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24 September 2014

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Sir Francis Drake
Devonian Sir Francis Drake

Who's the greatest ever Devonian?

From explorers and inventors to writers and musicians, Devon has been the birthplace of many truly inspirational characters...but who is the greatest of them all? Here's your chance to vote for the Greatest Ever Devonian.

Sir Francis Drake, Dame Agatha Christie, Captain Scott, Thomas Newcomen, Sir Francis Chichester, Sir Walter Raleigh, Chris Martin...all from different eras and backgrounds but with one thing in common.

All were born in Devon.

In fact, Devon has spawned some of the most inventive and inspirational people this country has ever seen.

Now, the search is on to find the greatest Devonian of them all, in a poll by Devon County Council.

Joss Stone on stage in Exeter
Joss Stone on stage in Exeter

Following nominations from the public, a people's choice short-list of 12 notable Devonians has emerged.

Surprisingly the list includes four modern day figures from the music scene - the Indie rock band Muse, folk duo Show of Hands, soul singer Joss Stone and Coldplay's front man Chris Martin. 

A popular nominee is Elizabethan explorer and naval commander Sir Francis Drake who, along with North Devonian George Monk, encapsulates Devon’s reputation as a birthplace for leading figures of their times.

Monk was one of Cromwell’s top generals who later played the leading role in the restoration of Charles II and Parliamentary government and also founded the Coldstream Guards.

Dame Agatha Christie
Queen of Crime Dame Agatha Christie in 1937

Literary talent is represented in the shape of Agatha Christie, one of only two women to make the short-list, and poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Notable Devonians who failed to make the final 12 include Sir Walter Raleigh and some tongue in cheek choices such as Basil Fawlty and, for geology fans, The Devonian Era.

  • Sir Francis Drake (explorer)
  • Show of Hands (folk duo)
  • WG Hoskins (historian)
  • Muse (indie rock band from Teignmouth)
  • Charles Babbage (father of computing)
  • Agatha Christie (crime writer)
  • Samuel Taylor Coleridge (poet)
  • Peter Cook (comedian)
  • Sir Joshua Reynolds (painter)
  • Joss Stone (soul singer)
  • Chris Martin (front man of the band Coldplay)
  • George Monk (military and political figure)

As well as the final overall 'people's choice' winner, a panel of judges, including Devon historian Todd Gray and Devon County Council history advisor Jamie Byrom, will draw up a list of 12 'Great Unknown' Devonians who they feel should not be left with their achievements unsung.

Devon’s Executive Member for Culture, Councillor Sheila Hobden, said: "The hundreds of nominations show a really eclectic mix of achievement and a fascinating exploration of what it takes to be seen as truly great."

The result will be announced at County Hall in Exeter on 30 November, when the Greatest Ever Devonian will be revealed.

You can cast your vote for the Greatest Devonian by emailing your choice to

The poll is part of the council's celebration of Devon's cultural heritage.

If you want to know more about some of the short-listed Devonians, take a look at our page featuring some of Devon's most famous people.

last updated: 15/08/06
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