Ilfracombe (/ˈɪlfrəkuːm/ IL-frə-koom) is a seaside resort and
civil parish on the North
Devon coast, England, with a small harbour
surrounded by cliffs.
The parish stretches along the coast from the 'Coastguard Cottages' in
Hele Bay toward the east and 4 miles along the Torrs to
Lee Bay toward
the west. The resort is hilly and the highest point within the parish
boundary is at 'Hore Down Gate', 2 miles inland and 860 feet (270 m)
above sea level.
The landmark of Hillsborough Hill dominates the harbour and is the
site of an
Iron Age fortified settlement. In the built environment,
the architectural-award-winning Landmark Theatre is either loved or
hated for its unusual double-conical design. The 13th century parish
church, Holy Trinity, and the St Nicholas's Chapel (a lighthouse) on
Lantern Hill, have been joined by the
Damien Hirst owned statue,
Verity, as points of interest.
6.2 Bus and railway
8.1 Religious sites
9 Sports and leisure activities
11.1 Performing arts
12 Ilfracombe's fires
13 See also
15 External links
Main article: History of Ilfracombe
Ilfracombe has been settled since the Iron Age, when the
Roman name for the inhabitants of the South-West) established a hill
fort on the dominant hill, Hillsborough (formerly Hele's Barrow). The
origin of the town's name has two possible sources. The first is that
it is a derivative of the Anglo-Saxon Alfreinscoma - by which name it
was noted in the
Liber Exoniensis of 1086. The translation of this
Walter William Skeat
Walter William Skeat of the department of Anglo Saxon at
Cambridge University) means the "Valley of the sons of Alfred". The
second origin is that the name
Ilfracombe was derived from Norse illf
(bad), Anglo-Saxon yfel (evil ford) and Anglo-Saxon cumb (valley)
perhaps from a Celtic source (compare Welsh cwm), thus 'The valley
with the bad ford'.
The manor house at
Chambercombe in east
Ilfracombe was recorded in the
1086 Domesday Book as being built by a Norman knight Champernon (from
Chambernon in France) who landed with William of Normandy. It is also
said to be haunted.
Ilfracombe comprised two distinct communities; a farming community
around the parish church called Holy Trinity, parts of which date from
the 12th century, and a fishing community around the natural harbour
formed between Capstone, Compass and Lantern Torrs. It is recorded
that the lands by the church were part of the estate owned by
Champernowne family, while those by the harbour belonged to the
Bouchier family: Earls of Bath.
St. Nicholas's Chapel on Lantern Hill
Because of the natural layout of the harbour,
Ilfracombe became a
significant safe port (registered port of refuge) on the Bristol
Channel. It also had trade routes between
Kinsale and Tenby, which
made the port stronger. In 1208 it was listed as having provided King
John with ships and men to invade Ireland; in 1247 it supplied a ship
to the fleet that was sent to conquer the
Western Isles of Scotland; 6
ships, with 79 men were sent to support the siege of Calais.
Ilfracombe was the last disembarkation point for two large forces sent
to subdue the Irish. The building which sits on Lantern Hill by the
harbour, known as St Nicholas's Chapel (built 1361) is reputed to be
the oldest working lighthouse in the UK; a light/beacon has been there
for over 650 years.
The town was also home to the Bowen family. James Bowen was sailing
master of HMS Queen Charlotte, the flagship of Richard, Earl Howe
at the 1794 "Glorious First of June" battle. James Bowen was
commissioned by Howe for his leadership in the battle. He rose through
the levels - commander of HMS Argo, Dreadnought, and in Georgian
England titled "defender of Madeira", led the fleet which rescued the
British Army at Corunna in the Peninsula War. He retired as a Rear
Admiral and Commissioner of the Royal Navy. Captain Richard Bowen
(1761–97) James Bowen's younger brother, a commander on
HMS Terpsichore, served under Lord Nelson and was killed at the
battle of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. John Bowen (1780–1827), son of
James Bowen and a naval officer and colonial administrator, founded
the first settlement of
Tasmania at Risdon Cove in 1803 - the
settlement that later became known as Hobart. Lieutenant A E Down
was initially posted to
Ilfracombe to lead a protection ship for the
customs and excise. He married a local girl and rose through the
levels to retire as vice Admiral. His son joined the navy aged 14 (his
first navy kit is on display at National Maritime Museum Greenwich).
