Ilfracombe (Holy Trinity)

ILFRACOMBE (Holy Trinity), a sea-port, market-town, and parish, in the union of Barnstaple, hundred of Braunton, Braunton and N. divisions of Devon, 11 miles (N. by W.) from Barnstaple, and 187 (W. by S.) from London; containing 3679 inhabitants. This town, which derives its chief importance from its situation on the shore of the Bristol Channel, is not distinguished by many events of historical interest. In the latter part of the 13th century, a grant was obtained for holding a market and a fair; and the place became a sea-port of so much consideration as to furnish six ships and 96 men towards the armament of Edward III. against Calais, to which Liverpool contributed only one vessel and five men. During the civil war of the 17th century, the royalists, under the command of Sir Francis Doddington, took possession of it. The town is near the northern extremity of the county, opposite to the coast of Wales; it is irregularly built on the side of a hill, and consists principally of one long street, extending from the church to the harbour, and which, being inconveniently narrow, has been widened. At the outskirts are several good houses and villas, and some ranges of buildings called Montpelier, Hillsborough, and Coronation terraces, in the centre of the last of which are the public-rooms, with a handsome front of the Ionic order. Many other improvements have been made of late years, among which is a new line of road, passing along a winding valley, between this place and Barnstaple. The beach affords great facilities for sea-bathing; several lodging-houses have been opened, and the town is rapidly rising into reputation. A regatta was established in the summer of 1828, which has since been regularly held, and is fashionably attended.

To the west of the town are seven hills called the Tors, forming a conspicuous landmark, and the descent from which terminates in a fine opening towards the sea, named Wildersmouth, where is a bathing-place. On the east is the rock of Hillsborough, on the summit of which, 500 feet above the level of the sea, are the remains of a Danish fortification. Capstone Hill, another eminence, 300 feet above the level of the sea, and on which is a flag-staff and signal-post, commands an extensive view of the Welsh coast, Swansea, the Bristol Channel, and Lundy Island with its lighthouse. Between Hillsborough and a smaller eminence to the west, called Lantern Hill, on which a lighthouse has been erected, is the entrance to the harbour, which is surrounded by a series of rocks, and protected towards the sea by a pier, constructed by the family of Bourchier, lords of the manor. The pier, being injured by the violence of the sea, was repaired and enlarged under the provisions of an act obtained in 1731 for the regulation of the harbour, which has been since greatly improved from the harbour dues, by the present proprietor of the manor. It affords shelter to vessels of 500 tons' burthen, which may lie here in safety in all states of the weather.

The trade of the port, which has lately been united as a creek to Barnstaple, consists chiefly in the shipping of corn, and in the importation of goods from Bristol, and coal from South Wales; several vessels are employed in bringing timber from America, and live-stock from Ireland. A packet sails every Monday and Thursday to Swansea, and a steam-packet to the same place every Tuesday and Saturday during the summer; a steampacket leaves the port for Bristol every Saturday. The market, chiefly for provisions, is on Saturday; and fairs for cattle are held on April 14th, and the Saturday next after August 23rd. There are courts leet annually for the manor, at which a portreeve and constables for the town and parish are appointed. Ilfracombe constitutes a prebend in the cathedral of Salisbury, which, being tenable by a layman, was held by Camden, the antiquary. The living is a discharged vicarage, valued in the king's books at £50. 4.; net income, £150; patron and appropriator, the Prebendary. The church is an ancient edifice, situated on a hill at a short distance from the town; it has been repaired, and the number of sittings increased by the erection of four galleries and an organ-loft. A chapel has been built and endowed at Lee, containing 120 free sittings. There are places of worship for Independents and Wesleyans.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.