Monthly Archives: September 2017



Mortehoe is a pretty village, standing proud at the top of Chapel Hill, overlooking Woolacombe and the Bristol Channel in one direction, and Lundy Island in the other.

First mentioned in the Doomsday book it was little more than a farm, however the 13th Century saw the establishment of a Parish Church and the Hamlet of Mortehoe started to develop.

The name Mortehoe comes from the Latin word meaning death, and it is certainly true that in this village’s history the name would have been apt. Perhaps best known for numerous shipwrecks and the notorious ‘Mortemen wreckers’ this now popular place has a slightly grizzlier history. In the years when wreckers and smugglers ruled much of this coastline, the ones from Mortehoe were considered the most fearsome by sailors. It was illegal to take cargo from a shipwreck if any of the crew were alive on boat. Wreckers would lure ships onto the dangerous rocks around the coast, specically Morte Stone, and ensure that there were ‘no survivors’ left on board, they would then strip the ship of it’s cargo. One of Mortehoe’s most feared wreckers is believed to be that of Elizabeth Berry, she is said to have used her pitchfork to drown sailors, she was eventually arrested in 1850 and given 21 days hard labour as a punishment.

Today a much calmer Mortehoe is a popular place, with many enjoying it’s rich history and beautiful coastal walks that the area has to offer.

At the heart of the village, is St Mary Magdalene Church. A Grade 1 listed building dating back to 1170, where evidence of a stone built church has been found. Many additions have been made over time and, of particular interest to visitors are the forty eight pew ends which are carved into chestnut and demonstrate some beautiful craftsmanship and interesting subjects. They are thought to have been completed during the regin of Henry VIII.

The chancel arch mosaic, designed by Selwyn Image can be seen at the east end of the nave. It was installed in 1903 and depicts four angels and a mystic lamb all set into a back drop of gold. It was made and installed by the same artisans responsible for the mosaics in St Pauls Cathedral. Much is made of the churches links to William de Tracey, however it
is believed that it is not the same de Tracey connected with Beckets murder, but that of William de Tracey who was a Rector of Mortehoe and dates to 1322.

The museum is the perfect way to find out more about the area’s heritage. The Mortehoe Heritage Museum is located in a Grade II listed barn owned by the National Trust. Standing at the entrance of the upper oor is the gurine of a well-known Mortehoe resident, Eliza Yeo. Born in 1840 to Samuel and Mary Ashford she would marry John Yeo when she was just sixteen. John was reputed to be a fugitive from the law following the murder of a man with a pitchfork in a neighbouring county. The newly married couple lived in a cottage at Warcombe Farm, where they went onto have a large family of their own. Eliza was a strong and determined character, turning her hand at anything. Many local legends and stories exsist about Eliza.

Mortehoe benefits from its location along some spectacular coastline, those who enjoy to walk, can enjoy some stunning coastal paths. A nice walk is to Bull Point Lighthouse.

The lighthouse, constructed in 1879 is on the headland and provides a lovely walk from the village. On the 18th September 1972 the lighthouse keeper reported ground movement, in the early hours of 24th September the cliff face crashed into the sea. The lighthouse had to be closed. In 1974 Trinity House opened Bull Point Lighthouse, which remained in operation until automaotion in 1995.

Mortehoe has a good selection of pubs and cafes to enjoy a drink and refreshments. The Chichester Arms and Ship Aground (pictured above) are a perfect watering hole following a long day walking along the beautiful coastal paths, whilst Miss Fea’s Café and
the Town House tea rooms offer a place to enjoy a cream tea or slice of cake. For those camping, who fancy some home cooked food, Rockleigh take away offer a scrumptious menu of excellent food to take away and enjoy… they even have sticky toffee pudding and clotted cream (a personal favourite!).

The history of Mortehoe is revealed in the Mortehoe Museum which is well worth a visit whilst in the area, more details can be found at



Located on the North Devon coastline, Woolacombe has been a popular destination for holiday makers for many generations.