In 1802 James Meek married Down's daughter and settled in the town,
James Meek was appointed the Comptroller of Victuals to the Royal Navy
in 1832. He was knighted, and died in
Ilfracombe 1852. (gentlemen's
There was a wooden fortress overlooking the harbour, of this nothing
remains except contemporary records and the area designated Castle
Hill off Portland Street/Montepellier Terrace.
Photochrom of Ilfracombe, 1890s
The novelist Fanny Burney stayed in
Ilfracombe in 1817. Her diary
entries (31 July – 5 October) record early 19th century life in
Ilfracombe: a captured Spanish ship; two ships in distress in a storm;
the visit of Thomas Bowdler; and her lucky escape after being cut off
by the tide. A few years later in the 1820s a set of four tunnels were
hand carved by Welsh miners to permit access to the beaches by
horse-drawn carriage as well as by foot. Previously access was gained
by climbing the cliffs, rounding the point by boat, swimming or at the
lowest tides clambering around the rocks of the point. These tunnels
led to a pair of tidal pools, which in accordance with Victorian
morals, were used for segregated male and female bathing. Whereas
women were constrained to a strict dress code covering up the whole
body, men generally swam naked. The tunnels are still viewable and are
signposted as Tunnels Beaches.
In 1856 writer
Mary Ann Evans
Mary Ann Evans (pen-name George Eliot) accompanied
George Henry Lewes
George Henry Lewes to
Ilfracombe to gather materials for his work
Seaside Studies published in 1858.In more recent times actor Peter
Sellers lived in the town when his parents managed the Gaiety Theatre,
he first stepped on the stage there and reputedly played drums!.
Another actor Terry Thomas visited the town frequently to stay with
his sister, and in the same period Joan and Jackie Collins were
schooled here and boarded in the town. In the last two decades the
town has been home to many artists including locally Damien Hirst, and
George Shaw a runner up for the Turner Prize. There is an annual art
festival when local artists open their homes for visitors to see their
work and 7 to 10 permanent art galleries. the town's first lifeboat
was bought in 1828 but a permanent service was not available until the
Royal National Lifeboat Institution
Royal National Lifeboat Institution built a lifeboat station at the
bottom of Lantern Hill near the pier in 1866. The present station at
Broad Street dates from 1996.
In 1911, the Irish nationalist
Anna Catherine Parnell
Anna Catherine Parnell (sister of
Charles Stewart Parnell) drowned at
Ilfracombe and is buried in the
churchyard at Holy Trinity.
Miss Alice Frances Louisa Phillips (b. 26 January 1891 at 85 High
Street, Ilfracombe) and her father Mr Escott Robert Phillips (b. 1869
Cardiff) held 2nd Class Ticket No. 2 on the Titanic, and set sail from
Southampton on 10 April 1912 heading for New Brighton, Pennsylvania.
Alice was rescued in boat 12, her father was lost in the
Devon divisions with
The town lies within the Parliamentary constituency of North Devon,
and the European Region of South West England. The current Member of
Parliament for North
Devon is Conservative Peter Heaton-Jones. It was
previously represented by Liberal Democrat
Nick Harvey from 1992 to
2015. There are three electoral wards named Ilfracombe
(Central,East & West). The ward strays outside the town boundaries
a little and the total 2011 census figure is 11,509.
The three councils which govern activities in the town are Devon
County Council, North
Devon District Council, and
Council. The councils cover different areas of responsibility:
Roads, Education, Economic Affairs, Youth Services and Social Services
are covered by
Devon County Council based in County Hall,
Ilfracombe sends one elected member.
Housing, Refuse Collection, Street Cleaning, Parks & Gardens,
Harbour, Leisure & Culture, Licensing and Planning are covered by
Devon District Council,
Barnstaple to which
five members (two each from West and Central Wards and one from East
Devon District Council has area offices in the Ilfracombe
Centre on High Street.
The Town Council, which has 3 wards and 18 members (7 from West and
Central Wards and 4 from the East Ward) acts as the watchdog to the
other two councils whilst also developing local initiatives owning and
Ilfracombe Centre and supporting many community
associations and activities. Following the success of the town
council's development of the
Ilfracombe Centre, the council has in
2010 developed and published a comprehensive review of the town
development strategy outlined in the Strategic Action Plan created by
Ilfracombe Community Alliance. The town council's new document,
available on the council's website, gives the framework within which
it will lead the future regeneration of the community through to 2025.
