Category Archives: In the News

Woolacombe Weavers – 1938 North Devon Journal

The girl weavers of Woolacombe find their craft slimming.

 “Weaving exercises so many muscles,” explained grey-eyed brunette Miss R. Woollan. 

“You are always moving legs and arms. Glade here almost fades away when we are working at full winter pressure.” 

She had nodded at her partner, Eton-cropped, curly haired Miss Glade. The partners met at Reading University. The speaker was studying design there, hoping later to take a job in London; Miss Glade was doing craft work. When the latter went to Woolacombe, Miss Woollan joined her for  holidays. That was ten years ago, she stayed to become partner in the little weaving business that her friend had just opened.

Now the friends run their own little bungalow. Together they plan the budgeting, Miss Glade gardens while her friend rides on the golden sands for that is Miss Woollan’s chief hobby. From June until September they open their little shop, doing their weaving in the early mornings and evenings. When Woolacombe’s population shrinks from several thousand to something like 800 they give the whole of their time to work in their bungalow studio.

Miss Woollan is the “dressmaker.” She fashions skirts and designs colour schemes as well. Jumpers are knitted to match these skirts. Four or five local girls knit for the partners, and some of the work is sent as far afield as Yorkshire. Several knitters work without patterns. Miss Woollan sends them a sketch; back comes the complete jumper days later.

People are no longer content to go forth in shapeless tweeds and woollens, I learned from Miss Woollan. “Tweeds are sent away for pressing and shrinking, because the modern wearer will not tolerate skits that go baggy.” She told me. “ There are some women of course, who insist on buying their tweed just as it comes from the loom. They like the smell of it, but three weeks wear shows their folly. 

It soon loses all shape.” Riding coats and house coats, these are popular new ideas with the buyers of hand woven tweeds.  “The things people demanded ten years ago they would not look at today,” stressed Miss Woollan. 

“Women have a far better sense of colour and design now.”

She is no advocate of vegetable dyes. “ We have tried them, but it is impossible to repeat dyes exactly, and people dislike buying something and finding they cannot match it later on,” she continued. “ We use ordinary wool for our weaving and Scottish oil thread for the weft (cross thread).

Local girls are slow to take interest in weaving. It was the only women’s craft I could discover in Woolacombe. Why I imagined you’d have long waiting lists of would be students,” I exclaimed incredulously. Miss Glade smiled. “People here live for the summer visitors,” she told me. “When the season closes, they want a rest and a holiday. After the New Year, they ‘spring clean’ against the next summer.

Even the weavers forgo summer holidays for the visitors sake. They usually manage a few days at Christmas, they told me in contended chorus. Then they tour the country in their baby car. “ We never miss the British Industries Fair of course, “ they added. That is where they find new ideas for the next season.

Mortehoe & Woolacombe As Seen by A Rambler 1886

A wonderful depiction of Woolacombe & Mortehoe, as seen by a rambler travelling to the area in 1886. Arriving at Mortehoe Station, he tells of his journey down the hills to Woolacombe, through to Mortehoe and eventually to Lee Bay. A truly lovely way to see the area through somebody else’s eyes some 132 years ago.

“Morthoe and Lee,” The legend that appears on the signboard at the little station reached after we have had a charming glimpse of rural Devon. Leaving Brauton in the hollow of the hills have risen up by the salmon stream banks and the mill by the rivulet, the sight of whose whirling wheel with the water dashing over it and glistening like glass in the sunlight has, by the association of memories, a cool shade of romance in the hot summer day, until we have got among the tors and looked out far over the Severn Sea and where the receding hills invite to Woolacombe Sands. The natives have not been slow to learn the weaknesses of tourists, and hence our appearance at Morthoe Station is the signal for lively competition for the favour of conveying us to the sea-shore, for they are a Devonshire mile from of our journey. But we have, now that our companionship has extended over three, or four enjoyable trips, voted the journey by foot, in case safe distances, by far the most delightful way approaching and viewing the North Devon coast. TO WOOLACOMBE SANDS. We take the road that trends the left of the Station, and, by the manor Eastcott farm to Woolacombe Sands.