Woolacombe is steeped in history – a typical Edwardian/Victorian coastal resort town dominated by large villa style houses and grand hotels, it was first recorded in the Domesday book as Wolnecoma, literally meaning ‘Wolves Valley’. At the time the valley was thickly wooded and presumably wolves could be found. There were no inhabitants living in Woolacombe at the time of the Domesday survey in 1086 – even the parish of Mortehoe was little more than a single farm.

Woolacombe Tracey, the medieval manor, is shown on the site of Woolacombe Farm on early ordinance survey maps, and medieval rubble has been found near this site supporting the possibility. Woolacombe Tracey was the seat of the Tracey family, Sir William de Tracey was said to have lived here after his involvement in the murder of Thomas a Becket in 1170.

The 1840’s Tithe map for Mortehoe Parish shows Woolacombe as a small cluster of buildings located around the Beach Road junction with Sandy Lane. Some distance to the east could be found two settlements of similar size, being east Woolacombe and Over Woolacombe. At this time there was no development along the shoreline and Woolacombe was only a modest village or large hamlet – having no church of its own.

In the 1880’s a Barnstaple architect, Arnold Thorne, laid out Woolacombe for development as a coastal resort. Plots of land were set out and leased to individual developers for periods of 99 years by the Chichester Estate. The development grew at a slow pace, the seafront along the Esplanade being mainly a row of Victorian and Edwardian villas, with a rapid period of building from 1890, when maps show the Esplanade devoid of buildings, to 1905 when the shoreline frontage is mainly as it is today.

The main landscape features are clearly the beach and the two headlands, Morte Point and Baggy Point, which frame its sands. The beach is visible from the vast majority of points in the village and an increasing number of people get their first look at Woolacombe from the various paths and trails (including the Tarka Trail and the South West Coast path) which runs through Woolacombe from north to south. As such views from Potters Hill out over Woolacombe are important from the south, and the path out to Morte Point at the north.

Several buildings within the conservation area were constructed by the Chichester Estate, Hartland house was used as an estate office for several years and the next door Parade House was built for Dame Rosalie Chichester as a summer residence in 1890.

One of the most significant and imposing buildings in the village is the Woolacombe Bay Hotel (above). The hotel was constructed in 1887 when it applied for its first license, and was initially called the “Shakespeare Hotel”, although this must have been short-lived as the building is labelled as the Woolacombe Bay Hotel on the 1904 Ordinance Survey mapping.

By 1919 the resort in Woolacombe had all of the services you would expect to find, including two banks, a post office, printers, golf course and 45 houses offering apartments of lodgings.

Like a number of British beaches Woolacombe Beach has always been privately owned, Stanley Parkin bought the beach and the Greensward in 1948. When Lady Chichester died in 1949, on her passing the Chichesters’ land in Woolacombe and Morethoe and the family estate at Arlington was willed to the National Trust. Parade House was left to her housekeeper, Rllan Smale. The land we know today as Marine Drive was left to Devon Country Council for them to construct a coast road.

Lee Bay

Lee Bay is a small village a few miles from the bustling tourist areas of Woolacombe and Mortehoe known by many as Fuchsia Valley. Lee is a pretty stone built village with fuchsia lined pathways and gardens. Lee Bay Beach is a rocky beach, ideal for rockpooling. The beach itself has a concrete channel running down the centre of it, which carries fresh water from the valley into the sea. The cove at Lee Bay, used to receive coal and limestone from Wales, the limestone was burnt locally to produce quicklime which was frequently used in fields and in brick mortar.

Like much of this coastline, Lee saw its fair share of smugglers. The most well known local smuggler to Lee Bay, was Hannibal Richards, who moved to Lee in 1789, described as being six foot tall, with long black hair, he and his wife lived at a local farm. Hannibal had moved to Devon from Cornwall where he had been a member of a notorious gang of smugglers called the Cruel Coppinger’s Gang. It was not long before he returned to his ways, and despite being known to the local authorities he managed to avoid any convictions. He is believed to have stopped his ‘smuggling career’ following a raid which saw the other members of his gang captured, he managed to escape.

