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What do you love about Ilfracombe?

Ilfracombe Museum

It's a seaside gem above all of Ilfracombe's claims Victorian: that unique museum. Here's a little bit of Empire in those souvenirs from Colonial sahibs, pensioned off from Bangkok, Mandalay, Jahore to drink their chota pegs in those hillside terraces above the harbour. Victorian dolls stand stiff with petit-point and etiquette, frowning on the Temple Goddesses, carved in hardwood, soft with desire. Zulu shields challenge a stand of assegais, just like those we read of in King Solomon's Mines.

Kipling reigns here along these aisles, echoes of an Empire upon which the sun never set and English was, and still is, the common passport. It was a pride even children shared and photographs show them stamping it all over the Capstone Green in white shorts and pinafores - EMPIRE. A family day. An AWAY day world wide with tributes in every fancy dress parade. White suited Rajahs. Turbaned Sikhs. Rickshaw men. Ozzie hats and scarlet coated Mounties straight out of "Rose Marie".

The heart of Old Ilfracombe is there in the photo gallery, the "paddlers" with a band on board for tuppence extra, posters of choral concerts in the "Cucumber Frame", crowds on the Montebello lawn ringing the Romany Belles, aerial balloons, and would you believe?, General Tom Thumb, here on a one night stand after meeting all the crowned heads of Europe!

To curator Joy Slocombe and a dedicated band of helpers - not all present I fear - a toast. Never let it close. It was good enough for John Betjeman and he said so.

By Victor Thompson (Up from Plymouth)

Created 10/2/99