A Topographical Dictionary of England


 Samuel Lewis (1831)

Transcript copyright Mel Lockie (Sep 2016)

ILFRACOMBE, or ILFORDCOMBE, a sea-port and market-town and parish, in the hundred of BRAUNTON, county of DEVON, 12 miles (N. W. by N.) from Barnstaple, and 204 (W. by S.) from London, containing 2622 inhabitants. In the latter part of the thirteenth century, a grant was obtained for holding a market and a fair at this place, which, as a sea-port, furnished six ships and eighty-two men towards the armament of Edward III., against Calais. During the parliamentary war, the royalists under Sir F. Doddington took possession of the town. The situation of this port is near the northern extremity of the county, bordering on the Bristol channel, opposite to the coast of Wales. The town is irregularly built on the side of a hill, and consists principally of a long narrow street, some parts of which are very steep, extending from the church to the harbour; it is in contemplation to widen a portion of this street. At the outskirts of the town are several good houses, particularly a range of buildings called Constitution Terrace, in the centre of which are the public rooms, with a handsome front of the Ionic order. A new road passing through a winding valley has lately been formed between this place and Barnstaple. Westward from the town are seven hills, called Torrs, which form a noted land-mark, the descent from which terminates in an opening to the sea, called Wildersmouth; and on the east is the rock of Hilsborough, its summit being five hundred feet above the level of the sea. The entrance to the harbour is between this rock and a smaller eminence to the west, on which is a lighthouse. The harbour, which is completely environed by a series of rocks, is protected towards the sea by an artificial pier built by the family of Bourchier, lords of the manor, which having been greatly injured by the violence of the sea, an act of parliament was procured, in 1731, for repairing and enlarging it, and improving the harbour; and it has recently undergone further improvement at the expense of the present proprietor of the manor. IIfracombe is chiefly of importance as a haven for windbound vessels; and a great quantity of corn is occasionally shipped from the port, but the vessels belonging to it are principally employed in conveying goods from Bristol, and coal from South Wales. During summer, a packet sails every Monday and Thursday to Swansea, and a steam-packet every Saturday; and there is a steam-packet to Bristol every Tuesday and Thursday. A market for provisions is held on Saturday; and there are cattle fairs on April 14th and the Saturday next after August 23rd. Ilfracombe is rapidly increasing in repute as a watering-place, its beach affording the greatest facility for sea-bathing, and there are some convenient lodging-houses. A regatta was established in the summer of 1828. Courts leet are held annually for the manor, at which a portreeve and constables for the town and parish are appointed.

The living is a discharged vicarage, in the archdeaconry of Barnstaple, and diocese of Exeter, rated in the king's books at £50.4., and in the patronage of the Prebendary of Ilfracombe in the Cathedral Church of Salisbury. The church, dedicated to the Holy Trinity, is an ancient building situated on a hill, at a short distance from the town. Here is a place of worship for Independents. A school for twelve poor children is endowed with £6 per annum, and another for fourteen children, with £4 per annum, both from a benefaction by Mrs, Gertrude Pyncombe, in 1730; and there are also charity schools, supported by subscription, a school of industry, and Sunday schools on the plans of Bell and Lancaster.