Devonshire, a maritime county of England, bounded N. and W. W. by the Bristol channel, W. by the river Tamar and Marsland Water, which separate it from Cornwall, S. and S. E. by the English channel, and E. and N. E. by Dorsetshire and Somersetshire; area, 2,589 sq. m.; pop. in 1871, 600,814. The principal rivers of Devon are the Taw, Torridge, Tamar, Dart, Teign, Exe, and Tavy. Trout are found in great plenty in most of these; the Tamar, Tavy, and Exe furnish valuable salmon fisheries, those of the last being thought the best in England. The county has three canals: the Great Western, 35 m. long, connecting the S. E. coast with the Bristol channel, the Tamar canal, and the Tavistock canal. The Bristol and Exeter and the South of Devon railways also traverse it. Devonshire is a rich mineral country, furnishing copper and lead in considerable abundance, with smaller quantities of tin, iron, bismuth, and many other minerals, besides coal and marble. The tin mines were anciently numerous and valuable, but are now nearly abandoned, those of Cornwall being so much richer. There are several varieties of lead ore, one of which is very rich in silver. Cobalt, antimony, and native silver have been found in considerable quantities.
The marbles quarried from the limestone rocks on the E. and S. coasts much resemble Italian marble in texture and appearance. Fine pipe clay, potters' clay, and slate of excellent quality are abundant. The agriculture of Devonshire is in a flourishing condition, about three fourths of the land being under cultivation. The S. and S. E. parts contain extensive wastes, including Dartmoor, covered with immense rocks and detached masses of granite. In the N. and 1ST. W. are found large tracts of swampy ground and many peat bogs of great depth. The vale of Exeter, containing about 200 sq. m., is one of the richest valleys in the kingdom. The district called South Hams, extending from Torbay round to Plymouth, is known as the garden of Devonshire, and is finely diversified and very productive. The pasture lands are chiefly devoted to dairy uses, though some attention is paid to raising sheep and cattle. Devonshire is celebrated for its cider and its cattle. The purest breeds are distinguished by a high red color, without white spots; they are fine in the bone and clean in the neck, thin-skinned, and silky in handling; have horns of medium length bent upward, a small tail set on very high, a light dun ring around the eye, and are noted for feeding at an early age.
The cows weigh from 420 to 460 lbs., the oxen from 700 to 820 lbs. The North Devon cattle, another variety, are in great demand for the firm grain of their meat, and the superior qualities of the oxen for work. The native horses are small, but hardy, and much accustomed to the packsaddle. Landed property in Devonshire is more evenly divided than in most other counties, there being few very large freeholds. Farms average from 100 to 200 acres. The spinning of linen yarn, and manufacture of linen goods, have superseded the former woollen manufacture. In and about Tiverton great quantities of lace and lace net are made, which find a market on the continent of Europe. Ship building gives employment to numbers of men. The chief ship yard is the royal dock yard at Devonport. The county town is Exeter, where the assizes are held. Among the other principal towns are Plymouth, Dartmouth, Tavistock, Okehampton, Totness, Honiton, Axmin-ster, Tiverton, and Barnstaple. The county gives the title of duke to the Cavendish, and of earl to the Courtenay family.
There are ruins, British and Roman, in various parts of the county, among which are several abbeys and castles.