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Victorian Ilfracombe

Riversdale House

Torrs Park

Torrs Park was developed as a select estate of villas from the 1860's to the 1890's, which was a venture by the Ilfracombe Joint Stock Land and Investment Company, founded in 1860. A map by Banfield of 1868 shows the house already built and the sites that were still to be developed. Riversdale appears as already built and so it can be dated from the 1860's and Allen Hussell (writing in 1937) suggests that it was designed by the same architect as the Ilfracombe Hotel (1867), a M. C. W. Horne of London.

12K line-drawing

Like the Ilfracombe Hotel it is in the French Renaissance style with a steep pavilion roof which originally was crowned with ironwork railings, as were so many roofs in the town. Like the Ilfracombe Hotel it is built in buff (Marland?) and red (Fremington?) brick in contrast to its earlier neighbours on the road leading to Bath Place which are in stucco covered rubble stone. The brickwork of Riversdale shows how the Victorians added interest and colour to their buildings. A fine row of corbel brackets runs along under the eaves and beneath this is a row of bricks cut to a dor-tooth pattern. Courses of red brick run along the wall above and below the windows and in the arches over some of the windows we have alternating red and buff voussoirs (Wedge-shaped bricks making up an arch).

The dormer windows in the roof are strikingly arched and those on the Riversdale Road side were originally circular, but they have been squared to accommodate modern glazing. A fine flourish of tall chimneys once graced the skyline, but they have gone, as has the brickwork balcony to the basement verandah. This has been replaced by some pleasantly decorative ironwork railings.

The greatest loss to Riversdale is its garden which until recent years stretched as far as Brookdale Avenue and through which ran the West Wilder Brook over two weirs, under two bridges and through a pond. The present coach park is a rather dreary replacement, serving a useful purpose, but adding little to the attractiveness of the area.

Jim Bates - July 1997

Created 18/4/99
Last Modified 20/4/99