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Victorian Ilfracombe

Turton's and the Victoria Hotel

The High Street narrows considerably in front of these two buildings, giving it a feeling of enclosure which you normally get in the medieval streets of much larger towns. No doubt the steepness of the hillside contributed to this, and that any expansion of property had to go upwards, so the buildings are tall on both sides, adding to the urban character.

8K line-drawing

Old photographs show distinct similarities between Turtons and the hotel, suggesting that they were built at the same time and by the same people. The most obvious similarity being the strong cornice running along both eaves with lintels (square box-like decorations looking rather like a row of teeth, hence the name). Turtons has broken into its cornice with a dormer, (inserted sometime in this century) while the hotel has lost its entirely. One photograph dates the buildings as 1834, but the bay windows were added later in Victorian times, these also having similarities but also differences. The carved woodwork on Turtons with the delicate "barwork" is especially fine, and the curved heads to the upper window of the hotel have been well preserved. Both have the typical rendering (on rubble wall no doubt) of early nineteenth century Ilfracombe and Turtons have been painted in a rather bold terracotta, contrasting well with the black and white of the window frame.

The Victoria Hotel was given a very fine frontage, no doubt when the bay windows were added. A strong moulding ran along the top of the first floor, linking the two bays. Part of this still survives between, and to the left of the bays. The ground floor was given a front that projected a yard or more further into the street, with three arched entrances, the central one having a pediment over it. This must have been an inconvenience even in Victorian times, but photographs show that it followed the building lines of the building on its right. In 1888, this building was demolished to make way for the fine Masonic Hall and stores that are now Drapers and the Fish Shop. This building was set back a yard or so further than the hotel, and it was no doubt then that the Victoria lost, not only its projecting ground floor, but also the quoins* (dressed corner-stones) when the right corner was cut back to make a chamfer. This was brought to a point at the top to preserve the fine cornice, but unfortunately that has been lost. The sketch shows how the proprietor, (a Mr Huxtable at one time) made use of it to advertise his wares. The sketch, made from a photograph of about 1900, also shows the rather nondescript ground floor, with its series of doors and windows, which replaced the lost projection. The present bow windows are a more recent addition.

Turtons have pretty railings above the shop front, but these have now gone. There were railings also above the bay windows on the first floor. The shop itself has an attractive, busy display of its wares with striped "Jimmy Young aprons" beneath its windows. It also preserves the fine tile work of its previous owner, Mr Andrews, a little bit of the history of the town's commercial past.

The Victoria had a curved sign between the bays and a fine lamp above the central entrance. The sketch shows the bracket of this alone remaining and used to support a small sign. The present sign, based, it seems, on a "Penny Black", is a great improvement. Both buildings fit beautifully into the street and deserve careful attention.

* The remains of the quoin on the left hand corner of the Hotel can still be seen in the alley between the two buildings.

Jim Bates - December 1996

Created 18/4/99