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Victorian Ilfracombe

St Martins (Roslyn Hoe)

Torrs Park

This is the masterpiece of W.M. Robbins (sometimes spelt Robins) the architect who worked in Ilfracombe from 1878-1884. A detailed description of the house appeared in a series of articles written by Allen T. Hussell FRIBA, a local architect, for the Ilfracombe Chronicle in 1937*. He wrote:

"The single house is another of Mr Robins' design. It is built of Gothic style and faced with red and buff bricks. The general treatment shows an expert in Gothic detail. The front elevation is extremely well balanced and proportioned. A noticeable feature is the fine arched entrance doorway in red moulded bricks, with the walls over, very skilfully splayed back in freestone, carrying a semi octagonal wood bay with a pointed roof, rather suggesting a low tower. There is a very attractive colour contrast given by the lines of blue brick over the entrance.

The two ends of the front have each a recessed arch running up two storeys, containing pointed windows; and the gables have two barge boards each, the inner one being curved and finishing down on a bracketed cornice.

The well designed conservatories which flank each side of the entrance are an important architectural feature, giving the effect (with the entrance projection) of a base to the upper part of the front."

14K line-drawing

The house has been well preserved and has retained all that Hussell describes. It is good to see maintenance work going ahead at the present time. The sketch, from a photograph of the 1890's, shows that the right hand conservatory was originally an open veranda and must have been glazed at a later date.

St Martins is a beautiful exercise in symmetry. The central bay with its pointed roof rises naturally out of the porch below and the gables with their delicately fretted barge boards sweep up on either side, the conservatories providing a substantial base for the design. The arch patterns in the brickwork of the gables, echo the curves of the bargeboards as well as the pointed heads of the Gothic windows. In contrast the central bay and those on the sides of the building have square headed windows. It is the variety of detail, evident in almost every aspect of Robins' buildings, which makes them so attractive, yet it is a variety which does not distract from the harmony of the whole.

* Hussell's articles have been collected and edited in "Ilfracombe's Architecture 1837-1900" published by the Ilfracombe Museum in 1994 and copies can be seen in the Museum and Library.

Also, "Torrs Park, a Victorian Suburb, An Architectural Town Trail", has recently been published by the Civic Society and is available from the Lantern and elsewhere.

Jim Bates - October 1998

Created 20/4/99