With a liberality for which we, at least, will be thankful and show our appreciation by availing ourselves of the considerate kindness, the farmers have preserved the paths across the fields and o’er the downs, from whence it a pleasant jaunt to drop, dropping down to the remote cove by the lifeboat station, our only observers being the sheep that crop the scanty grass of the moorland.. Here is the wild garden Devon, where luscious blackberries provide a dainty feast and ripe elderberries the wine, with sweet nuts on the pendant boughs the solid of the repast. Birds twitter o’er head and swing the branches, as the Atlantic breezes rock them in rushing the valley. The roar of the waves gently lulled it passes through this quiet retreat and falls in musical rhythm on the pleased ear. We pass out to the open and follow the windings of a limpid stream that sings in gentle cadences to the sea.

Whether Bay of Morte, Pickwell or Woolacombe—for it has been styled all these—it boasts not to enquire, for this curve of the coast has its peculiar history which apart from its natural wildness, makes it little beholden to name. In form an oblong crescent, its southern boundary is Baggy Point and that fatal rock-studded projection, Baggy Leap. The irregular arc, forms its boundary and extends.gradually then diminishes, the serrated coast, to the extremity of Morte Point, which abruptly slants to the wild sea and the dreaded Morte Stone. Our way the beach has taken us o’er what appears to be sand hillocks, but from the growth of ferns and rank grass, and the burrows of the rabbits that may daily be seen in sage debate on the mystery of old ocean, must originally have been a part of the adjoining land.

That pointed, conical elevation on our left, which conveys the impression of an ancient burrow, is Potter’s hill. Further south there lies a range of sand hills, after you have cleared that rocky point, over which, even this rest day of Father Neptune’s, the sea breaks with a fine spray that curtains the coast beyond it. These beautiful sands stretch away to Baggy Point. At Baggy Point there a precipice hundreds of feet deep, and beyond it the guns of the stranded “Weazel” maybe seen at low water. Ragged, jagged, and cruel are the rocks on our right that overlap each other until the Morte Point eclipses all in its daring challenge to the sea. A fearful, savage coast, to the terrible history of which the numerous lighthouses and lifeboats that are now thickly stationed along it are eloquent witnesses

BY BARRICANE Where shells great rarity are to be found, the curious and the well informed in conchological lore. Barricane we find being put to the excellent purpose for which, picnic parties will have it, it was specially intended by Nature. Environed by ledgy rocks, carpeted with-sand and shell and shingle, open alike to sun and shower—it is a pretty cove when old Sol above us is shining, but oh for the pleasure party that thither resorts when the storm crest rising upon the horizon. MORTEHOE The village of Mortehoe appears to cluster the centre from whence those angular ribs and joints. As yet unknown to the wider world of tourists and unappreciated in its fullness, retains its rural quietude, approaching to somnolence, though it awakens now and again to the fact that it is destined to be the fashion in the future. This air restfulness —of a calm, remote retreat—is its primal charm in the eyes of those who, as the summer tide of holidays sets in, wend their way westward. The Minister’s Rest at the Grange, a site so admirably selected by the Rev. Urijah Thomas, points to the attribute which most commends Morthoe. Morte (as it familiarly termed) has one lion, beside its fine natural situation—its Church, dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene, containing the reputed tomb of Sir William de Tracey, the joint murderer of Thomas A’Becket. The monument, to which there still the daily pilgrimage of the curious, stands just the centre the southern transept of the church. The transept is small, and scarcely allows of walking round the tomb. Eight feet in length, the tomb is just half as broad, and is raised two feet above the surface from the floor.

