Author Archives: woolacombemortehoevoice

Mortehoe Post Office

The Royal Mail can date it’s history as far back as 1516, however it would not be until 1635 that the postal service would be opened up to the public with a letter office being established in London, and a system developed to carry mail across the country.  It was at this time that letters would be carried from one ‘post’ to another ‘post’ by carriers on foot or horseback. 

A postage act was past by parliament in 1657 establishing fixed rates for the delivery of letters. The postal service continued to develop with mail being carried by coach.

It would not be until 1830 that the mail started to be carried by train, with the first route being between Liverpool and Manchester.

Mortehoe & Woolacombe on the record by Margaret Reed sheds some light on the start of the postal service in Mortehoe in her wonderful book:

“In 1836 George Tucker bought a cottage in Mortehoe, part of the tenement known as “Chantry’ at Mortehoe. He already owned the Barricane Inn (Barricane House) which he had inherited. The properties were altered over time, and eventually renamed post office cottages when George’s son, William became the first postmaster of the village. The house became known as ‘Tuckers House’

R.F.Bidgood in her book ‘Two Villages, the Story of Mortehoe and Woolacombe’ looks further at the history of the postal service in the area: 

“Stories are told of how the mail arrived in earlier times. The earliest known postman was a Mr. Hooper. He carried the mail from Ilfracombe through Lee, Warcombe, Mortehoe, Woolacombe, Westdown and back to Ilfracombe three times a week for 6d a day.

He had developed a steady trot on his long journey. At one farm en-route there was a small window through which he could toss a letter without stopping.  The next postman was a Mr. Connibear who had a little grey pony. He did the same journey three times a week.  From a post office directory dated 1866, mention is made of William Tucker, “receiver of letters” which came from Ilfracombe.

In 1896 Mortehoe Post Office hit the headlines of many of the UK’s newspapers, when a ‘sensation’ was reported. The police arrested Miss Adela Ford who worked at the post office, for the crime of stealing a registered letter containing two £6 notes. Miss Ford was described in many of the press features as being a ‘young and most respectably connected’ person.

On the 25th June 1896 the reported incident had taken place at the Post Office.  William Ashford, temporary postman, said “letters on which there was money to pay were usually handed to him the same as registered letters. On the day in question a letter bill was given to him, but he did not know that there was a letter with it.” 

The postman Conibear and Mr. Gammon the postmaster gave evidence on the practice of the Post Office, Mr Gammon stated that the prisoner did not take part in sorting the general correspondence. It was usual for the registered letters with the wrappers to be placed aside.  They continued to give evidence detailing procedures, however as the Judge summoned up the case, and the discrepancies  in the evidence he came to a verdict of Not Guilty and Miss Ford was released. The story hit many newspapers and caused quite a sensation at the time.

The post office as we see it today, has been unchanged for many, many years. Today serving the community as well as the many visitors that come to Mortehoe each year.


Woolacombe Tourist Information Centre

Woolacombe Tourist Information Centre has been in its’ current location for 20 years – opened in March 1999 by local MP at the time, Nick Harvey, it is situated in a prime spot, looking down the length of the award-winning beach, all the way to Putsborough.

Tourism has played a big part in Woolacombe and Mortehoe’s history and there has been active promotion of our beautiful coastline for many years. We have brochures dating back to the early 60’s, and no doubt they were in existence before then too, bearing in mind that the introduction of the railway from Barnstaple to Ilfracombe in 1847 saw the birth of tourism here. The Woolacombe Bay Hotel was built in 1887, and many more guesthouses and shops followed in the early 1900’s. Things have changed over the years, with the changing demands of visitors, and now the number of apartments far outweigh the serviced accommodation options, although there are still some lovely B&B and Hotels on offer.

The first information service started, we believe, in the 1960’s, when The Red Barn had a dedicated staff member and phone line at the front of the pub to assist visitors in finding accommodation – the idea being that it was in everyone’s interests to have people stay in the village for longer, as The Red Barn, and other businesses would all benefit. 

A more official TIC started up sometime in the 1970’s, initially housed in the foyer of Hall 70 (now known as Woolacombe Village Hall) and later, back to The Red Barn in a temporary building in the car park. This was run by the Woolacombe & Mortehoe Publicity Association. In 1998, the Woolacombe & Mortehoe Tourism Association was formed, and the new building, to be shared with Mortehoe Parish Council, was purpose built. Funding for the new centre came from grants from the EU, Rural Development Commission, North Devon District Council, and Mortehoe Parish Council, as well as the Publicity Association, Chamber of Commerce, Parkin Estates and Lancaster Holdings, who all recognised the importance of promoting the area and having an Information Centre.  

