The name ‘Ivy Bridge’ was originally reference to the crossing on the River Erme as opposed to any settlement. It first appears in the thirteenth century when John Peverel of Ermington gave his daughter ‘all the land in Harford … and of the river which is above the waters of the Erme under Ivy Bridge’. Quite how long the bridge had existed is not precisely known. Some believe it had been constructed by the monks of Plympton Priory to provide safe passage to their lands at Wrangaton and Dean Prior and Buckfastleigh.
From this period onwards this area belonged to the Lord of the Manor. The families of Bonville, Crocker and Rogers are all recorded. The latter family held the manor for two hundred years, spanning six generations until the male line ended in 1895 and the estate was dispersed and sold off.
By the sixteenth century the small community of manor tenants began to resemble a village. Most were farming the land whilst in time they were joined by craftsmen as corn and tucking mills began to appear beside the fast-flowing waters of the River Erme.
A road running through Ivybridge had existed since Tudor times, being the post road from London to Plymouth. The first recorded inn at Ivybridge was the ‘Three Tunns’ which dates to the middle of the seventeenth century. It was in the centre of the village on this main thoroughfare and ideally placed to provide for the needs of the stagecoach traveller. By the 1780s this inn, now named The Royal Oak, rapidly lost trade to the modern, newly established London Inn located by the old Ivy Bridge.
In the early 1800s, Ivybridge began to expand with houses constructed along Erme Road, Highland Street, Green Street (which no longer exists), Church Street and Fore Street with the latter having most of the shops.
In 1819 the turnpike road between Exeter and Plymouth was redesigned so that stagecoaches could avoid the awkward double turn at the bridge. To take this road across the river a new bridge was completed in 1833, financed by the Plymouth Eastern Turnpike Trustees. This bridge connected Fore Street with Exeter Street avoiding the old Ivy Bridge and with it the London Inn. The Rogers Arms, later the Ivybridge Hotel, gained the dominant position and became the major coaching inn and Post Office.
Until 1789 Ivybridge had no place of worship. The nearest parish churches of Cornwood, Harford, Ugborough and Ermington would have all entailed a considerable walk. The chapel of ease completed in this year was later enlarged in 1835 to meet the needs of the growing population and was henceforth known as the Church of St. John the Evangelist. Ivybridge was then made an Ecclesiastical District.
The church however found it difficult to retain a chaplain and at times was without one entirely, Local people began drifting away to the Wesleyan movement. A Methodist Chapel was built in 1812 and later enlarged in 1860 before an entirely new and very much larger church was built in 1874.
A few years earlier, in 1869, the construction of the Congregational Church was completed on land donated by the owner of Stowford Paper Mill, John Allen. This today is known as Ivybridge Baptist Church.
In 1848 the South Devon Railway opened a railway station in Ivybridge. As travellers abandoned the stagecoach, the Ivybridge Hotel suffered greatly and was closed soon afterwards. With the success of the railway came development on land below the station known as Beacons. Later, the conversion of the railway line from broad to standard gauge together with the double tracking, the original Brunel viaduct was replaced by a new one in 1893.
In the first half of the nineteenth century local government in Ivybridge had been of a parochial basis under the ancient four parishes of Harford, Cornwood, Ugborough and Ermington. However, in 1872 Ivybridge appointed its Local Board of Health. The Public Health Act of that year mapped out the country into Sanitary Districts permitting the election of Boards of Health, bringing the supply of water, sewerage, drainage, street cleansing, paving and environmental health regulation under a single local body. One of the first tasks undertaken was the construction of a reservoir located in Longtimber Woods to supply the village with clean drinking water.