Ilfracombe is a seaside resort and civil parish on the North Devon coast, England with a small harbour, surrounded by cliffs. The parish stretches along the coast from ‘The Coastguard Cottages’ in Hele Bay toward the east and 4 miles along The Lee Bay toward the west. The resort is hilly and the highest point within the parish boundary is at ‘Hore down Gate’. The landmark of Hillsborough Hill dominates the harbour and is the site of an Iron Age fortified settlement. In the built environment, the architectural-award-winning Landmark Theatre is either loved or hated for its unusual double-conical design. The 13th-century parish church, Trinity; and the St Nicholas’s Chapel (a lighthouse) on Lantern Hill, have been joined by the Damien Hirst owned statue, Verity, as points of interest.
Ilfracombe has been settled since the iron age when the Dumnonii Celts established a hill fort on the dominant hill, Hillsborough (formerly Hele’s Barrow). The origin of the town’s name has two possible sources. The first is that it is a derivative of the Anglo Saxon Alfreinscoma – by which name it was noted in the Liber Exoniesis of 1086. The translation of this name is “Valley of the sons of Alfred”. The second origin is that the name Ilfracombe was derived from Norse illf (bad), Anglo-Saxon yfel (evil ford) and Anglo-Saxon cumb (valley) perhaps from a Celtic source, which would make it ‘The valley with the bad ford’.
The manor house at Chambercombe in east Ilfracombe was recorded in the 1086 Domesday Book as being built by a Norman knight Champernon from France who landed with William of Normandy It is also said to be haunted.
Ilfracombe comprised two distinct communities; a farming community around the parish church called Holy Trinity, parts of which dates from the 12th century, and a fishing community around the natural harbour formed between Capstone, Compass and Lantern Torrs. It is recorded that the lands by the church were part of the estate owned by Champernowne family while those by the harbour belonged to the Bouchier family the Earls of Bath.