In the last 25 years, whilst I have been involved in TICs (first Ilfracombe for 7 years, and then Woolacombe for 18 so far!) the way in which Tourist Information Centres are run has changed dramatically. From receiving funding to run the centres, including everything from staff uniforms and the annual ‘tool kit’ (a wide selection of reference books, including enormous train and coach timetables!), these days there is no funding to be had, and we have to operate as a business to meet our overheads … a bit of a conundrum when people (both visitors and some businesses) still expect us to offer an information service for free. 

If you call in and see us, you’ll see that we now provide lots of other services that complement the free information and extensive local knowledge on offer – everything from boat trip tickets, discounted attraction admission, Tramper and Beach Wheelchair hire, accommodation booking service, parking permits, buckets & spades, ice-creams, gifts, souvenirs, local crafts, postcards … a one-stop shop for all your holiday essentials … and all crucial in keeping the TIC open! 

We are also very fortunate to have some 130 businesses who recognise the need for a Tourist Information Centre, and subscribe as members to generate much needed income for the TIC. In return, we not only promote their business, but the area as a whole. The internet and social media have wiped out the need for a holiday guide, although we do still produce an information pack that we will gladly send out to enquirers. 

We spend many hours each week working ‘behind the scenes’ updating the content of the website, especially events and special offers, as well as posting frequently on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. 

We live and work in such a beautiful area. It is easy to post images and information about Woolacombe, Mortehoe and the surrounding areas.

In 2016, we strengthened our links with the National Trust, as they became partnered with us, and helped fund a partial refurbishment of the TIC. We continue to work closely with the Trust, hosting their annual Cadbury Easter Trail, selling Memberships and Gifts, and promoting their events and conservation work through the TIC.

In 2018/19 we were proud to be Silver Winners in the ‘Visitor Information Service of The Year’ Category in both the Devon Tourism Awards and South West Tourism Awards – we strive for excellent customer service and it is a pleasure to promote our beautiful corner of North Devon!

Why not call in and see us when you are passing?

 We are open all year – 7 days a week from 10am- 5pm from Easter to October, and six mornings a week from November to March. 

Instagram: Woolacombe_tic   

Online Shop: 


Hotel Pandora

Pandora House Hotel was built in the 1930’s and is believed to have been the first purpose built boarding house in Woolacombe. It was built in the newly cut out Springfield Road, known as Well Field at the time.

The hotel was built for the Fisher family, with their son Ben recalling many memories of his time living in Woolacombe and the Pandora Hotel. 

Ben recalls when war broke out in Woolacombe, “the start of the war was a strange time, September 1939 was the end of the summer season and the visitors had all gone home. They were long, sunny days and war seemed very distant. I remember going home from school one lunchtime I saw three army lorries full of soldiers; I ran all the way home to tell my father that I had seen the lorries and that they were full of German soldiers and that we were being invaded. My father reassured me that the were not Germans”.  It wouldn’t be long before 3 evacuees, girls came to stay with the family. 

They would not stay long as the hotel would soon be taken over by the American Army. He recalls during the second world war ‘The troops moved in. We had to remove all our property from the main part of the building into store in the garage. A small area was sectioned off for our private use. It was later used as a small military hospital for the troops stationed in Woolacombe. 

After the war the hotel slowly got back to normal.

An advert for the hotel in 1965 proudly says that the hotel was built and established in 1931, and the visitors book gives proof of genuine satisfaction 

Richard James Trebble 1926-1945

Richard James Trebble was born in 1926 to Arthur and Minnie of Woolacombe. The family lived at WaveCrest.

Richard along with his friends, Ray Easterbrook, Alf Yeo, Jeff Skinner and Jack Watts joined the Marine Cadets, which they attended in Ilfracombe each week.  Richard gained some publicity in the local press when he was awarded the Flight Lietenant, Michael Potier Memorial Prize:

“Woolacombe is proud of Cadet Richard Trebble on his being awarded the Flight-Lieut. Michael Potier Memorial Prize as the outstanding cadet of the year of Ilfracombe No. 722 Squadron the Air Training Corps. Mr. S, B. Tatton (head master of Ilfracombe Grammar School, to which the A.T.C. is attached said that Richard Trebble was a foundation member of the school Flight. He came in at the start and had proved himself to be one of the most loyal Cadets, having to make his attendance from Woolacombe. 

Despite travelling difficulties. Trebble had been most regular in attendance, had gained his proficiency certificate and had been promoted to the rank of sergeant. He was keen and cheerful lad, and had carried out his duties in a manner that was a credit to himself; he was great asset to the Flight. Having been accepted by the R.A.F. for aircrew duties, he was now awaiting his call-up. The prize was presented to Sergt. Trebble by the donor. Mr. O. E. Potior, who congratulated him on the success of his training and wished him the best of luck when he joined the R.A.F.”

