According to research conducted by the Tavistock Historical Association, Drake's godfather, Francis Russell, spent quite a lot of time in Tavistock. However he does not appear to have had his own base. The Bedford country home near Tavistock was not built until the 18th century. The Association thinks he resided with Lady Blount - a relative of the Mountjoys, who rented the old Abbot's Lodging, which then was quite a substantial house, at the west entrance to the abbey. However I believe that Russell lived at Fitzford House or at Buckland Abbey.
Drake would have seen these remaining buildings: St Eustachius Church, the cloister in front of the church, the abbey walls, the Abbot's Lodging, the Still House, the Misericord and the Court Gate. These streets date from Drake's time: King Street, The Reeve, West Street, Back Street, Higher Market Street, Cakeshill, Lower Market Street, Love Lane, St Matthew's Street, Barley Market Street, Brook Street and Kilworthy Hill. Sir Francis Drake would have dined with the Glanvilles, the Coche family, the Maynardes and the Amadas clan. All owned property in prestigious West Street. The guildhall was built when Drake was a boy. It stood on the site of the present day market hall. As deputy lord lieutenant and justice of the peace, Drake would have gone there to check that the weights and measures were correct for the fleeces, the cloth called Tavistocks and to assess that a fair price was being asked. This would have been a special interest to him once he himself took up sheep farming at nearby Great Briscott in the 1590s.
Drake would have also checked the stannary stamps for the local tin industry - this being so, he may well have visited Morwellam Quay which is older than it looks. Most of it dates from the Industrial Revolution but the site of the quay is medieval. The east and west bridges that span the River Tavy have been rebuilt in the 17th century using stone from Tavistock Abbey.
© Michael Turner 1997-2010
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