Tributes have been paid to one of Barnstaple’s much-loved characters, tour guide and unofficial town crier Tom Evans.

Tom Evans leads the Green Man procession from Barnstaple Square to Pilton. Picture: Andy KeebleTom Evans leads the Green Man procession from Barnstaple Square to Pilton. Picture: Andy Keeble

Tom died on Sunday (June 23) at the age of 66 after a long battle with illness.

He had lived in Barnstaple for 40 years, setting up and running the Tourist Information Centre (TIC) for 30 years.

Tom was well known for his guided walks of Barnstaple, giving tourists, schools, groups and overseas students an introduction to the town and its rich history since 1983.

He could also be seen leading the Pilton Green Man Festival procession each year.

Tom Evans leads the Green Man procession in Pilton. Picture: Ewan SomervilleTom Evans leads the Green Man procession in Pilton. Picture: Ewan Somerville

Tom's sister Penny said: "Tom Evans was possibly Barnstaple's most recognisable character, and was well known to literally thousands of visitors to North Devon, including many from overseas.

"He was responsible for many years for managing the pedestrianisation of the town centre, he spent his free time and at his own expense in removing graffiti and bill posters from the town centre, he had a key role in making Barnstaple town centre a safe and nice environment to visit.

"Easily recognised in the town centre with his top hat and cane, Tom brought to life the history of Barnstaple and its buildings.

"Tom as a guide charged a peppercorn fee, as he enjoyed the work, felt it was for the benefit of Barnstaple as a whole and did not wish to put anyone off."

Town crier Tom Evans leads a procession through Barnstaple High Street.Town crier Tom Evans leads a procession through Barnstaple High Street.

Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon manager Alison Mills said Tom was an 'unmistakable figure' in Barnstaple.

She said: "When I arrived in Barnstaple in 1990 Tom was operating the TIC out of the ground floor of the new library. He had a mission to put Barnstaple on the tourist map and share its rich history with anyone and everyone that would listen."

"Barnstaple's TIC was never an association of B and Bs and attractions, but relied on Tom's single handed energy and enthusiasm.

"Starting by walking round in a sandwich board and then acquiring a portable cabin, Tom became an unmistakable figure as, dressed as a cavalier or a Victorian schoolmaster, he led parties around the town.

Tom EvansTom Evans

"His booming cry of 'Oyez Oyez' and his penchant for jumping on nearby walls or litter bins to increase his already considerable height made him easy to spot, and as well as tourists, he infected generations of schoolchildren and especially thousands of SOL Language students with his passion for Barnstaple's history."

The TIC would eventually move from the library and into the museum reception, where Tom set up the first museum shop. As tourist information funding was lost, he returned to conducting town tours, with his passion for Barnstaple's history leading to him becoming a board member of North Devon Anthenaeum.

"Tom was Barnstaple Tourist Information for over 20 years," said Alison.

"He built up the business and recruited enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff who made sure the visitors to the town had the best possible experience.

Tom EvansTom Evans

"Tom's priority was always his customers - from the outset he invested how own resources and seemingly limitless time, and could be found pulling shopping trolleys out of the river or picking up rubbish so that Barnstaple always shone.

"He never took a salary from the business - it's hard to see how anyone could have given his adopted town more."

A statement from Barnstaple Town Council said: "We at the town council were very saddened to hear the news of the passing of Tom Evans.

"We had the pleasure of working with Tom many times over the years. We admired the commitment and passion he had for Barnstaple.

"His entertaining tours which brought pleasure to visitors and locals alike, will be sorely missed. Our condolences to his family at this very sad time."

A public thanksgiving service will take place next week at Barnstaple Guildhall.