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In the late 18th century, Sir Thomas Tyrwhitt, Secretary to the Council of the Prince of Wales, leased a large tract of land near what is now Princetown, with the intention of taming and cultivating the moorland wilderness.

It is believed that cottages for the farm labourers and a public house were the first buildings on the site of Princetown. Tyrwhitt's entrepreneurial activity also led to the building of Dartmoor Prison, whose foundation stone was laid in 1806. The Prison was initially built to relieve Plymouth of French prisoners detained during the Napoleonic Wars; later they were joined by Americans captured during the War of 1812. Outbreak of peace in 1814 caused the Prison to close, but it was later re-vamped and opened as a convict prison in 1850.

The Art Nouveau style building in the centre of the town, which currently holds the Dartmoor National Park Authority. The church of St Michael and All Angels was constructed between 1810 and 1814, originally as a chapel for the War Prison, but it later served as a church for the wider community.

In 1821 Royal Assent was granted for the construction of a tramroad (for horse-drawn trucks) from Plymouth to the newly opened quarries at Foggintor; this was extended into Princetown in 1827. It was converted into a steam railway between 1879 and 1883, which continued to link Plymouth and Princetown until 1956. The old track bed of the Princetown railway still survives and provides an easy way to get out into the heart of Dartmoor from Princetown.

To make this interactive virtual tour we have spoken to people with specialist knowledge of the history and development of the settlement and made oral history recordings with members of the community who have memories of Princetown in the 20th century, when ponies came into the Square and Bolt's shop provided for every need.

You can also make two 'excursions' out from Princetown; firstly to Four Winds car park (on the B3357 towards Tavistock) the site of a school which was attended by children of local quarry workers between 1915 and 1936; and also to the prehistoric ceremonial monuments at Merrivale, one of the most impressive and well-preserved prehistoric landscapes in the country.

Presentation created - May 2006
3D Navigation
3D Navigation
Interactive Features
Interactive Features
Prehistoric Merrivale
Photographic Galleries
Recorded Memories
Recorded Memories


Princetown is situated on the high moorland in the centre of the Dartmoor National Park five miles north east of Yelverton on the B3212 and seven miles east of Tavistock on the B3357.

The High Moorland Visitor Centre, in the centre of the village, is open seven days a week throughout the year. Managed by the Dartmoor National Park Authority it provides information, advice and interpretation of the history, culture and wildlife of the moor and has a gallery with regularly changing exhibitions.
Contact: 01822 890414,,

The Dartmoor Prison Heritage Centre is open seven days a week throughout the year, exhibiting a wide range of artefacts and relating the history of the prison from its origins as a War Prison to the present day. Contact: 01822 892130,

There are a number of pubs and cafés in the town providing a variety of refreshment opportunities to visitors.
Princetown is situated on the high moorland
Princetown is situated on the high moorland

Using the Tour

Each location in the Princetown interactive visit may be accessed by clicking the locations indicated on the map, or the arrows that hover within the panoramas. Each location will have a series of speakers associated with it. You may select any speaker, or just sit back and allow the narrative to unfold. As the speakers deliver their presentation, supporting images will appear in the presentation panel, from which you may gain access to the gallery of photographs. This will pause the presentation and give you the opportunity to peruse the images in your own time. For those users with Apple's Quicktime plugin, fully immersive 360° spherical panoramas of each location are also available.

Please leave your comments in the guest book provided.
Navigate the interactive features is easy and intuitive

Technical Info

The Princetown visit is an interactive multimedia presentation that uses Macromedia Flash, there is also an option to use Apple Quicktime.

If you don't have these plugins you can download them from here:

Get Flash Player

Get Quicktime Player
Interactive Features
Interactive Features


Prehistoric burial mound made of stone and earth.
A prehistoric stone chest sunk into the ground which contained burials.
Archaeological Palimpsest:
Complex archaeological landscapes containing features from many periods.

Cist capstone
Cist capstone


Here at the Dartmoor National Park Authority making sure the information on our websites is easily accessible to all is a high priority.

We have made sure this site is fully Accessible (see our Accessibility page for details) and we have introduced features within the Interactive Visit that accommodate users with visual / hearing impairment:
  • Visits are primarily audio tours, playing sequentially without the need to click anything.
  • All objects are captioned.
  • All text/captions are re sizeable.
  • Transcripts for all audio elements are available for the hard of hearing.
Sequential Audio with clear icons
Sequential Audio with icons
Dartmoor National Park AuthorityMoor MemoriesDartmoor Sustainable Development FundEnglish HeritageThe Dartmoor Trust