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Devon (dĕvˈən), county, 2,591 sq mi (6,711 sq km), SW England. The county town is Exeter. Devon is bounded on the N by the Bristol Channel, on the S by the English Channel, and on the W by Cornwall. It is a land of rolling hills, dominated by Dartmoor and Exmoor, upland areas of forests and rugged stone. The Exe and the Tamar (forming the Cornwall border) are the main rivers. Plymouth, the chief port and industrial center for SW England, is now administratively separate from the county. The county is divided into eight administrative districts: East Devon, Mid Devon, North Devon, South Hams, Teignbridge, Torridge, West Devon, and Exeter.
Devon is a farming and pastoral county (for beef and dairy cattle) with some fishing off the coastal towns. Devon “clotted” cream and West Country cider are notable products. Considerable woolen and tin industries and export trade flourished from the 12th to the 18th cent. Woolen goods are still manufactured, along with lace, pottery, and marine fixtures; clay is mined. Quiet and picturesque with a mild climate, Devon is a popular tourist and vacation center.
The county was occupied in Paleolithic times; numerous habitation sites and ceremonial centers have been excavated (see Kent's Cavern). Exeter was the westerly outpost of Roman occupation. Devon was incorporated into Wessex early in the 8th cent. by King Ine. In Elizabethan times the county reached its greatest maritime importance, and its name is associated with Walter Raleigh, Francis Drake, John Hawkins, and Richard Grenville. From Plymouth, many colonists sailed for America. In 1974, Devonshire Co. was reorganized as the nonmetropolitan county of Devon.