The River Tavy on the course of its route down from Dartmoor, passes Crowndale a small community about a mile below Tavistock. Around here the Drake family farmed for several centuries, from the mid-1300s at least, and at the beginning of the sixteenth century John Drake, and his wife Margery (nee Hawkins), had four sons, the second of whom, Edmund opted not for farming, but a life at sea. By 1542 however Edmund decided to leave the sea and settle in a cottage on his father’s farm. Here he became shearman in the employ of Lord Russell, married a local girl and soon afterwards the eldest of their twelve sons was born in his grandfather’s house.
Francis Russell, the son of Lord Russell and the new owner of Tavistock Abbey, stood sponsor for the young baby boy who was christened Francis in his honour. Who then could have imagined that one day the child would become one of the largest landowners in the area, in his own right and one of the area’s most famous sons – Sir Francis Drake?