[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868)]
Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2003
"ILFRACOMBE, a parish, seaport, market town, and fashionable bathing place, in the hundred of Braunton, county Devon, 11 miles N.W. of Barnstaple, and 50 N.W. of Exeter. This town derives its chief importance from its situation on the shore of the Bristol Channel. In ancient times it was a continental port of so much importance as to furnish six ships and 96 men towards the armament of Edward III. against Calais, while Liverpool contributed only one vessel and 5 teen. Its trade is now inconsiderable, consisting chiefly in the conveyance of goods from Bristol, live stock from Ireland, and coal from South Wales, but its prosperity depends on its situation, and the excellence of its beach affording great facilities for sea-bathing. It is a polling town, coastguard station, and subport to Barnstaple.
The harbour, which is considered the best on that side of the channel, is surrounded by rocks forming a natural basin, but dries at low water. It is sheltered by a pier 850 feet in length, which has been considerably extended and improved. The harbour has recently been purchased by a company with a view to its extension. It is proposed to enlarge the present area by a couple of acres, and to convert the present space into a floating-dock, and to erect quays on the E. side. At the W. side of the harbour is Lantern Hill, with an old chapel for a lighthouse, which is only used in the winter. Near Wilder's Mouth is Capstone Hill, 181 feet high, and on the E. is the rock of Hillsborough, on the summit of which, 441 feet high, is a Danish fortification. A portion of the inhabitants are engaged in the coasting and fishing trades.
The town is built on the side of a hill near the northern extremity of the county, overlooking the Bristol Channel, and opposite the coast of Wales. It consists principally of one long street extending from the church to the harbour, and which, though formerly inconveniently narrow, has been recently widened. There are besides several new streets and terraces, as Montpellier, Hillsborough, and Coronation terraces. From the E. end of the town views of the Bristol Channel, with the opposite coast of Wales, may be obtained. The town is well paved and lighted with gas. It contains a bank, custom-house, gas works, subscription library, public assembly, ball, reading, and billiard rooms. In lieu of the old market, which was quite insufficient, a new one has been built, the lower part being divided into shops, and the upper part being a large townhall, used ordinarily as a public reading-room. The great attraction of the town is its facilities for sea-bathing, for which it has become a fashionable resort.
The living is a vicarage* annexed to the curacy of Lee, in the diocese of Exeter, value £150, in the patronage of the prebend thereof. There is also a district church, dedicated to SS. Philip and James, the living of which is a perpetual curacy, value £170. The parish church, which is situated at the western extremity of the town, stands on high ground, but is completely sheltered from the N. and S.W. winds by the lofty hills which surround the town. It is an ancient structure, dedicated to the Holy Trinity, with a square tower containing six bells. The interior contains tombs of Captain Richard Bowen, Charles and Grace Cutcliffe. The new church of SS. Philip and James was erected in 1856.
The parochial charities produce about £21 per annum. Here are British and Foreign infant and National schools, also National schools at Heale, Lee, and Slade. The Independents, Wesleyans, Plymouth Brethren, and Baptists have each a chapel. There is also a Free church at Portland-street and a sailor's chapel at Quay Bethel. A Cottage-garden Society was established here in 1837. Sir B. P. Wrey is lord of the manor.
Coaches run to and from Barnstaple daily, and steam packets during the season to Lynton, Hayle, Padstow, Bideford, Bristol, and Swansea. Market day is Saturday, and an annual market on the 23rd August. A fair is held on the 14th April."
"CAPSTONE, a hill in the parish of Ilfracombe, county of Devon, E. of Ilfracombe Harbour, about 180 feet high, with a flag-staff on its summit."
"DAMAGE, a hamlet in the parish of Ilfracombe, hundred of Braunton, in the county of Devon, 2 miles S.W. of Ilfracombe."
"LEE, a chapelry in the parish of Ilfracombe, county Devon, 2 miles from Ilfracombe. The village is situated on Lee Bay. The living is a curacy annexed with Ilfracombe."