Sadly only months later Air Gunner Richard Trebble was lost at sea on the last day of war, he had been officially reported missing during a routine flight. The Lancaster Bomber was on a local familiarisation flight lasting only 2.5 hours, the details of what happened are not known, however the seven airman on board were reported missing. Richard is believed to have been tragically lost at sea on his first flight on reconnaissance over the North Sea

In 1946 Mr & Mrs Trebble received an official communication from the Air Ministry “in view of the lapse of time and the absence of further information regarding your son Sergt. R. J. Trebble, since the date on which he was reported missing we very regretfully conclude that he lost his life and death has now been presumed for official purposes to have occurred on 30th October 1945. 

In 1946, the North Devon Journal contained a memorial to Richard: “Fond remembrance of Sergeant Air Gunner Richard James Trebble, Royal Air Force, who failed to return from a practice flight on the 30th October 1945.  In June 1948, a reredos, altar, altar cross and candlesticks were dedicated at St Sabinus Church, Woolacombe in memorial to the men of the parish who lost their lives during the second world war. The candlesticks were a memorial to Richard Trebble and Derek Worth.

Of interest, Richard’s brother Hugh also served during the war years, causing the family much distress and concern when they did not hear from him for some time, it was later learnt that he had been taken to a prisoner of war camp by the Japanese.

In 1944, they received the happiest news to start the new year, in the form of a postcard from their son, Hugh who had been serving in the RAF and had been taken a prisoner of war. Before serving, he had worked as a  reporter with the North Devon Herald, this postcard was the first written message that his parents had received from him.  It had been written a year previously. “My health is excellent, I am constantly thinking of you. It will be wonderful when we meet again. Good-bye, God Bless you. Don’t worry about me. I hope all is well. My love to all; keep smiling’ A further letter sent in 1945, was sent from a Bombay hospital:

“After reaching hospital he was delighted to find placed on his bed half a dozen copies of the Journal Herald! They provided much needed tonic after so long in a Japanese prisoner of war camp,” he stated “much to my surprise, in one of the editions I found that I was in the news, mention of the fact that I had been released from the Japanese. 

Olin Dows A United States Army artist who served during World War II in Woolacombe

“Images are my language”

Olin Dows 1963

Olin Dows was born in 1904 in New York, educated at Harvard’s Department of Fine Arts and later at Yale’s Students League. By his own admission he wanted to paint from when he was 12 years of age and throughout his life would achieve this dream. During his years attending Harvard (1922-25)  he studied art, architectural drawing and portraits – the latter being a skill that would set him up for his future career.

When the Second World War swept across the globe, Olin became a war artist and was one of the few artists commissioned by the American War Department to create drawing impressions of both combat and noncombat in various parts of the world. He would go on to serve in Europe from 1942 until the end of the War in 1945.

Enlisting in the US Army in June 1943, Olin was stationed in Maryland and sent to Officer training school. But he willingly gave this up to become a war artist in Europe. 

He was appointed to be the head of a group of artists who would go on to serve in England. Stationed in Woolacombe, his North Devon assignment was to document scenes of basic training and American troops preparing for combat.

Woolacombe beach was used by the US Assault Training centre, to train soldiers in the art of  amphibious assault tactics. All they learned there would be put to use when they were thrown onto the Normandy beaches on D-Day, 6th June 1944. Those training exercises were captured in Olin’s work ‘On the way to the assault boats, ‘LST landing training’ and many others. 

As he went into battle himself in Normandy, Olin was reported to have taken with him a notebook, a fountain pen, a camera and a carbine. He stayed with his division as it fought through France and Germany, before it finally linked up with the Soviet army. 

Following the war an exhibition of his work titled ‘The Army at War’ toured the United States. 


Morthoe Bay, Morte Point, Rockham Bay, and Bull Point, have an evil repute in the sailors’s log. It has been buoyed with such warning as might serve to caution ships making for the Bristol Channel to give it wide berth and rather anchor at Lundy than risk too close an acquaintance with Morte Stone, or Woolacombe Sands, there is now to be stationed there a life-boat. 

The boat itself, is the gift of the Bristol captains in the African Trade who have “ clubbed together,” for theirs and others’ lives imperilled on the rugged coast. On Saturday the presence of the boat at Bristol gave occasion for grand holiday, at which thousands of people turned out. The boat has been named the Jack-a-Jack, so called after the African station where the movement was first originated about four years ago. They have also contributed towards the boat-house that has been erected Morthoe for the life boat  . 

