Devon is the second largest county in England with a population in excess of a million. Having both a north and south coast, facing different seas temperaments the coastal contours can be quite different. With the Atlantic to one side and the English channel to the other the sea has played a major part in the history of Devon.
The name 'Devon' comes from the name of the Celtic people, the Dumnonii. The south-west of England has been inhabited for many thousands of years and was the home of these people from the Bronze Age onwards. Kents Cavern in Torquay is the UK's oldest Cave system to show human habitation. Remains and artefacts dating back half a million years have been found in these caverns. A jawbone which was excavated in the 1920s is the earliest of human remains found in the British Isles and is approximately 40,000 years old. Animal and human skeletons have also been found in caves at Brixham across the bay from Torquay. The last Ice Age saw the climate cool and all but the southern extremities of Britain were covered in ice sheets. This was over 20,000 years ago.
As the Ice melted 13,000 years ago in the Palaeolithic period Devon was still sparsely populated, with what are considered to be nomadic "hunter-gatherers". Dartmoor saw settling of a Bronze Age population which continued to occupy the area until the early Iron Age. Many Iron Age hill forts remain and can be seen to this day, where the Dumnonii, "the people of the land", were first recognised.
In the following centuries Devon was invaded by Romans, Angles, Saxons, Vikings, Danes and Normans. The Domesday Book (1086) shows that the population of Devon was between sixty and eighty thousand. In the early 1800's the population had risen to over 340,000. As the century moved on however, many people emigrated to America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, and many Devon place names and surnames can today be found in these countries. Please see our page on other Devon locations.
These days there is less emigration and more immingration as people retire to Devon, buy second homes and enjoy the wonderful lifestyle Devon has to offer.