Today, Lee is a pretty village with plenty to see. It was developed in 1871 by a Mr Smith, his foreman was responsible for adding all the herringbone walls and planting fuchsias, which is now what the village is famed for.  The village centre is a short walk from the sea, linked by both a road and pathway. The centre marked by St Matthews Church, The Grampus Inn and the old Post Office.


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North Devon is a spectacular county, boasting an array of amazing places to visit including the island of Lundy. Positioned in the Bristol Channel, 11 miles off the North Devon coast, this little granite outcrop has a lot to offer. The Landmark Trust rescue historic buildings at risk and, once restored, offer them as inspiring places to stay. In 1971, the trust took over the lease of the island (owned by the National Trust) and has restored many unique and memorable places to stay on Lundy from a castle keep to a 19th Century Georgian mansion. The range of properties available on the island gives the opportunity for everyone of any budget to stay. Every visit to the island, even if for just a day, is an amazing unique adventure. Even the journey here is a new experience for many. From April to October the island can be reached on our supply ship MS Oldenburg (who has a story of her very own,) from Ilfracombe or Bideford, and from November to March, staying visitors arrive by helicopter from Hartland Point. Built in 1958, MS Oldenburg operated as a ferry operating from the German mainland to the Friesian islands until 1982 when she was bought by the Warrings family who ran the ‘Butter-Cruises’. These duty-free cruises ran until 1985 when the loop-hole, which permitted their operation, was closed and the opportunity to buy MS Oldenburg for Lundy was taken by the Landmark Trust. MS Oldenburg has been our supply vessel ever since and can hold up to 267 passengers who make use of the buffet, shop and bar whilst sitting on deck or within the foredeck saloon with its large windows creating a panoramic view. Lundy is renowned for its wealth of marine and terrestrial wildlife, particularly as it is home to the largest seabird colony in the southwest and has its own species, the Lundy Cabbage. During the summer breeding season kittiwakes, fulmars, guillemots, razorbills and puffins can be found across the west and north coast of the island. At night, Manx shearwaters return to the island and many visitors enjoying listening to their melodic calls as they return to their burrows.

Storm petrels have recently begun to breed on the island, a sign that the island’s Seabird Recovery Project has been a great success. The project began with the eradication of the island’ s rat population for 2002-2004 allowing the island to be designated as ‘rat-free’ in 2006. The island’s rich flora creates carpets of yellow, purple and pink during the summer season as the endemic Lundy Cabbage, Bird’s-foot Trefoil, Sheep’s Bit Scabious and sea Thrift come into bloom. One species, the Heath Spotted Orchid, can be found in the marshy areas of the plateau. Here you will often come across some of our larger animals, particularly the Lundy Ponies, Soay sheep, Highland steers and Sika deer. These animals roam north of Quarter Wall to assist with our conservation grazing scheme which is in place to enhance the island’s Site of Special Scientific Interest. The waters around the island are also protected through a Special Area of Conservation, Marine Conservation Zone and No Take Zone. Together these designations conserve and enhance the spectacular marine life that is found in such a unique location and includes species such as pink sea fans, cup corals, cuckoo wrasse and our mischievous grey seals. The wealth of habitats, wildlife and wrecks attract hundreds of divers every year and many visitors join in our Snorkel Safaris to get a taster of the rich life that can be found under the waves. Humans have lived on Lundy since Neolithic times and have left behind many historical structures that provide us with clues as to who lived here and when. Many of these have been designated as Scheduled Monuments to protect and conserve them, and the whole of Lundy is a Heritage Coast. The most notable of these include the Old Light, Marisco Castle, Fog Battery and Brazen Ward. Each historical structure has its own story to tell and, as with Landmarks across the UK, all of the letting properties have significant stories of their own. To find out more visit or see our Facebook pages: The Landmark Trust – Lundy and Lundy Conservation Team. Guided walks and illustrated talks are available throughout the year whilst Rockpool Rambles and Snorkel Safaris take place during the summer.

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