The town is also twinned with Herxheim in
Germany and Ifs in France.
The view from St. Nicholas's Chapel during a storm
Ilfracombe overlies slates formed from sedimentary rock that underwent
geological stress (creating faults and folds), towards the end of the
Carboniferous Period, around 300 million years ago. These are known as
Ilfracombe lies within the North
Devon Areas of
Outstanding Natural Beauty which is renowned for its dramatic coastal
cliffs and landscape. Hillsborough, lying close to the town centre is
a local nature reserve, and around the town are many other havens for
wildlife, notable including the Cairn. The coast itself is part of the
Devon Voluntary Marine Conservation area because of its diverse
and rare species.
During the boom times of tourism in the 1950s there was not a large
enough local workforce to service the needs of the tourism industry
during the summer months. Many local businesses advertised in Northern
Manchester and Liverpool to allieviate
this problem. This 'inward migration' caused social problems and
friction between these people and those with a long history of
residence. At its peak over 10,000 holidaymakers used the railway
each Saturday during peak season, and passenger ferries brought still
more. When the tourism market faltered with the arrival of cheap
foreign package holidays in the 1960s, and the closure of the railway,
unemployment levels rose. In 2001,
Ilfracombe Central Ward was
designated the most deprived super output area in Devon.[citation
These problems are now being addressed by the implementation of local
government schemes such as the Mystart (formerly Sure Start) project
to help support families with young children, and, since 2004, the
Neighbourhood Management Transform programme. Both of these were the
first such government sponsored social development schemes covering
rural areas in England. Better policing, the use of neighbourhood
wardens and CCTV have led to a reduction in crime rates recorded by
the police on the police and crime website to levels
closer to the North
Devon average (a fraction of those nationally).
More recently, a 2009 Mosaic study  found that all areas of the
town are largely populated with close-knit manufacturing town
communities, while the surrounding parishes are predominantly
populated by people living far from urbanisation. The study also found
that south of the town centre is a large contingent of upwardly mobile
families living in homes bought from social landlords, while in the
south-west of the town, many low income families live in estate-based
Ilfracombe farmers' market
Until the mid-19th century Ilfracombe's economy was based around
maritime activities: importing lime and coal from Wales; fishing for
herring; and international trade, including to
West Africa and the
West Indies. In George III and the Regency period the town, population
then 1800, was home to many navy personnel – four admirals,
numerous captains, and other commissioned and non-commissioned
The town gradually developed into a tourist resort served by ferries
Bristol Channel. The opening of the railway accelerated this
development. The population grew until the First World War, then
stabilised at 9,200, now 11,000. The economy suffered throughout the
1960s as UK holiday patterns changed, and suffered further through the
closure of the railway line in 1970.
In the last 25 years, major investment by private 'light engineering'
companies has added to the economy. These companies include: Pall
Europe - a filtration manufacturers with 700 employees on
site; and the European headquarters TDK-Lambda, a
subsidiary of the TDK Corporation, which manufactures industrial &
medical power supplies. A number of light engineering firms
provide additional employment and operate within a couple of miles of
the town centre at
Mullacott Cross. There are 3 deep sea fishing boats
which sail from the port and several inshore boats which farm the
local lobster, crabs and whelks. In a survey (2011) for EU funded Flag
programme it was reported 90% of the local maritime catch is exported
France and Spain. There are many private charter, sea cruise and
coastal tour boat operators sailing from the harbour.
Employment Research conducted by MORI in 2005 for the Transform (UK
government neighbourhood management project), and by Roger Tym &
Partners for the
Ilfracombe Community Alliance showed:-The service
sector (includes hotel and catering) at 76% is 2 x higher than the
Devon (40.1%) or
Devon average (33.7%). 51% of businesses by
number are within the distribution, hotels and restaurants
sector.12.8% are within the banking, finance and insurance
sector.11.9% are within public administration, health and
The High Street continues to thrive, despite the arrival outside the
area of supermarket stores by large retailers. High Street businesses
in 2010 include the major banks and building societies and small
branches of many national or regional shop chains, but it still has
traditional hardware stores and local butcher's, baker's and florist's
shops, which to some extent maintain its traditional individual
In 2010-11 North Devon+ hosted a number of public meetings with a view
to establishing a forum to represent businesses as there was no active
organisation representing the entire business community. As a result,
COMBEbusiness, a not-for-private-profit company, was established in
April 2011 with the aim of promoting business around Ilfracombe,
Woolacombe and Combe Martin. COMBEbusiness holds business events on
the first Wednesday of each month and represents the town's businesses
in dealings with councils, government and other bodies.
