Moving on eastwards up the Devon coast we come to the very historical, pretty and once again geologically amazing hinterland and harbour of Ilfracombe …
- Deeply serrated cove and valley indentations from the geological folding … (see my Hartland post (part 11) for moregeology)
- Now we get the slaty cleavage of Iflracombe slate …
|Simplified Geological representation -|
Hartland point of my part 11 ... is south of
Barnstaple's River Taw estuary
- Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Age inhabitants left their mark in the surrounding landscape … an ancient ridgeway connecting Cornwall, Devon with England; an Iron Age fort on Capstone Hill overlooking the town.
- “Alfreinscoma” (either of Anglo-Saxon or Norse origins) was first noted in Liber Exoniensis of 1086 – a composite land and tax register associated with the Domesday Survey covering much of southwest England …
- Smugglers, wreckers and mooncussers all made use of the fractured coastline with its hidden caves…
- The naturally protected harbour – became a significant safe port (registered port of refuge) for the Bristol Channel.
|Taken on my walk back from parking the car ...|
the inner harbour, the protective arm of the pier keeping
the Bristol Channel seas at bay ...
- Established trading routes to Ireland, Wales and beyond … fish, minerals, men, coal, lime … what was necessary during each era …
So as you can see Ilfracombe has a long, chequered history …
|Monchrome photo from Capstone Hill showing the|
new development of the Georgian and Victorian town
Then came the Georgians (1714 – 1837) … a time of immense social change: as seen in Ilfracombe when it became a fashionable spa and sea-bathing destination, thus establishing the hotels, public rooms found in the town.
Some of the coves, and caves were inaccessible … but in 1819, a local entrepreneur saw their potential: miners from Wales were brought in to dig tunnels to the coves … creating segregated, modesty, bathing beaches … and opening up that side of town, away from the harbour.
|Old oak plaque informing us about|
Prince Edward's visit
We found our “Royal” Hotel – so designated by Prince Edward aged 15 (1856), before becoming Edward VII when he was 59 (1901) … but the tavern, as it would have been, was right at the harbour’s edge, where he would have arrived by ship – away from the more elegant spa developments of the Regency period.
|The hotel is the cream building on the right at|
the end of the quay road
The hotel is a typical 300 year old, grade II listed, building … early Georgian bay windows, square in shape and full of dark rich oak …
|Confirming the use by|
Lord and Lady Nelson
... a cellar cluttered with beer barrels below the bar … dark, musty, old tar – a place for ‘old salts’ (sailors) … no doubt enhanced in standards after Admiral Nelson and Lady Hamilton stayed over (probably sometime in the period 1788-1792 – when England was at peace) …
I’ve been struggling to think how I could describe the hotel … a truckers’ café, a fishermen’s watering hole … now of course when I take my mind back to the Stuart and Georgian periods … it is obvious – it is an old salt’s tavern – a meeting place; an embarkation point; or at the end of a journey a drinking place.
|Our bedroom windows above the patio - I'm just glad it was|
late Autumn, a monday and drizzling - we had a quiet night!
It was all a bit switched off … yes, it was a Monday, … anyway we sorted ourselves out and were blessed with first floor, bay-windowed rooms looking straight out over the harbour, even if it was raining or drizzling – the view was stunning.
The choice for dinner seemed to be non-existent or Asian in a pub?! so we decided we’d have dinner out … that’s the next tale.
|View at dusk or early nightfall|
out of my bedroom window
We both had good nights … the tide going about its business, the fishing boats getting ready to go out on the turn of the tide at 4.00 am … swishing waves against the harbour wall just below our rooms.
Breakfast – now this was indicative of my reticence in describing this ‘hotel’! … there was no welcome, just help yourself, someone eventually came – after I’d called them - I decided I needed some fruit … there was nothing at the so-called breakfast bar.
|We came across them practising with the|
Lifeboat when we were walking around before supper
Jenny was fine and happy with her order … but I asked for fruit – a look of despair and retinence faced me … so I said no worries I’d go out and buy myself an apple or an orange and be back shortly. Shock, quelle horreur … but we were right in the middle of the town … oh no – we’ll go out and get out something.
Fine … but ... back comes my apple – cut in four with some pip and husk left in … and my orange peeled with a lot of pith still on … it was interesting! I kept my mouth shut and ate!!
|Just a photo of half an information page -|
the more informative part for this post
The parking was, understandably, difficult ... but at least it was late autumn and my car had been left up the hill on the other side of the harbour. So I couldn’t easily take our luggage out to the car after checking out ... they very kindly let us stay til 1.00 pm … check-out being 11.00 am.
It was raining or drizzling – so Jenny and I took time out to rest up, read, re-pack, write postcards etc … in between brief forays out to see the sights.
I wanted to see Verity properly … we’d seen her at dusk the night before … but I wanted to get close up and personal … so went to the end of the pier to see her …
|The Landmark Theatre - known locally as|
Before we left we thought we’d try and see the tunnels – but the weather was foul, and it was quite a walk … we wandered towards them, saw from a distance the museum and the modern theatre … locally known as Madonna’s bra – perhaps you can see why … we retraced our steps …
|The next morning when the tide was out ... and|
we were hoping the drizzle would pass
Ilfracombe gave us an insight into life through 4,000 years … especially as the Regency and modern changes to the town (with one exception – next post!) happened away from the harbour … leaving the memories of the old tars to mill around in our minds …
Next post is ladies’ day at Ilfracombe … and yes, Verity …
I’ve linked across to one of my earlier posts (August 2009) on the sea tunnels at Ilfracombe - showing bathing machines and the tunnels ...
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