MORTE POINT AND STONE We have lingered long over this famed sight, but, perhaps, not without interest. From commingling with the dead and gone, the map of our tour next directs us to the promontory death,” the rugged headland bearing the dreaded name Morte Point, which that has in turn transferred to the village. A rough and tumble trip to the Point of the lugubrious story, but the rewards immensurable, for here again we are brought in contact with a pre historic age, in the Druidic cromlech—two huge perpendicular masses of stone, on which is laid a rude, unhewn slab. Here again we remember how all these strange monuments of priestly rites—for such there good reason deem them—are found in remote, prominent and wild neighbourhoods, where the weird, superstitious worship of the British heathen must have been attended with a profound solemnity.

It would appear that we are destined to “sup full horrors,” in the sense the history attaching to the scenes this sketch, for beyond the Point, where, at low tide, we see the black fangs of the Morte Stone, and mark the line of foam that tells of the treacherous range rocks that run out to the buoy, beyond which is the safe deep sea, the knell of many gallant ship and ship’s crew, and many a treasure cargo and living freight, has been remorselessly rung.

ROCKHAM BAY The beach, beautifully paved with rare limestone pebbles and others of a foreign type, we have new object of interest, and pleasure parties might find many a less charming spot for their al fresco entertainments than this pretty pebbled cove.

BULL POINT LIGHTHOUSE The walk from Morthoe to the Point in itself a revelation of the wonders of this remarkable coast, whose grandeur grows upon one with familiarity. The road to the lighthouse in many parts is bounded on either side by huge ledges of slaty rock, whilst the whole scenery wild and romantic in the extreme, the situation the lighthouse itself being surrounded by natural marvels. On either side its shelf, the cliffs descend precipitously to what little of beach there is, the projection which the Trinity House most judiciously selected for the site of the light, forming, were, the trunk, from which these gaunt rocky arms protectively protrude on either hand. Their steep sides are devoid of vegetation, presenting but the bare, grey solid slab of slate against which the storms of aeons have battered, and have left no sign. On the Point, we have quite a little Paradise fruitfulness and plenty; the wilderness and barren place has become smiling land, under the deft hands of the keeper and their families, whose little world is bounded by the sea and the down. The garden at the left front of the lighthouse is gay with Flora’s bright-eyed children, and among these the smart figure heads of gallant merchantmen that have gone down sea appear not out place, where but ledge of rock separates them from the world waters to whose gentle undulation they dipped in graceful salute ere the storm-tossed sea ill returned their obeisance. In the centre we see the tanks where rain from heaven is collected in primitive fashion, though it may be reasonably questioned whether the ultimate purity of the water supply of the little community Bull Point will not compare with that of many costly waterworks inland.

We have made mental note these features, of the neat greenhouse and the well-stocked fruit and vegetable gardens, whilst some earlier visitors have engaged the courteous attention of the keeper. Firstly, we are initiated into the mystery of the powerful fog horn, whose vigorous blasts reach tierd ear of the mariner when the light fails to penetrate through the thickness of the murky cloud which shrouds the land. This is not the place for technical details, or it would pleasure to follow the well informed keeper through hi- lucid description of the simple mechanism, but wonderful-construction of the pair caloric engines, each of 2-horse power, which produce the blast.

Suffice it to say that it a triumph of engineering and sound science —no pun is intended — for the adaptation of which to such a beneficent purpose we can have nothing short of admiration. Following our guide through the connecting corridor, we ascend the first storey of the Lighthouse, and there gain our knowledge the clockwork of the light, and that wonderful prismatic arrangement by which the fixed red light is thrown to the south-west, marking the position of the Morte Stone. Costing just £7,000 in construction, the Lighthouse, at its opening, was furnished with white triple-flashing half minute light, showing three successive flashes about two seconds duration.The keeper has much of interest to tell the nature, production, and history of the light, and the life of lifehouse keeper.

Woolacombe Housing Estate – Arlington Place 1948

1st January 1948


Mrs. J. E. Pile Performs Opening Ceremony

An interesting Christmastide ceremony was the formal opening of Woolacombe’s new housing estate. The ceremony was performed by Mrs. J. E. Pile, the wife of the senior representative of Morte-Hoe on Barnstaple Rural District Council. The estate has been named Arlington Place in appreciation of the generosity to the parish of Miss Chichester of Arlington Court. Mr. J. E. Pile, J.P., presided, and the proceedings were witnessed by a large number of parishioners. There were also present Mr. William Dunn, J.P. (Chairman of the Rural Council’s Housing Committee), Mr. R. Marshall Wright (Clerk to the Council), Mr. A. J. Dennis (Sanitary Inspector and Building Surveyor), and Mr. C. H. Cowler (a representative on the Rural Council).