Panoramic view of
Ilfracombe seafront, winter night time.
Panoramic view of
Ilfracombe seafront, summer day time.
High Street, Ilfracombe
Ilfracombe is at the southern end of the A361, the longest 3-digit
A-road in England. The A361 finishes on the A5 at
Kilsby on the
Warwickshire border near Rugby. This road is the
town's main connection with the
South West England
South West England motorway, the M5,
Golden Coast Amusements (Also Known As "a.k.a." : Family Fun
Centre), 14-18 Belgrave Promenade, Wilder Road,
Ilfracombe in 1999 and
High Street Car Park in Ilfracombe, 91-95 High Street, Ilfracombe,
Devon EX34 9NH.
Bus and railway
Ilfracombe was served by the
Ilfracombe railway line that
ran from Barnstaple, but this closed in 1970. Now, the nearest
National Rail railway station is in
Barnstaple and buses provide the
public transport link from there to Ilfracombe. There are a number of
regular bus services operating from Ilfracombe. These include:
Barnstaple - Fremington -
Bideford - Westward Ho!
Filers Travel 31:
Woolacombe - Morthoe
Filers Travel 301:
Barnstaple - North
Devon Hospital -
There are also several smaller routes (33,34,35,36) around the town
run by Filers Travel. A daily (twice-daily during the summer) national
coach service operated by National Express route 502 connects
Victoria Coach Station
Victoria Coach Station via Heathrow Airport.
The first steam packets arrived at
Ilfracombe in 1823, and soon a
regular service between
Bristol and between
Swansea developed. On
16 May 1873, a wooden promenade pier was opened to allow the pleasure
steamers to berth at all tides. On 23 June 1894, it was reported in
Ilfracombe Chronicle that over 2,500 people arrived in no less
than seven boats, it describes them as 'commodious and well-appointed
vessels with an excellent reputation for speed and comfort.' As well
as holidaymakers, the boats carried workers, live and dead stock and
other merchandise to and from the town. The
PS Waverley first
Ilfracombe in 1887, after her owners Messrs P. and A.
Campbell brought her to
Bristol as their first pleasure steamer to
Bristol Channel. Deterioration of the wooden pier and part
demolition during the
Second World War
Second World War mean that a new pier was
required. The wood was replaced with reinforced concrete and car
parking space was increased. The new pier was opened on 6 July
A seasonal passenger ferry, operated by MS Oldenburg, runs from the
Lundy Island. Pleasure boats, including
MV Balmoral and PS
Waverley, operate cruises from Ilfracombe, including crossings to
Porthcawl. However, due to rising fuel costs these services are under
threat. A catamaran-based ferry service from
Ilfracombe to Swansea
was proposed, however this service has not commenced, reportedly
because adequate landing and berthing facilities in
Swansea have not
The town's educational needs are served by three schools: an infants
school, a junior school and the
Ilfracombe Academy. Each of these
schools are amongst the largest of their type in Devon. The Ilfracombe
Academy serves the needs of
Ilfracombe residents and those across the
Devon area as far as
Lynmouth on the Somerset
county border. It is a nationally recognised centre for Media Studies
and was in 2004 awarded Media Arts Status. Upon completion of a new
art block in 2007, the school's specialist status became simply arts.
Further educational courses and vocational courses are run by the
Ilfracombe Museum was opened in 1932 in
Ilfracombe Hotel's Victorian
laundry and contains attractions from around the world including
pickled bats and the two-headed kitten. It also contains items and
photographs of local railway interest including one of the concrete
name boards from the now closed local railway station, which can be
seen on the front wall of the museum; and a collection of pieces of
Victorian wedding cakes. It also has oak panels salvaged from the
wreck of HMS Montagu.
