It is thought that Barnstaple is the oldest borough in England, dating back to the 900s. But it was the medieval period that most defined Barnstaple's history. Its location helped it to become a thriving trading centre, a base for merchants doing business with Europe, Ireland and the New World. The era of prosperity was interrupted by the Civil War, during which Barnstaple changed hands four times. Bullet holes from the skirmishes can still be found in some of Barnstaple's buildings. After the war, a period of development contributed to its continuing prosperity, particularly the construction of the railway in 1854. Barnstaple's status later declined as much of the woollen industry moved to other parts of the country and other, larger ports began to take the trade. However the twentieth century saw a resurgence of its fortunes, and as we move further into a new century, Barnstaple continues to flourish as the chief town of North Devon.