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The name derives from its location on the River Tiddy  literally meaning "Ford on the River Tiddy". Tideford is not listed in the Domesday Book but the earliest settlement is thought to have been around 1100AD. The bridge over the River Tiddy at the bottom of Bridge Road dates from the 14th century and this is the earliest surviving structure.
Tideford grew in the eighteenth century as the nearby Port Eliot country estate built a number of houses in the village. Many of these have now been sold, but of note is 'Bridge House', located at the bottom of Bridge Road, which remains a gatehouse onto the estate.

The village is located on the busy A38 between Saltash and Liskeard, one of two main road routes into Cornwall (the other being the A30 which runs into north Cornwall). Tideford does not have a railway station, the nearest being at St Germans, some two miles south of the village.