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Victorian Ilfracombe


St Brannock's Park Road

Coming down St Brannock's Park Road from the Tyrrell, one cannot miss Ashleigh, standing out boldly with the Cairn as a backdrop. It is one of the fine villas built at the end of the last century, not hidden by trees away from the road like Halls Green or Burrough House (that was), but fully exposed on the street. St. Brannock's Park Road does not appear on Ilfracombe maps before the 1890's and has all the marks of an artificially made-up thoroughfare. It is embanked to cross the dip of the East Wilder Brook, has high retaining walls supporting it after the first bend and it cuts across the ancient Horne Road above the Tyrrell, necessitating rather attractive railings (which need a coat of paint). No doubt the intention was to develop this hillside as Torrs Park had been, with large villas looking out to the Torrs, but this seems to have been only partially successful. A fine row of six semi-detached houses take advantage of the upper slopes above the road, but a piece of waste ground (boasting a single allotment) still awaits development. All the other development along the arm of the road stretching toward Bicclescombe is of 20th century building, and does not seem to have been in the original plan. This is why, no doubt, Ashleigh presents a face of plain brick to the road on its east side (and has its sunken yard below), in contrast to the varied materials facing north and west.

13K line-drawing

The sketch, taken from a photograph looking up St Brannock's Road, shows an open hillside behind, as yet not built on, and so it must have stood in isolation, looking out over its garden which falls away steeply to the brook below. The hillside accounts for the fact that it has two main entrances, one at road level on the north and another on the terrace looking west on the floor below. Both have fine porches, neither meant for tradespeople. Their entrance is squeezed into the narrow yard below the high retaining wall on the east side.

Ashleigh has thankfully retained almost all its Victorian features and show how attractive the buildings of Ilfracombe were at the height of its prosperity. The use of varied materials brings colour and texture to otherwise plain walls. The front walls are mainly of what looks like "New Road Stone" (from the Muddiford area), fine examples of "snekking", where squared stones of different sizes are built up against each other to maintain the horizontals. The quoins at the corners and the window surrounds are in buff Marland brick, while panelled bands of red Fremington brick bind the building like ribbons. The deeply overhanging eaves are supported by wooden brackets, and ironwork railings surmount the porch on the north face, and the conservatory and staircase extension on the west. Two redbrick chimneys with fine ribwork on them, along with a tall ironwork finial, give interest to the roofline. The only noticeable alteration is that the glass roof of the conservatory by the lower porch has been replaced with slates. The attached conservatory on the south side of the house has been altered, making it a sun lounge. Otherwise, Ashleigh looks much as the builder intended, the basement floor having been rendered from the start. The only disadvantage now, is that large yew trees obscure the clear view of the building that the photographer had when he took the family, proudly sitting on the terrace in front of their fine mansion in Edwardian times.

Does anyone know who they were?

Jim Bates - November 1997

It is exciting to see the new theatre rising and receiving its cladding of white bricks. It is also promising to see stacks of black bricks alongside the white. Does this mean that the unbroken white is to be relieved by some kind of contrasting colour (if only black), so much a characteristic of Ilfracombe's polychrome brickwork of Victorian times?

We hope so!

Created 18/4/99