Previously important as both a coaching station on the Exeter to Plymouth road and as a centre for milling and cloth making, Ivybridge still retains some industry, but many residents now commute to Plymouth and, to a lesser extent, Exeter for work.
The shopping centre, Glanville’s Mill, is named after and on the site of a former corn mill. The town boasts both a Tesco Express and a Co-op as well as a selection of other shops, stores and traditional pubs. However, along with many other towns, the retail sector has struggled in recent years.
The Two Moors Way, a 102-mile long walking route crossing both Dartmoor and Exmoor and terminating at Lynmouth on the North Devon coast, begins at Ivybridge.
The first recorded reference to the town was in 1280, as a place to cross the River Erme, and the original Ivy Bridge, a medieval packhorse bridge, still stands. It was widened in 1780 to enable it to take coaches and was the subject of a painting by JMW Turner in 1812.
In the sixteenth century a number of mills were built, harnessing the power of the River Erme to mill corn, tin and an edge mill. By the seventeenth century the wool read was at its height, while Stowford Paper Mill was built in 1787, then rebuilt again in the 1860s with extensive investment, only to finally close in 2013.
By the eighteenth century Ivybridge was a small, thriving community, centred around the London Hotel, a coaching inn on the Exeter to Plymouth road.
The first church, the chapel of St John, was not built until 1789, before being subsequently enlarged in 1835 and finally demolished in 1925.
A cattle market was to open in 1793 and it was not until 1952 that the last cows were driven through Fore Street.
In 1834 a new bridge across the Erme was erected, providing a straight route through the town to Plymouth.
The railway arrived in Ivybridge in 1848, linking the town to Plymouth and Cornwall towards the south west and Exeter and London towards the north east. The Ivybridge viaduct was one of five between Totnes and Plymouth, all of which were designed by the engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel. The highest of the five at just over 104 feet, the Ivybridge viaduct has eleven bays and spans a distance of 252 yards.
In 1887 John Bartolomew described Ivybridge in the Gazetteer of the British Isles as being a “small town with railway station”, and having a population of 1,587 and three paper mills, Ivybridge, Lee and Stowford, between them employing a high proportion of the inhabitants.
Today there are few places of interest in Ivybridge other than the original Ivy Bridge and the railway viaduct.