This was the seat of the former Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe - there used to be unofficial electoral signs erected by the roadsides at the borders of the constituency which read "You are now entering Liberal country".
After his career was ended in scandal, the North Devon electorate decisively rejected their MP of 20 years at the next election. The Tory Tony Speller romped home in 1979 with a majority of 8,000, and it was not until 1992 that the seat returned a Liberal (Democrat) MP, Nick Harvey, who has held it ever since.
The seat has a long standing radical tradition. It was held by Richard Acland as a Liberal and then a Common Wealth MP from 1935 to 1945. Mr Thorpe won the seat from the Conservatives at the 1959 General Election, one of only six victories anywhere in the country that year for the Liberals.
The seat is dependent on both agriculture and tourism though there is a surprising amount of industry in Barnstaple. The main holiday resort is Ilfracombe, which has been hit by both unemployment and economic decline. There is also concern over the state of the beaches along the north Devon coastline.