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Rob on the road Tuesday, 13 May, 2003, 14:56 GMT 15:56 UK
Profiting from history
Torrington 1646 display
Visitor numbers are growing every year
The town of Great Torrington in Devon is famous for its Civil War connections.

Today it faces a very different battle - to reinvent itself as a tourist destination.

To do that, it has set up a charitable trust to oversee a number of small community businesses designed to bring visitors into the town.

It already had a good start, boasting the Dartington glass factory and the Victorian Pannier Market.

And as part of the project, it is capitalising on its history, with an attraction called Torrington 1646.

Reconstruction

This was one of the great Civil War battles. It involved about 15,000 men and ended in defeat for the Royalists.

Torrington guide
Guides dress in period costume

The permanent exhibition includes a guide in 17th century costume who guides visitors around a reconstruction of the town, giving a talk in the language of the period.

It began five years ago, and has been self-supporting for the past three years.

Torrington 1646 has won tourism awards and continues to attract growing numbers of visitors.

Last year it brought in 16,500 people, an increase of 2,500.

Involvement

According to Richard Simmons, who manages the attraction, that's good news for the town's economy as a whole.

Torrington 1646 manager Richard Simmons
Richard Simmons: Heavily involved in town
"We work very closely with the traders in the town," he explains.

"We stock their products and sell them through the shop and we are very heavily involved in every part of the town."

That sense of involvement is very evident in Torrington.

The trust is run by volunteers and funded by bodies such as the district and county councils.

"We have been around for eight years and in the early days we were responsible for the physical regeneration of the town, fore example the rebuilding of the Castle Hill hotel and the Pannier Market," says the trust's Kay Taplin.

Survey

The trust's efforts have put Great Torrington on the tourism map.

And in the current economic climate that could be vital for the local economy.

A recent survey showed that 42% of Britons will be holidaying in their own country this year - and many have yet to book.

With the average household spending nearly 600, there's a lot of potential business for towns and resorts which get their act together.

With the south-west claiming 20% of the UK holiday market, there are plenty of opportunities for the likes of Great Torrington.

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The BBC's Rob Pittam
"Tourists are taken back to the 17th century"
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