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28 October 2014

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Ilfracombe banner
Ilfracombe and Frank Pearson montage
Frank Pearson
In 1980 Frank Pearson arrived in Ilfracombe, sat eating fish and chips on the first bollard on the cove by the harbour, looking out towards Hillsborough, and decided this was where he wanted his children, Greg and Olivia, to grow up. Now he'd like to take you on a tour of his Hometown
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A-Z of other Home Town features in Devon

Devon coast to coast cycle route

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Ilfracombe Community website

Positively Ilfracombe website

North Devon

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Great Torrington is particularly famous for the Battle of Torrington in 1646.

The English Civil War, the Parliamentarians under Sir Thomas Fairfax, swept into the town and defeated Lord Hopton and his men marking the end of Royalist resistance in the Westcountry.

Torrington is encircled on three sides by common land, given to the town in the 12th century.

Torrington enjoys twinning links with the French town of Roscoff in Northern Brittany.

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Hello and welcome to Ilfracombe (from the Saxon Aelfreinscwm), our town, population 11000, nestles in the combes and tors within the North Devon Coastal Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The town stretches 4.5 miles in the east from the hamlet of Hele, with its own pretty beach, across to the flower bedecked valley and craggy rock pools of the village of Lee to the west.

From the south the land plunges within 2 miles from the heights of Hore Down 700ft above sea-level to the picturesque harbour.

Lee Bay
Lee Bay with the Queen of Cornwall
sailing past

The coastline here was the first UK Voluntary Marine Protected Area.

The area has been a settlement since the Iron Age, remnants of the fortifications can be seen on top of Hillsborough, the 450ft hill protects the harbour, with its RNLI lifeboat.

In the middle ages there were two settlements. One around the 12th Century parish Church "Holy Trinity".

The tower dates from about 900AD. Here you will find probably the best collection of stained glass in the southwest.

The other settlement was by the sandy harbour, with its 13th century pubs supported by the fishermen, boat builders and traders.

More boats were sent from here to defend our nation against the Spanish armada than great ports like Liverpool!

Parish church
Parish Church and Memorial Gardens scanned from a 1924 photograph

The town’s population slowly grew until the second half of the 19th century when the local lord of the manor the Bouchier-Wreys constructed the then uniquely designed pier which allowed large ferries from Bristol to bring even more people.

In 1895 it was reported to the Royal Society that Ilfracombe had the warmest climate in the mainland UK.

The future Kaiser Wilhelm of Prussia and the then Prince of Wales holidayed in the resort and with the arrival of the Southern railway the holiday market and town grew.

Ilfracombe thrived until the 1960’s then the traditional market declined rapidly and bad times arrived. Its people suffered, many of the main buildings became tired and derelict, unemployment figures soared and the town became a by word for decay.

Coastal footpath
The coastal footpath from Lee back to the town centre

Now things are turning for the better.

Through the humour, guts, determination of the town’s businesses and its people more investment is being made; much loved but tired buildings have been demolished, refurbished or replaced, and new cultures and attitudes have been created.

The crime rate is one of the lowest in the southwest. We have excellent 3* medical facilities, and our own cottage hospital.

We have more voluntary organisations than any similar community, we have an award winning design "Landmark" theatre which holds national youth arts, and many excellent professional and amateur plays.

We have several youth marching bands…one band "Blazing Sounds" won 3rd prize in the world championships at Calgary, Canada.

End graphic more on Ilfracombe Go

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