Mortehoe

Mortehoe is a beautiful 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.

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.

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 http://www.mortehoemuseum.org.uk

Mortehoe History

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…

The lifeboat for Mortehoe, 1871

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…

Strange proceedings at Mortehoe

In 1887 an event took place in Mortehoe that would be later reported in the press as ‘The Strange Proceedings at Mortehoe’, it would be a case that would end at the House of Commons and receive national press. On…

Woolacombe, Mortehoe and The Chichester Family

The Chichester family had a strong and important connection with Woolacombe and Mortehoe. The family owned much of the North Devon Coastline including their home at Arlington Estate. Woolacombe beach and the surrounding land was owned by the Chichester family…

The Grange, Mortehoe

Mr Thomas founded the Grange as a Ministers Seaside Home, he would be the first warden of the home, visiting The Grange whenever he could, but leaving the day to day running to a husband and wife team of housekeepers. …

Eating, Drinking & Dancing – The Chichester Arms (1841)

North Devon Journal – Thursday 07 January 1841 Offence against Ale House Licence – Rev. J. D. Ness, rector of Mortehoe, exhibited a complaint against George Irwin Keeper of the “Chichester Arms” public house in Mortehoe for permitting drunkenness and disorderly conduct…

Barricane House

Barricane House in Mortehoe is believed to have been given it’s name as it was the closest a horse drawn carriage could get to Barricane Shell Beach before there was a road to follow. Home to the Conibear family and…

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….

Mortehoe & Woolacombe Station

The London and South Western railway line was extended from Barnstaple to Ilfracombe in July 1874, when the Mortehoe railway station was opened. On Tuesday 9th January 1894 the station saw a fire that very nearly destroyed it. The local…

Mortehoe 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…

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…

John Dyer, Mortehoe Coast-watcher (1852-1941)

I didn’t know my great-great-Grandfather John Dyer (known as Granfer Dyer both inside and outside the family), but I’m very proud of him. He was born in Georgeham in 1852, but by 1871 had moved to Woolacombe and was working…

Mortehoe Museum

Mortehoe Museum is located in the heart of the village, through the main car park, opposite the Post Office.

Mortehoe is steeped in history and Mortehoe Museum is the best place to find out more about this beautiful area. Through it exhibits it provides information on the life, heritage, culture and maritime history of the village and surrounding area.

The upstairs of the museum not only has a stunning view across towards the Church, but also has a large collection of local history displays, artefacts and photographs. Visitors can learn more about local shipwrecks, farming and the growth of the tourism industry locally. 

On the ground floor, the museum has it’s own shop selling local interest books, locally made crafts and artwork. In the summer, visitors can enjoy the sunshine sitting outside the museum, with its childrens play area and picnic tables.

St Mary’s Church

St Mary Church in Mortehoe is very much the village focal point being a much photographed and loved part of the village.

Bull Point Lighthouse

Enjoy a walk

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