Ilfracombe also has a library located on the Residential Candar
Ilfracombe has a wide variety of architectural styles dating from the
13th Century to 21st Century. The town has ancient streets leading to
the harbour; on higher ground there are Georgian and Regency period
terraces and mansions. Naturally, the period from 1830 to 1900 was a
time of great development and has been the subject of several books by
J Bates the architecture of
Ilfracombe which gives the town a
Victorian flavour visible in many buildings. The latest style of
architecture can be seen in the award-winning design of the Landmark
theatre and the McCarthy Stone apartment block Lantern Court which
stands above the harbour.
Holy Trinity is the town's parish church
Christian churches of various denominations. The main
Anglican church is the parish church, Holy Trinity, which is the
mother church to St Peter's on Highfield Road. Several other churches
identify themselves as Evangelical, but differ in denominational
background. These include: St Philip and St James Church whose
background is Anglican; three free churches - Brookdale Evangelical
Christian Fellowship Church, of which the latter
is the more charismatic and
Baptist Church of the Baptist
tradition on the High Street. There is also the Roman Catholic Our
Lady Star of the Sea Church in Runnacleave Road, the Methodist/United
Reformed Emmanuel Church on Wilder Road, and the Salvation Army Corps
church on Torrs Park, by Bath Place. There is a Jehovah's Witness
meeting place in Victoria Road.
St. Nicholas's Chapel
St. Nicholas's Chapel
Lantern Hill, Ilfracombe
51°12′40″N 4°06′47″W / 51.211135°N 4.113009°W /
Year first constructed
Year first lit
Markings / pattern
white lantern on the top
11 metres (36 ft)
39 metres (128 ft)
Fl G 2.5s.
Devon District Council
Grade I listed
Since at least the mid-17th century a light has been displayed from
the 14th century chapel atop Lantern Hill, to guide ships entering the
harbour. The light remains operational, and is said to be Britain's
oldest lighthouse. The current lantern was installed by Trinity House
in 1819. The light is presently operated by the harbour authority
Grade I listed
Grade I listed building is owned by the North
Regular worship in the chapel ceased at the Reformation, and for a
time the building served as a cottage for lighthouse keepers before
falling into some dilapidation. It was restored in 1962, however, by
the local Rotary Club, under whose auspices the chapel is open to
visitors in the summer months.
Sports and leisure activities
Ilfracombe Rugby Union Club was founded in 1877 and welcomes players
from 16 to 61.
Ilfracombe Golf Club (located just beyond Hele Bay) was founded in
The cricket club, formed in 1923, play at Killacleave Playing Fields.
Ilfracombe Running Club was formed in October 2013 and is affiliated
England Athletics. They meet at
Ilfracombe Town F.C.
Ilfracombe Town F.C. at 7.00pm on
Ilfracombe Town Football Club, who play at Marlborough Park near
Ilfracombe Arts College, compete in the Premier Division of the North
Devon Football League after the 1st team who before competed in the
Western League but then withdrew following a committee vote. The club
has 2 men's teams, a ladies' team and 3 youth teams.
There is a high street indoor gym, and an outdoor work out facility on
Oxford Park. The rural and hilly nature of the local terrain provide
plenty of opportunities to exercise outside.
A tennis club is based at Bicclescombe Park which contains several
tennis courts, bookable for a small fee by both tourists and locals.
The local swimming pool supports many activities - leisure swimming,
competitive swimming and life saving classes for all age groups. It is
the centre for large swimming club and separate still water life
saving clubs, all of whom annually enter national competitions.
The flat green bowling enthusiasts have a centre at the Ilfracombe
Bowling Club on Highfield Road.
In Fore Street, there is a nationally affiliated table tennis centre
with teams ranging in age from juniors to veterans. There are starter
sessions held weekly besides main league competitions
Maritime activities include a popular yacht club and a rapidly growing
Gig boat club with three boats., which now competes in the world
championships. Most Mondays and Thursdays the local
Cadets meet near the harbour, in what was the old rope making factory
on Ropery Road. There is also a kayak and canoeing club and a large
Other sports teams in the town include Hash Harriers Running Club and
many skittles and darts teams operated by the numerous licensed
premises in the town. A local
Euchre league is active during the
winter, as well as many quiz leagues.
In 2008, the town council owned Slade Community Centre, operated by an
independent community group, which was renamed the "Vision". It is
home to an
Aikido club and a kick boxing club as well as numerous
activities for younger children. A boxing club is held twice weekly in
the local fire station. There are active modern and traditional dance
clubs, including Morris Dancing.
