Devonshire Street

Running parallel to one of the oldest street lines in the city –North Street –is a street bearing one of the oldest names in the county – that of the county name itself … Devonshire. “The earliest reference to the shire is Defenascir (851 A.D.), later spellings being Defnascir (894), Daefenascir (1017 A.D.)” (The Place Names of Devon Pt.1).

The word comes directly from the even earlier tribal name Defnas “men of Devon” which, over time, was extended to cover the territory that they exercised power over. Pre-dating this Saxon spelling is the name given to their Celtic predecessors who ruled the same area. These were the Dumnonii.

Around the world there is also Devon Island above the Canadian Northwest Territories. Discovered by William Baffin in 1616 it was originally known as North Devon, it is north of Baffin Island, the name being conferred by Sir William Parry who retraced Baffin’s earlier expedition and wanted to honour the native county of a member of his crew -Lieutenant Liddon. The same kind of link applies to the village of Transvaal in South Africa where it was evidently a Devonshire man who laid out the village.