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Barnstaple

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Barnstaple ( (listen) or ) is the main town of North Devon, England and possibly the oldest borough in the United Kingdom. It is a former river port, located at the lowest crossing point of the River Taw, flowing into the Bristol Channel.

From the 14th century, it was licensed to export wool, since the merchants claimed that the town had been declared a free borough in Saxon times. This brought great wealth to Barnstaple, whose town centre still preserves a medieval layout and character. Later the town became an importer of Irish wool, but its harbour silted up, and it developed other industries, such as shipbuilding, foundries and sawmills. Its Victorian market survives, with its high glass and timber roof on iron columns. Barnstaple railway station is the terminus of a branch line from Exeter, known as the Tarka Line.

Since 1974, Barnstaple has been a civil parish governed by town council. The parish itself had a population of 24,033 and including the satellite settlements known as the Barnstaple Town Area, it is 53,514.

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