Mr. Pile said that was a proud day for Woolacombe. Eight houses were ready for occupation that day, two were nearing completion, and a further four would be completed in the next month or two. He welcomed the new tenants. Four Generations Mrs. Pile then unlocked the door of No. 8, let to Mr. I. C. Reynolds, and four generations then entered the dwelling—Mrs. Reynolds and her child, her mother, and her grandmother. Mrs. Pile said she was proud to be taking part in that ceremony. She hoped that the tenants would find much happiness there. As a housewife she congratulated Barnstaple Rural District Council on the type of house provided, and particularly in relation to the labour-saving devices installed.

Mr. Dunn spoke of the difficulties associated with the building of houses at the present time. Barnstaple Rural District Council, he said, had reason to be proud of their housing programme. The surveyor had taken special care that the new houses at Woolacombe should blend with the surroundings. He congratulated the parish of Morte-Hoe on having as their representatives Messrs. Pile, Yeo, and Cowler, who made valuable contributions to the work of the Rural Council.


Moretehoe visit 1861

17th January 1861

MORTHOE. Lady Bruce Chichester has paid her accustomed New Year visit to this place, and was gladly welcomed by the poor of the parish, who were supplied from her ladyship’s ample stores clothing, suitable to the present season. After having supplied in a liberal manner their necessities in this respect, ample provision was also made to satisfy the claims of hunger, of which the assembled poor gratefully partook, with warm expressions of goodwill to their noble hostess.

On Thursday, Sir Bruce invited the tenants and other young men of the parish to a game of football, on the Woolacombe Sands, which was kept up with glee throughout the afternoon, and, despite the. absence of the music of the belfry, the use of which was refused by the Vicar, great hilarity prevailed among the spirited comrades. It was afterwards agreed to match Arlington against Mortehoe. Twelve of the ablest men in Arlington, against a similar number from Mortehoe, to meet in a field near the Chichester Arms, next week. The following week the men are to meet in Arlington Park for the like exercise, for which occasion two bands of music are engaged, and two large tents to prepared for the provisions in the field.

Mortehoe – 1859

Mortehoe – North Devon Journal – 14th July 1859

The native beaches of this delightful spot are attracting numerous and daily visitors from Ilfracombe and the places adjacent. The matchless scenery of the locality and the invigorating breezes of the Atlantic would render Mortehoe a favourite watering-place for annuitants and invalids to whom economy is a consideration, were the means of ready access afforded by direct communication with the principal towns of North Devon, and few convenient and unostentatious lodging-houses erected or apartments fitted up the farm houses of the parish. A little spirited speculation in this way would be largely patronized and rendered remunerative to the speculators, who would, doubtless, realize a good return for the money invested. Many of the slopes abutting on the sea are peculiarly adapted as sites for detached residences, commanding views of the bold coast, the far-famed Woolacombe Sands, Baggy-leap, the Promontory of Hercules, Lundy Island, & together with the beautiful bay, studded with ships of all nations—now resembling a glassy lake and anon lashed into fury the western gales. Indeed this is pre-eminently spot in which nature may be viewed in all her charms—the wonder is that she has not more admirers.

