Officially called Great Torrington, to distinguish it from nearby Little Torrington and Black Torrington, the town is more generally known simply as Torrington. This can sometimes lead to confusion when searching for the town in a list – whether to look under G or T!
Before the middle of the 8th century, there were probably three farms or estates on the bank of the ‘Toric’ (the Old English name for the River Torridge meaning ‘violent, rough stream’) which each had the name Toricton or, later, Toritun. After the Norman Conquest this name varied between Toriton, Torinton and Torintone. To avoid confusion, the three places were later distinguished by the prefixes ‘Chepyng’ (Market) or ‘Magna’ (Great) for the town and ‘Little’ and ‘Black’ for the villages.
Little Torrington lies about a mile and a half away from the town over the hill to the south, out of sight except for the top of the church tower. Black Torrington is some 9 miles away, as the crow flies, higher up the River Torridge and it has been suggested that the village derives its special title from the black colour of the water or perhaps from the dense woods which surrounded it in ancient times.