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Ilfracombe, Devon
 
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All the holiday makers know ILFRACOMBE, by name and fame. It is one of Devon's popular towns, an impressive piece of our Atlantic coast, a place ancient and modem, with a natural harbour as old as the hills, a manor almost as old as the Conquest, a church begun by the Normans, and great pleasure gardens laid out in our time. Thousands come to enjoy the restfulness and beauty of this comer of lovely Devon.

Even those who only pass by on a steamer see something of interest, for on Lantern Hill, overlooking the harbour, is a quaint building half chapel, half lighthouse. It was a chapel first, but was used as a lighthouse in Henry the Eighth's day, when indulgences were granted to penitent people willing to keep the light burning. It is a chapel no more, but its light still shines to guide the sailor into port.

On a slope at the other end of the town a fine lychgate leads to the old church, whose three eastern windows look on the Garden of Remembrance. Time was when the tower stood outside the church, but in 1321 a bishop ordered the people to enlarge the church, and so it is that we find the tower, with walls four feet thick, standing halfway inside the north aisle. The font is Norman. The weight of 600 years has set both the arcades leaning in the same direction.

The grotesque stone animals supporting 28 oak angels under the roof of the nave are 15th century. There are fine old barrel roofs and a modern one of carved panels for the chancel, with an oak dormer window at each side where the rood screen stood. An old door has a lock more than two feet long. The fine carved pulpit is Jacobean; the glass is modern, one window with the rarely depicted scene of Abraham and Sarah entertaining the three angels, and two others from the Kempe workshops showing scenes from the childhood of Jesus, with cherubs playing with a broom and oddments of wood in Joseph's workshop. The most interesting memorials are those to James Bowen, who was promoted for his bravery at sea against the French in 1794, and Richard Bowen, who was with Nelson at Teneriffe and died while destroying the guns about to fall into the enemy's hands.

On the porch is a sundial of 1788, which marked many a sunny hour for Parson Chanter, rector for just over half of last century.

An entrancing place is Chambercombe Farm, about a mile from the town. It is one of England's oldest manor houses, with 800 years of history, and we found it a treasury of interesting things. We walked on the original floor of the dining-hall and saw two carved oak chairs which may be older than the Conquest. We saw a room where Lady Jane Grey slept; a frieze and a carved coat-of-arms have been dug out from the plaster on the wall; a wonderful old Peter's Pence box. We saw the rough quarters of the servants and the old kitchen with its ovens, its fireplace ten feet wide and its cider press centuries old. We went into a stable to see one of the first cars ever made, and peered into a dark room where a farmer last century discovered a bedstead with the skeleton of a woman who had been left to die of starvation.

The King's England, Devon (1938) by Arthur Mee. Original transcription by CuriousFox, edited for watermarking purposes.



 
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