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History of Ilfracombe

You’re not the only ones who have enjoyed a seaside getaway to llfracombe. The coastal town was a popular resort in the Victorian era, with people visiting from far and wide to enjoy its beaches and fantastic location; notice the stunning Victorian architecture which still stands tall today. Read on to find out about some of the towns historic places to visit, or pop into the local museum to find out more about Ilfracombe in years gone by.

Ilfracombe Museum

Opened in August 1932, the museum itself has an interesting history and sits in what used to be the laundry room for the grand Ilfracombe Hotel. Across eight rooms, browse the displays and you will come across some frightening yet fascinating sights! From two-headed kittens to old wedding cakes there are many sights to behold and lots of interesting history to discover for yourselves. Not only are there rooms and exhibits dedicated to local maritime history, Ilfracombe in the Victorian era, and Mervyn Grove Palmer (the museum’s first curator), there are artefacts from all over the world to observe. The museum also has a range of activities for you to enjoy, including brass rubbing, so all members of the family can get creative together.

Ilfracombe Museum is located next to the Landmark Theatre on Wilder Road and parking is available outside the museum. The exhibition rooms are all on one level and wheelchair ramps are in place.

St Nicholas Chapel

The oldest building in Ilfracombe, St Nicholas Chapel sits atop Lantern Hill at the entrance to the harbour. Built in 1321, the chapel was a place of worship for those living in Ilfracombe and those whose work revolved around the harbour. The chapel later became a lighthouse and still functions today. Walk up the short but steep hill and visit the charming building which you can look around for free (though donations are welcomed).

Victorian Era

A sensationally popular Victorian resort, Ilfracombe has been a thriving seaside destination for years. Many of the hotels and buildings constructed throughout the Victorian era still stand today, giving the town a great deal of character.

Though Victorian beach goers visited the local bays, Tunnels Beaches was a firm favourite due to its unique entrance and tidal pools. Welsh miners hand-carved the tunnels in 1823 to create access to the beaches. Whilst doing so, they also built three tidal bathing pools, two for women and one for men. There are many fascinating stories and news headlines concerning Tunnels Beaches, one being the discovery of a basking shark in 1865! There is also knowledge that William de Tracy took refuge and hid in one of the caves at Tunnels Beaches after the murder of Thomas Beckett. Find out more about the beaches history and Victorian heyday, here.

To celebrate its rich Victorian history, the town of Ilfracombe gets together each June for a Victorian and Steampunk celebration. With Victorian dress, music, processions and more, the town comes alive and the festivities get well underway, time your trip right to get involved!

The unique bathing pool at Tunnels Beach at Ilfracombe

Chambercombe Manor

This spooky dwelling, which is mentioned in the Domesday Book, is thought to date back as far as the 11th Century and is steeped with history and haunting tales. From manor house to farmhouse, the estate has belonged to several different families and is now open to the public. There are many tales of ghosts and unusual activity at the manor, including the discovery of the ‘haunted room’ in 1865, where a four-poster bed complete with skeleton are reported to have been found. Book yourself onto a guided tour and find out more about Chambercombe’s spooky past before wandering the grounds and enjoying a mug of something warm in the tearooms.

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