Mortehoe Church.—This ancient structure has undergone a thorough ” restoration ” and is now one of the neatest rural parish churches to be found within a hundred miles. The old flooring has been removed and the ground covered with concrete—the aisles have been newly flagged—the seats renovated —the old, chancel, and elaborate carving preserved—the nave newly roofed, the rafters and other woodwork stained and varnished—the windows filled with coloured glass (to which Lady Bruce Chichester and Mrs. Knight have liberally contributed). The church being well nigh completed, it was deemed desirable to add to the other attractions of the place that of sweet sounds; and a powerful harmonium having been procured from London, Sunday last was appointed for the formal ” opening.” On the occasion large congregation assembled: the entrance of the rector was greeted a voluntary (Miss Ness presiding at the harmonium); the service then proceeded —the Rev. J. D. Ness, the incumbent, read prayers and preached a scriptural sermon from Exod. xviii. 19: Hearken unto my voice, I give thee counsel, and God shall be with thee.” The reverend gentleman, assuming the place of Jethro, applied his text to his hearers, considering . The vocal performances of the choir were not worthy of the instrumental leading of the young lady at the harmonium, though some of the voices may be capable of cultivation..

Bungalow Cafe Restaurant – better known today as the Red Barn 1906

North Devon Journal – Thursday 31 May 1906

Bungalow Café Restaurant at Woolacombe

Under this title a new refreshment room was opened at Woolacombe on Monday by Mr G. Southcombe of Ilfracombe. The building is a fine detached block, right in the centre of the village, and fronting to the sea. The principal room is a very fine one, 72 feet long, 25 feet wide, with an arched ceiling rising to 25 feet at the apex. It has four large windows in front , and at each end is a fine alcove with a large window, and there is also a window in each gable. In the centre opposite the entrance is a large semi-circular counter of polished wood, while the woodwork throughout the room is enamelled in white. The walls are covered with a tasteful art paper in green and red and the floor with artistic Staines linoleum. There will be accommodation at tables of various sizes for over 150 visitors, and every description of confectionary and refreshments will be served. The whole of the china used is of a very fine rose pattern.

The room has two handsome fireplaces, and is lighted by six large lamps of the Veritas pattern. Opening out at the back of the room are lavatories for ladies and gentlemen, fitted with hold and cold water, and large mirrors. From the back of the counter are reached the store room, having ten large cupboards, the dairy and larder, kitchen, wash up room, and sitting room, while bedrooms are provided above. There is a back entrance to the premises, and along the whole frontafe is a verandah, six feet wide. Beneath the dining room and entered from outside is a cycle rest, where a good number of cycles can be stored.


Mr G. Southcombe, junr, takes charge of the business, which provides accommodation of the most modern kind, hitherto lacking in this favourite resort for day visitors. We wish the new venture every success.

Gateway to Paradise Trickling stream that divides two world


Gateway to Paradise Trickling stream that divides two worlds

Friday 25th Jan 1935 By S. P. B. Mains


As I am for the greater part of the year moving rapidly about the English country – I always make it a rule to spend one month just pottering about the beach at Woolacombe. I choose Woolacombe because it is the home of my fathers, because its sand provide the best exercise ground for man, horse, and child that I know, and because it is equally easy to be sociable or solitary as the mood seizes you. But I never count my holiday as begun until I have crossed the Woolacombe stream. Several skins have to be sloughed before the holiday can really start. One skin is sloughed as I board the Atlantic Coast Express, another as I look down from the heights of Mortehoe Station over the deep combe below to the distant dim outline of Lundy, and a third as I put on my shorts and relaize that for a month at least I shall go tieless and neckless, and a fourth as I greet old habitues in the lane that leads down to the shore. But the fifth and final skin is not sloughed until after I have passed the notice “No motors allowed on the beach,” and the ugly barn which bears in white letters on its slate roof the words “Ye Olde Boat House Tea Rooms.” Here the lane ends and the sands begin. A solemn ritual of shoe-removing, as if at the approach of the hallowed ground, is observed by everybody just before the tiny bridge that spans the insignificant stream. Everyone walks on the sands barefoot. It is an odd thing, but in all its long life no one has yet carved his or her initials on the white painted handrails of this gateway to Paradise.

