Barnstaple (/ˈbɑːrnstəbəl/ (listen) or /ˈbɑːrnstəpəl/) is the main town of North Devon, England and possibly the oldest borough in the United Kingdom. It is a former river port, located at the lowest crossing reduction of the River Taw, flowing into the Bristol Channel.
From the 14th century, it was licensed to export wool, since the merchants claimed that the town had been declared a clear borough in Saxon times. This brought good wealth to Barnstaple, whose town centre still preserves a medieval layout and character. Later the town became an importer of Irish wool, but its harbour silted up, and it developed additional industries, such as shipbuilding, foundries and sawmills. Its Victorian spread around survives, with its high glass and timber roof on iron columns. Barnstaple railway station is the terminus of a branch lineage from Exeter, known as the Tarka Line.
The parish of Barnstaple had a population of 24,033 at the 2011 census. Barnstaple Built-Up Area was estimated to have a population of 32,411 in 2018 whilst the Barnstaple Town Area, which contains satellite settlements such as Bishop’s Tawton, Fremington and Landkey, has a population of 46,619 (as of 2020).