Agrand procession was formed of sailors, soldiers, and civilians. The lifeboat herself, hoisted on her transporting and launching carriage high above the many-headed crowd, formed the focus of the picture, with Union Jack, ensign, and National Institution flag flying, and crew with their cork life-jackets on, their “peaked oars,.”

The boat-carriage was horsed by a team of splendid draught horses, which drew the eight or ten tons weight up Parkstreet with comparative ease. The public “ reception “ given to the boat was certainly a most gratifying one. 

The procession arrived at the Zoological Gardens in Clifton, where the ceremony of launching took place in the artificial lake. Mr. W. P. King made a vigorous speech at the “giving away “ of the boat. The seamen from Bristol, he said, know full well of the dangers of the beach, and, anxious to rescue those wrecked, have been doing their utmost to collect for the lifeboat to be placed on Morte Bay. 

No doubt they would be glad to have such a boat as Jack-a-Jack, but the difficulty is that no such Christian spirited and self-devoted people could be found as we have on the coast of Devon to take their share in the work of benevolence. 

Captains sailing from Bristol to the coast of Africa, as none of them never hope and few expect to be placed in such circumstances as to need the assistance of the lifeboat Jack-a-Jack. They feel that it belongs to the position that the African trade holds in Bristol (more ships go out from Bristol to Africa than to any other part of the world) to place a lifeboat on the coast of Morte Bay. 

Amidst ringing cheers the ceremony was completed. Rockets were sent when the launch was completed, and a salute was fired from the guns of the Artillery Corps, the multitude which must have numbered many thousands, then left the Gardens. 

Friday, the 17th of March, must henceforth be reckoned one of the red letter days the history of the village of Morte. It is presumed that there has not been so large a number of persons there at one time for many years.

The gift of a lifeboat, presented shipmasters and merchants of Bristol to be stationed at Morthoe, has caused a great deal of  excitement, in the usually quiet hamlet and culminated on Friday as general holiday among the inhabitants, who flocked to the shores of Woolacombe to witness the first landing and launch of the Jack-a-Jack. 

Numbers of sightseers were observed wending their way westward causing one to fancy that it was ‘race-day ‘ somewhere. On arriving at the lifeboat station at Woolacombe, the transporting carriage for the boat was found ready on the launching ways front of the boat-house. This building is of a substantial nature, and is of the pattern now generally adopted at all stations under the control of the National Lifeboat Institution.

At about 2.30 p.m. the Morte and Ilfracombe rocket carriages, appeared on the scene, of Morte being manned by members of the Morte Volunteer Life Saving comapny, whilst the coastguard, command of Lieut Williams, worked the one of ‘Combe. 

The former came directly to the beach, whilst the latter took up ground on the grassy point to the right. Shortly after this the boat rapidly pulled towards the intended landing place, and at exactly 3.30 the new boat first touched what must henceforward be called her own ground.

When the boat was fairly rehomed,  the carriage Capt. Ward made a short address to the bystanders. He said that before re-launching the boat it would be as well to say a few words reference the origination of her presentation. 

At this the scene of her first landing they were assembled to witness. It is a matter of regret that at present there was not sufficient number of skilled boatmen living in Morte to form a crew, but that the llfracombe men were all times willing to come should their services be needed. Many vessels as they were doubtless aware had been lost in that locality.

The Bristol shipmasters had now therefore liberally defrayed the whole of the cost not only of the boat, but also of the building a boathouse amounting altogether to considerably over £700, thus leaving the locality responsible only for the future maintenance of the boat and he (Capt. Ward) did not doubt, that the inhabitants of Morte and the surrounding district would do their part. 

The somewhat strange name of Jack-a-Jack had been given to the boat at the request of the donors and was so given reason of its being the name of part of the African coast retorted to by traders chiefly of Bristol.

The National Lifeboat Institution now has boats within the neighbourhood, one at Ilfracombe and the one they had come to see. 

The photograph of the boat and crew, together with members of the committee and others was then taken by the Messrs. Catford after which the boat was launched and pulled a short distance seaward. 

There was some difficulty experienced with the horses as they objected to the water, and the crew had eventually to jump out and launch her themselves, assisted by the bystanders. The water, with the exception of a small breaker, was perfectly smooth. 

Whilst the boat was afloat the crews the rocket apparatus under the command Lieut. Williams, fired several rockets with the line attached seaward, and the whole process, showing the means by which life is saved with this excellent invention, was practically illustratad, several youngsters making an ariel voyage from the cliff to the beach, very much to their own delight and the amusement of the spectators. 

The boat was now replaced on her carriage and conveyed to the boathouse, after which cheers and were given for the boat, the donors, Capt. Ward, Local Committee and Sir Bruce Chichester who had most geuerously presented land for site for the house, and material for its construction. 

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