Above the bridge the shallow stream bed is festooned with old baskets and dented tin cans. Farther up the combe its banks are fringed with yellow musk. When I was a boy the scent from this musk used to permeate the lane with its thick, musty sweetness. The flowers still bloom, but the scent has almost gone. Below the bridge the stream becomes way ward and indecisive. Long before it reaches the sea it is absorbed by the sand but in fair weather, and when unmolested by damming children, it takes a more or less straight course. When the gale blows it curls like a hot iron in the hand of a blacksmith, and children are forever trying to divert it from its purpose by cutting new channels for it.

They and the gale between them often succeed in dissipating its energies into a wide a feckless delta, making an archipelago of sand islands separated by water about a millimetre in depth. This is no Rubicon to frighten event the most timid. Cinderella in her ball-room shoes could cross dry shod. And yet this absurd trickling stream acts as the Great Divide between two absolutely different worlds. I do not mean the merely snobbish worlds of the day trippers and the resident visitors, though that is strange enough. The day tourists from Ilfracombe or inland villages almost invariable stays on this side of the stream, contenting himself with the rocks and two or three hundred yards of sand that lie between the rocks and the stream. The regular visitor always avoids this congested area. He heaves a sigh of superior relief as he casts his shoes at the bridge and joins his own or other happy families assembled outside the line of a hundred white wooden huts, which are hired out for 25s a week. Everything that really matters happens on that side of the stream. Here the riders gallop past on their way to Putsborough, a couple of miles or more over the hard sands, at 6s an hour; here the red banner of the C.S.S.M (Children’s Special Service Mission) is flaunted bravely each morning above a pulpit of sand, and each afternoon by the touch line of a hockey or puddox match; here the smallest infants have their first donkey rides, and from here runs a never ending procession like bees from hives of surf bathers with their shining boards on their way to and from the sea. Once beyond the stream some magic wands seems to be waved, and our natures change. I am a great reader and fairly hard worker, but no book that I have ever taken over the bridge gets read. And my manuscript gets filled with sand, never with ink. I definitely suffer a sand change.

On this side of the bridge I am sober, adult, indeed rather grumpy. Once I have crossed the stream I cut capers, I sing quite regardless of the presence or absence of other men, I leap frog, I fly kites, I dig sandcastles, I join games and abandon them, I become completely irresponsible, I roll down sand hills, play pirate, smuggler, anything that’s going, and dread the moment when I have to pack away the surf-boards, kites, balls, spades, chairs, and bathing things, lock up the hut for the last time, and return to the world of men. I am not alone in this. Every night for the last week I have been one of the last, in spite of gale, blowing sand, cold and greyness, to leave the beach. But always there has been Elizabeth, loitering a little behind me, Elizabeth is twelve. This morning as I was going down I met her on the bridge coming up in floods of tears. Children contrive to hurt themselves a good deal even on the sands, so I was prepared to commiserate; perhaps even rub the hurt place well. “ I’ve got to go home,” she moaned. “It’s the end of the holiday. I can’t leave it. Oh I can’t leave it.” Those tears were the highest testimonial to the lure of Woolacombe and even I, after all these years of it, find parting from it no easier.

I grudge leaving it for a day, even to explore Exmoor, or for a wet afternoon shopping in Barnstaple. I am reluctant to leave it even at night to dance at Instow, because it means leaving the twinking, friendly lights of Hartland and Lundy, and the roar of the breakers on the beach. I will scramble over the high sand dunes behind the huts, and I will walk out to Morte Point of to the grand headland of Baggy because on these excursions I can keep Woolacombe always in view, and though I still feel angry with myself for allowing myself to be lured from the sand pit that I have dug in the very heart of the white hut-land, and envious of those who have had the good sense to stay there, I can still see the haven where I would be. I can get back to it. But when I climb out of the valley to Mortehoe and the train I am miserable. I know no other place that grapples me in this way to its heart with hooks of steel. It cannot be the whortleberries and rich cream, it certainly is not the weather. It is some mysterious way linked up with this stream, which appears to have neither source nor mouth, but yet acts whenever I cross it as a reminder that halcyon days lie on the farther side of it and the halcyon days are to be snatched while we can.


21 Woolacombe Beach with Domed beach huts0001

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