There is a large sea fishing fraternity, both off shore using owned or
hired boats, and shore casting from various beaches and "hot" spots.
Numerous groups of volunteer-led gardening and horticultural
enthusiasts work together under the "Greener Ilfracombe"
banner.Ilracombe in Bloom committee have successfully led the town in
national and regional competition for decades; since 2000, 3 community
gardens have been opened on underused or derelict land. These are Cow
Green, a recreational garden, and Calf Laston Greens (small starter
allotments) and an Incredible Edible Project with a waste not cafe.
Devon Community Resource Cic (which operates the
community apple orchard at Hele) are also affiliated. A new group to
support English Heritage investigation into the historic importance of
Iron Age settlement has been formed.There is a thriving
Cemetery group the volunteers have rejuvenated the ancient graveyard
around Trinity Church. and regularly organise "Dead Famous" in
Ilfracombe walks and talks giving the background to the residents
buried in the grounds.
Despite the hilly terrain,
Ilfracombe is at the northern end of
National Cycle Network
National Cycle Network route 27, known as the
Devon Coast to Coast
Cycle Route, which starts from the pier (clock-in station at the Pier
Tavern) and ends in Plymouth. There is another coastal trail suitable
for cycling which starts at the pier which heads eastwards towards
Minehead (defined as 'arduous'). A new event in 2010, organised by
Devon Wheelers is a giro cycle race round the town held as a
prologue to the annual carnival. In September 2011 the first
Ilfracombe triathlon was held on "the mother of all short courses"
400m sea swim, 22 km cycle, 5 km run.
South West Coast Path
South West Coast Path connecting
Somerset to Dorset,
via Land's End, passes through the town from
Hele Bay to
Lee Bay via
The first person to swim the 30½ nautical miles (56.5 km;
35.1 mi) from
Swansea was Gethin Jones, who
achieved the record on 13 September 2009, taking nearly 22 hours. A
lady doctor from
Swansea swam the crossing in 2016...taking 7 hours
From 2001 there was an economic regeneration programme led by the
Ilfracombe & District Community Alliance MCTI, a community
interest company designed to encourage social entrepreneurship. After
widespread community consultation this programme developed a community
economic strategy for the next twenty years published in 2005.
Damien Hirst's statue Verity is on the harbour front
The town council working with and North
Devon District Council is
formulating plans for the town's economic and physical structures.
Proposed developments are: the enhancement of the harbour area; A
large extension (500 dwellings) to the town on high ground to the
south. There is long term development of the derelict bus station site
based on plans developed by Terence O'Rourke; and the creation of
better youth support and recreation facilities at the Larkstone
eastern side of the harbour area.
The town council - working with GOSW, SWRDA and NDDC, supported by the
Alliance and Transform - developed the council offices into a
community training resource in the town centre: 'The Ilfracombe
Centre'. In 2006, major leisure industry developments by John
Fowler, a local holiday camp operator, are expected to help shift the
local economy back to tourism. This combined with investment by
patrons such as
Damien Hirst (who with his partner Mia recently funded
a restaurant owned by Simon Brown, No 11 The Quay, on
Road, is developing a boutique guest house on the Torrs, as well
owning other properties within the town) and the introduction of high
quality accommodation should make
Ilfracombe a more attractive
destination for food lovers and tourists.
Ilfracombe Town Council in partnership with North
Council made a successful bid under the coalition's "Localism" agenda
to operate a pilot Community Budget scheme. The work to develop this
scheme has been a major development to the community.
The Landmark Theatre. Emmanuel Church is on the left and the parish
church is in the background
Locals enjoying 'Victorian Week' at the farmers' market whilst dressed
in traditional Victorian attire
Each year, the residents and school children of
their heritage. These celebrations include six carnivals - a May Day,
led by a "green" man walking celebration, it is a successor to the May
Day events held for centuries until suppressed by the church in the
19th century because of riotous, licentious and drunken behaviour;
Ilfracombe Victorian Celebration, a week-long programme of events
held annually in June to celebrate a time of the town's prosperity; a
large street carnival procession during August, organised by
Ilfracombe Lions; the "sea ilfracombe" festival in September and the
Lighting of the Lights held during November; and at Christmas, a
A farmers' market is held regularly in the Lantern Community Centre on
High Street. By the Landmark Theatre there is a small museum, housed
in the buildings of the laundry of the former
Ilfracombe Hotel. For
those of literary intent there is an
The town hosts 10 small art galleries, including the exhibitions
displayed by the Art Society in their gallery in the Arcade on the
seafront, the foyer of the Landmark Theatre, the Quay and in "Number
Eleven, The Quay" within which there are many
Damien Hirst works,
including butterflies, pharmacy, small statues and wallpaper designs.
