II* listed structure.

The Long Bridge is a vital transport link for the local community and visitors alike, providing easy access to both sides of the river. It is also a fantastic spot to walk the dog up and down to enjoy the views of the town and surrounding landscape.

The Pannier Market

Bideford’s historic Pannier Market is one of the town’s most famous attractions.

The market is located in the heart of the town and features a wide range of stalls selling fresh produce, local crafts, clothing, and household goods. The market has been in operation for over 750 years.

The market is home to a range of over 30 unique stalls and goods, including fresh local produce, handmade crafts, clothing, and household items. The market’s location in the heart of the town makes it easily accessible, and the bustling atmosphere is an essential part of the Bideford experience.

Special Events and Themed Markets

The Pannier Market hosts a range of special events and themed markets throughout the year, including the Bideford Water Festival and the Bideford Folk Festival.

These events are an important part of the town’s culture and help to promote local businesses and community engagement.

The Bideford Water Festival celebrates the town’s maritime heritage and features a range of water-based activities and entertainment, including boat races, live music, and food stalls.

The Bideford Folk Festival is a celebration of traditional music, dance, and storytelling and features performances from local and international artists.

So, What is Bideford Famous For?

Like many cities, it has had a checkered past, but those times are now long gone.

Bideford has had several authors and even a modern-day presenter on Amazon Prime!

However, today, Bideford is famous for being a unique and beautiful town that has a rich history and culture which is reflected in its many attractions, including the historic Pannier Market.

The town’s beautiful surroundings and vibrant local community make it an excellent destination for visitors looking for a relaxing and authentic Devon experience.

Whether you’re interested in exploring the town’s rich history, relaxing on the beautiful nearby beaches, or experiencing the local culture through the Pannier Market, backstreet shops and other events. Bideford has something for everyone.

Author Matt Ogborne
Matt Ogborne
About the Author

Welcome to Bideford.com! I’m Matt, a seasoned explorer and avid fan of Bideford and the broader North Devon area. With over a decade of consistent family visits, virtually every weekend, I’ve immersed myself in the rich history and vibrant culture Bideford & North Devon.

On this site, you’ll find a wealth of knowledge amassed from my adventures here. From in-depth local guides to engaging blog posts about Bideford. Whether you’re looking for recommendations on things to do or guidance on where to stay we have you covered. Join me as we delve into the heart of Bideford, North Devon – a town that’s more than just a destination, but an experience waiting to be discovered.

Do you want to see your favourite Bideford attraction, place to stay, event or activity listed here? Contact Us!