In October 2012
Damien Hirst loaned the statue, Verity, to the
District Council, it is a controversial piece but stands guiding
mariners into the safety of the harbour. The town is home to many
artists who work with
Damien Hirst (winner Turner Prize for
contemporary art 1996), of significance the 2011 short listed Turner
Prize artist, George Shaw, has a studio and now lives in the town.
Two other charitable events are organised each summer by Ilfracombe
Round Table. Both make use of
Ilfracombe Pier as a display area.
The first of these is the annual "South West Birdman" contest which
involves entrants seeking to 'fly' from the pier in home-made flying
machines. The second event is "Rescue Day", an opportunity for members
of the public to learn about the activities of the emergency services.
The highlight of the day is a simulated air-sea rescue involving the
launch of the
RNLI lifeboat, a Sea King helicopter from RAF
Exmoor Search and Rescue team and local Fire, Ambulance
and HM Coastguard services.
Small Pond Productions is the main theatrical group in Ilfracombe. It
holds musicals, concerts and plays throughout the year. Ilfracombe
Musical Productions hold a long-standing Variety show every year at
the Landmark Theatre, during The Victorian Week Celebration, in aid of
Local Good Causes and have raised over £80,000 from these events.
Studio Theatre is a community theatre group, established in 1984,
which stage a wide variety of Drama ranging from the classics, to
experimental plays throughout the year at venues in
throughout North Devon. Studio Theatre staged its 100th production,
The Heiress, in May 2008. These three main theatrical companies are
affiliated to 'The Space', which is a multifunctional community
building which host community and theatrical events.
During the early 1990s, the team of the popular English reality TV
Challenge Anneka relocated the redundant old wooden library from
the Hermitage site, to "Burnside" in the heart of the Slade Valley
estate for use as a community owned centre.
The Great Fire of
Ilfracombe started at 12:40 a.m. on the night
of 28 July 1896 in the basement of Mr William Cole's ironmongers and
furniture shop on the corner of Portland Street and Fore Street. The
local volunteer fire brigade had it under control by the following
morning. The fire brigade's entire equipment was a manual Merryweather
engine, a hose-reel cart and one telescopic ladder on wheels. In total
thirty five houses and business premises and their contents were
destroyed. Later that year the fire brigade crew were presented with
medals and £2 each at a dinner in their honour at the Royal Clarence
Hotel. The damage was estimated at the times at between £80,000 and
The same area of the town was struck by fire twice during the 1980s.
First on 12 December 1981 Draper's paint store in the upper story of
the building on the corner of Portland Street and Fore Street, this
fire was contained quickly, however fumes from the burning paint meant
much of the local area was evacuated during the night. The second much
larger fire started at 2:30am on the night of 2 September 1983 in the
shopping arcade under the Candar Hotel. In this fire one life was
lost. Both of these fires drew parallels to the Great Fire in the
media of the time. The Candar Arcade site became the Candar sheltered
residential apartments (the opening of Candar apartments was the last
public engagement performed by Charles and Diana, as the Prince and
Wales in 1992.
Other fires in
Ilfracombe include: On 17 May 1985 the Beacon Castle
was devastated by fire. On 5 August 1991 the Mount Hotel was destroyed
by fire. On 24 January 2001 the Hotel Cecil; 14 January 2004 the
arcade on the seafront near Susan Day Residential Home was destroyed
by fire. On 17 November 2004 and 13 February 2005 the Cliffe Hydro
suffered from fires.
Shortly before 19:00 BST on Wednesday, 8 August 2006, a fire broke out
at the derelict Montebello Hotel in Fore Street, Ilfracombe. Twenty
fire engines were required to put out the blaze including a number
rushed to the scene from Woolacombe,
Barnstaple and the bordering
county of Somerset. Specialist equipment was brought in from as far
afield as Exeter, and according to the local radio news 85 firemen
were involved at the fire. The fire spread to three neighbouring
properties and showered debris over a wide area. The six-storey hotel
was completely gutted, with only the front wall, chimney stacks and
remains of the lift shaft frame surviving the blaze, and the fire was
still being damped-down the following day.
Fore Street was closed for
some period due to the difficulties of demolition.
The building was eventually demolished when it was determined that the
fire had left it structurally unsound. This caused additional
headaches for the emergency services as curious members of the public
ignored safety barriers in an attempt to see the remains more
clearly. The site is to be redeveloped as residential
accommodation, although, as of November 2013, no work has been started
on the site.
This history of Ilfracombe's large fires has to be taken in the
context of the number, size and antiquity of many early Victorian
jerry built hotels. A comprehensive display in the museum shows whilst
the size of buildings may be large, the frequency of such
conflagrations is comparatively low and the justification as to why
Somerset fire and rescue authority transferred the large
extension ladder from the
Ilfracombe station to Barnstaple.
Ilfracombe Branch Line
History of Ilfracombe
Ilfracombe (Devon)". City population. Retrieved 21 February
^ Bowring (1931). Ilfracombe. p. 16.
Ilfracombe Official guide. 1935. p. 1.
^ The Legend of
Chambercombe Manor Archived 1 October 2010 at the
^ Hoskins W.G (1954). Devon. Phillimore & Co Ltd.
Hobart Archived 13 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine.: The
Beginnings of European Settlement in Tasmania
^ Fanny Burney. The Diary and Letters of Madame D'Arblay — Volume
^ Leach, Nicholas (2009). Devon's Lifeboat Heritage. Chacewater:
Twelveheads Press. pp. 46–48.
^ "Enclycopedia Titanica". Retrieved 21 July 2011.
^ "Enclycopedia Titanica". Retrieved 21 July 2011.
Nick Harvey MP
^ Images of
England - Ilfracombe. Tempus. 2003. p. 43.
^ Images of
England - Ilfracombe. Tempus. 2003. p. 27.
^ 1801 UK census
^ TDK-Lambda UK Website
^ Transform Research[dead link]
^ Images of
England - Ilfracombe. Tempus. 2003. p. 23.
^ Images of
England - Ilfracombe. Tempus. 2003. p. 25.
Bristol Channel Steam Packet Company".
Retrieved 21 July 2011.
^ Images of
England - Ilfracombe. Tempus. 2003. p. 28.
^ Clark, Rhodri (27 June 2011). "All at sea? Future of steamer cruises
from Welsh ports at serious risk". Western Mail. Retrieved 21 July
^ "Severn Link - Latest News Update". Severn Link. 13 April 2011.
Retrieved 21 July 2011.
Ilfracombe Museum at http://www.devonmuseums.net/
Ilfracombe Library". Devon.gov.uk. 6 November 2008. Retrieved 20
Ilfracombe (Lantern Hill) The Lighthouse Directory. University of
North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved May 2nd, 2016
^ "Lighthouses of Southwest England".
^ "Visit Ilfracombe".
Ilfracombe Rugby Union Club". Retrieved 10 September 2010.
^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 31 July
2009. Retrieved 12 December 2014.
^ O'Rourke T. (2006), Town Centre Study Report:Key sites pp. 5-6
^ The town council's project proposal for
^ cite web url=http://www.ilfracombevictoriancelebration.org.uk
Ilfracombe Victorian Celebration accessdate=2 July
2014 Annual bird man event organised by the Round Table at the
^ Images of
England - Ilfracombe. Tempus. 2003. pp. 122, 123.
Ilfracombe Quiz". Retrieved 21 July 2011.
^ Initial report of the fire from BBC News
^ "Report update". BBC News. 12 August 2006. Retrieved 20 February
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ilfracombe.
Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Ilfracombe.
Ilfracombe Town Council
Ilfracombe at Curlie (based on DMOZ)
Devon Town mosaic profile
Towns, villages (and most populous hamlets) in North Devon
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Saunton · Knowle)
Fremington (Bickleton ·
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See also: List of civil parishes in Devon
Devon County Council
Towns by population
Grade I listed
Grade I listed buildings
Grade II* listed buildings
South West Coast Path
North Devon's Biosphere Reserve
Districts of South West England
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Lighthouses in England
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